Archive for the ‘ Eleven Grooved Boxes ’ Category

Rebuilding Uncle Ray’s House Number

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Sixteen years and change ago, we moved to our current location in Naperville, Illinois. As a house warming gift, Uncle Ray Lauderbach gave us an illuminated house number sign. He had made many of these for his neighbors in New Jersey. The design consisted of a wooden box about 5″ x 12″, and 3″ deep. It’s assembled using box (finger) joints.  There is a groove around the front where the number template, cut from thin black foam and glued to a sheet of textured plastic sits, along with a sheet of thin plastic as a front face plate. The back of the box is a sheet cut from a plastic mirror tile. Ray installed three 12 volt incandescent bulbs connected in series, these were powered by a 20 VAC wall wart, the undervoltage provided a dim but long lived illumination.

I screwed the box to the front of our garage.

I’ve painted the box four times and caulked the face plate but could not keep moisture out of the interior. In 2015 I could see the corners crumbling and it was clear that reconstruction was necessary. I removed it from the garage and disassembled. It’s a credit to Uncle Rays box jointing skills that I had to jack the ends apart with a reversed clamp to extract the number stencil sandwich from it’s groove. I cleaned everything and prepared to make a new wooden box.

Raw Material

Home Depot has these half inch thick Cedar fence pickets 6 inches wide and four feet long. I made a bird house out of them a few years ago and its held up well. There were three pickets lounging in my lumber stash, so this was a logical starting point. Also in this photo you can see the number sandwich and the mirrored backing plate with the electrics.

Bare Home Depot Cedar Fence Picket

Bare Home Depot Cedar Fence Picket

 

I decided to use the “Eleven Grooved Box” technique with mitered corners reinforced with splines. So I ripped the picket to 3 inches, and cross cut to about 38 inches. This was clamped in my planing board, planed smooth on one side, and readied to cut a quarter inch groove the whole length.

3 x 36 Inch Strip Ready to Plane

3 x 36 Inch Strip Ready to Plane

 

I have a beautiful, genuinely old plow plane and used it to cut the groove. I’m sure the plow plane was quicker than setting up the router table, digging out the router, finding a bit, and creating a ton of sawdust. Note to self: Cedar shavings smell good and make good mulch.

Plowing Quarter Inch Groove

Plowing Quarter Inch Groove

 

This is a close up of the finished groove in what will be the front edge of the new box. The whole 38 inches has been grooved at this point.

Finished Groove 1/4 Wide 1/4 Deep

Finished Groove 1/4 Wide 1/4 Deep

 

A test showed that the number sandwich fit well in the quarter inch groove. Also in this picture you can see one corner of the old light box.

Test Fit

Test Fit

 

Box Componants

The next step in making an Eleven Grooved Box (actually this one only needs nine grooves) is to slice the stock into 45 degree mitered side pieces. This is done using a big Stanley miter box. I used the plastic front face plate to gauge the dimensions of the pieces, leaving about an eighth of an inch extra for caulking.

Slicing the 36 Inch Strip

Slicing the 38 Inch Strip

 

With all four sides cut and checked for equal length top to bottom and side to side, I could do a dry fit using a strap clamp with the number sandwich inserted. It worked perfectly.

First Dry Fit

First Dry Fit

 

Next to cut grooves in each of the eight miter faces to receive the eighth inch splines I had cut from the remaining piece of the Cedar picket. I have a jig for this, developed to hold a Stanley 45 plow plane in just the right orientation.

Plowing 1/8 Inch Grooves for Splines

Plowing 1/8 Inch Grooves for Splines

 

All four box sides have been grooved in this photo. The jig mentioned above allows a clean cut which means a tight fit for the splines that will be glued in.

Four Completed Box Sides Grooved for Splines

Four Completed Box Sides Grooved for Splines

 

Box Assembly

The number sandwich has to be inserted in the front groove as the box is glued together. I made this a two step operation by gluing up the top, bottom, and one end only first, then inserting the plastic number sandwich, then finally gluing the last end in place. This photo was taken while the first stage was setting. The second end is in place to keep the box in shape, it has no glue applied yet.

First Stage Glue Up

First Stage Glue Up

 

I applied silicone sealant to the front edge only of the groove, inserted the plastic face plate, pressed it in place against the sealant, then slid in the number stencil with it’s textured plastic backing. This seals the front tightly but will allow the number itself to breathe a little bit.

Then glue was applied to the final box side piece along with it’s two splines, sealant applied as before, the final end inserted and clamped.  The photo below was taken the rear surface planed flush and the box primed. You can see how the splines fit tightly and reinforce each corner. There is only a single joint line exposed to the weather.

Rear Surface Planed Flush

Rear Surface Planed Flush

 

At this point I fitted the rear mirror with it’s electrics to the box and tested under power. It did not light. I checked and every one of the three light bulbs were open. Apparently they did not survive the box disassembly. These were bayonet base 12 volt bulbs from Radio Shack. Radio Shack no longer exists in this area, so I decided rather than try to find replacements, to construct something with white LEDs.

On the table saw I ripped a strip from an old prototype printed circuit board. It has a single long row of tenth inch spacing holes. Note to self: wear safety glasses and use a carbide tipped blade you don’t care about. Fiberglass is very abrasive.

I have a handful of white LEDs harvested from a string I got during a post Christmas sale, and dug up a 12 volt wall wart (actually measured closer to 18 volts). I soldered eight LEDs to the PC strip, wiring them in pairs with a 1500 ohm resistor between each pair which allows about 10 milliamps. Each pair is wired to common power points in the center. I splayed alternate LEDs out a bit to spread the light more evenly.

New Light Strip

New Light Strip

 

I removed the old bulb sockets from the mirror but left the three supporting copper brackets.  With a bit of bending I was able to solder the new LED strip to the copper strips for good support. The LEDs point towards the mirror, not towards the front. I felt this would spread the light more evenly.

New Strip Soldered to Old Brackets

New Strip Soldered to Old Brackets

 

A dry fit in the box showed good even illumination. There is a slight shadow across the center due to the PC board strip but hardly noticeable.

First Test Light

First Test Light

 

Re-Installation

Back in the garage, I reattached the strip of flashing across the top rear that mounted the old box. Then I attached a strip of extruded aluminum behind the flashing. This will tilt the box forward slightly and help rain to run off. I cut a small piece of flashing and attached to the bottom of the box to make sure that edge is held tightly against the wall.

Finished Box With New Mounting

Finished Box With New Mounting

 

Here is the front view of the rebuilt box after a couple coats of paint.  Note to self: paint doesn’t stick to silicone sealant fingerprints.

Front Of Finished Box

Front Of Finished Box

 

So now it’s show time. Screw the creation back on the garage face. Since I used the original rear plate and mounting bracket, I only had to drill one new pilot hole. The power wire was routed inside across the header plate to the nearest outlet and stapled down. Power is on continuously, you can’t see the illumination in the daylight but because of Uncle Ray’s black background the numbers are very readable.

Mounted on Garage

Mounted on Garage

 

Finally the real test, how does it work at night? It’s a little bit brighter than the original setup but still not so bright it is distracting.

Night View

Night View

 

Thanks Uncle Ray!

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The Eleven Grooved Box – Tools Update

I have an improved fixture for making Eleven Grooved Box splines.  Roy Underhill’s video shows the spline blank placed in a grooved block. Then the blank is planed to size with a block plane.  The problem is, this eventually cuts some off the top surface of the grooved block causing the splines to come out too small. Then the splines won’t do their job well and look terrible.

My improved method has three secret weapons:

  1. A Kerfing Plane to make the blanks
  2. A modified Dado plane with skewed blade
  3. A sizing block with a channel to guide the modified plane

Secret Weapon #1

Tom Fidgen, in his book “Unplugged Woodshop” describes a kerfing plane. You can get parts to build one from Bad Axe Tool Works. Toms kerfing plane looks a lot like a stair saw with a fence, you can see it on his web site.  My version is made from a vintage plow plane and a blade cut from an old rip saw. It’s easy to cut  a tempered saw blade. Just score it on both sides with a Dremel grinder and cutoff wheel. Put the blade in a vise and flex it, it will break along the score line.  The next problem is drilling holes in the hardened blade. It will wreck a conventional twist bit, but I had good luck with carbide tipped masonry bits.  First, center punch the hole positions well, drill a pilot hole with a 1/8″ masonry bit, then finish with another masonry bit sized to fit your screws.  Use plenty of oil while drilling.

 

Kerfing Plane

Kerfing Plane

 

This old plow plane has an inch or so of the adjusting threads stripped so I added a spacer block to the fence to skip over the bad spot. The next photo shows the kerfing plane making 5/16 inch deep slots in the end grain of a Walnut scrap. The modified plane is accurate enough that I can easily slice four spline blanks from this 7/8″ thick bit of wood.

Kerfing plane in use

Kerfing plane in use

Now that three kerfs are cut, use a backsaw to cut the four spline blanks free. I kerfed both ends of the Walnut scrap while I was at it.

Cutting the spline blanks free

Cutting the spline blanks free

The end result after a bit of block planing to remove saw fuzz. Eight spline blanks ready to be trimmed to size.

Walnut splines

Batch of eight Walnut splines

Secret Weapon #2

I always had trouble using a block plane to trim the blanks. The plane would sometimes catch the blank and break it. Since these are planed across grain, then on end grain, the plane has to be held at a skewed angle. That makes it awkward and even easier to damage the sizing block.  I have a “vintage” 3/4 inch wide dado plane with a good skewed blade. That would do a nice job on the cross grain blank but would certainly tear up the sizing block. I thought about how a shooting board constrains the blade with the small bit of iron sole below the blade. A dado plane has a full width blade so that won’t work, but the solution I’m using adds outboard hardwood skates to the plane. These will stop the cut at the appropriate depth if I make a runway on the sizing block. The skates are made from a strip of Maple hardwood flooring sliced in half down the middle, then clamped onto the dado plane.

 

Modified Dado plane

Modified Dado plane

This photo is an end view of the modified plane. You can see at the bottom where the Maple has been thinned to 1/8″ on each side to form skates. Skate may not be the best term as these are used as guides and as a depth stop. They are adjusted to be even with the sole of the plane.

This outrigger skate technique would also work with a shoulder plane. Or you could make a wider sizing block and just use a block or smoothing plane, in which case you wouldn’t need the skates. The iron on either side of the blade would serve the purpose.

Modified Dado plane

Modified Dado plane

 Secret Weapon #3

For the modified plow plane to work, we need a sizing block that has a channel to guide and stop the skates. I made this on the table saw using a stacked dado blade set. The wood is from a backyard Apple tree, very hard. In this photo you can see the profile, wide channel for the plane on top and bottom, a groove for trimming thickness on the top, two grooves (with slightly different depths) for trimming width on the bottom. I cut the thickness groove a little too deep so it is shimmed with Post It note paper.

Spline sizing block

Spline sizing block

The other end of the sizing block has a stop screwed on. It’s removeable to make it easier to recut the grooves if necessary. Both ends are drilled to accept the stop. The sizing grooves are not centered so moving the stop to the other end from time to time will help even out wear on the dado plane blade.

Sizing block removable stop.

Sizing block removable stop.

Using the jig is a simple matter of clamping the block in the vise, inserting a blank in the groove and go to it.  Always plane the blank to proper 1/8″ thickness first and turn the blank over a couple of times so both sides are dressed. Here you can see how the channel in the sizing block is guiding the plane. The cut stops when the skates hit the bottom of the channel.

Thickness planing a spline blank

Thickness planing a spline blank

Coming out of the first step we have a blank evenly thicknessed to an eighth of an inch.  Also in this photo you can see the port sawn into the side of one maple skate to allow shavings to exit.

Spline planed to 1/8" width

Spline blank planed to 1/8″ width

The sizing block is now rotated in the vise so the quarter inch deep grooves are up. The thicknessed blank seats in one of the grooves where it can be trimmed to exactly a quarter inch width.

Width planing a spline blank

Width planing a spline blank

This final photo shows the completed cross grain spline accurately sized to 1/8″ thick and 1/4″ wide.

Finished splin

Finished spline

These three Secret Weapons work really well and make spline production easy.

The Eleven Grooved Box – Tools

I am a big fan of Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop”.  Last fall was the 32nd season, and he’s still wearing the same hat.  The second episode was titled “The Eleven Grooved Box”, a project Roy uses in his woodworking school. You can see it here.  I was attracted to this project because he uses Stanley 45 combination planes to make all eleven grooves.  I have a Stanley 45 and have been looking for an appropriate project so I am trying to duplicate what Roy does as closely as I can.

11GrooveBox

Finished Eleven Grooved Box. Red Oak from Home Depot.

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The finished box opened up. About 6″x8″x4.5″. Golden Oak stain and Watco natural oil.

You should watch the half hour video to see how Roy makes the box. I am going to document how I do it, and pass along some things I learned, and in particular, show how I made those #$%@! spline grooves.  Each corner of the box has to have two matching grooves plowed for splines, without these the box would be very weak.  You can see these in the corners of the lid in the photo.  Cutting those spline grooves with an old  Stanley 45 might be easy for Roy but for everyone else it’s a pain.  A millisecond of inattention and the sides of the groove are ripped up.  So like any self respecting woodworker, I made a jig.

My grooving jig for the Eleven Grooved Box

After almost giving up on this project, I sat down and analyzed what is happening. When plowing the grooves, you have to hold the plane perfectly perpendicular to the 45 degree mitered surface. The fence on the Stanley plane rides on the reference surface. But the skate is captured in the plowed groove! If you let the plane roll to the right, the fence lifts off the reference surface a bit and not much happens. But if you let the plane roll to the LEFT, the fence digs into the reference surface and pulls the blade to the left. The result is a horribly shredded edge on the left side of the groove. In the video, Roy has an Iron Arm and holds that Stanley perfectly aligned through the whole operation. My arm is made of rubber so I knew I had to make a jig to get the plane to behave.

V1.0 – My first jig attempt was a piece of 2×6 cut off at one end at 45 degrees, with a stop block attached. The stop block helps control tear out at the end of the cut and makes it easier to initially align the work piece with the plane. It did not help with the left side shredding problem, in fact made it worse.

V1.0

First attempt at a jig for cutting spline grooves

V2.0 – Added a second 45 degree cut at the end of the 2×6, creating a 90 degree angle at the tip. That spaced the work piece farther away from the fence face. I reasoned that the longer roll radius would pull the blade over less if I let the plane drift off axis. It helped a little but still not satisfactory.

V2.0

Second attempt at a spline groove jig

V3.0 The third revision adds a second reference surface for the BOTTOM of the plane fence.

.V3.0

Third attempt at a spline groove jig

The fence is now constrained by hard surfaces in the down and right directions, and in the up and left directions by my left hand. It can only move back and forth like it’s supposed to.  The whole thing gets clamped in a bench vise for the plowing operation, just like in the video.

45onJig

The Stanley 45 in working position on the V3.0 jig. The fence is riding on two reference surfaces

The bottom reference surface is constructed at the rear of the jig by screwing on a 3/4 piece of scrap cut off at 45 degrees at the top. That 45 degree surface is 90 degrees from the fence reference surface of the jig. The two screws are in elongated slots so the added piece can be adjusted up or down, which in turn moves the small block of hard wood up and down the fence reference surface. I made a one time tweak so the plane is level and aligned with the work piece bevel at the beginning of the cut and tightened the screws.

FenceBottomSupport

Showing the jig with added fence bottom support

There is a small block of hard wood on which the plane fence actually rides, that sits loosely on top of the added piece.

JigSpacer

The hardwood block in working position

The hardwood block has screws inserted in each end so it won’t slide off the jig when the plane is working.

FenceBottomSupportSpacer

Hardwood spacer block showing screws that keep it from sliding away

I start the cut with one light pass at the end so I can see where the plane is plowing, then knife down the grain like Roy does. With that, and the v3.0 jig I’m getting perfect spline grooves in the mitered surface.

Finigroove

An end piece with groove cut using the V3.0 jig

Stanley 45 tips for the Eleven Grooved Box

1. The eighth inch wide inch cutter needs to be as sharp as possible. I use one of the cheap “Eclipse Style” honing guides. I had to file the rounded jaw slightly to get it to grip the small cutter firmly. Use a simple wooden stop gauge to set the cutter for a 35 degree sharpen angle. Then the problem is, the narrow cutter can’t keep the gauge from wobbling during the honing process. The local hardware store had nylon bushings exactly the same diameter as the guide roller, with an ID the same as the guide screw shaft. I pulled the knob off the screw shaft and hacksawed a screwdriver slot across the end. With the knob removed,  I can put a nylon bushing on each side of the guide and they act as outriggers to keep the whole thing true to the stone.

CheapGuide

Modified honing guide with eighth inch cutter and outrigger wheels

To be really sharp, you have to flatten and polish the back side of the cutter as well. This is complicated by Stanley having made the 45 cutters slightly curved. You can use the Charlesworth ruler trick but you will need a thicker than usual ruler because of the curve. I found it good enough to just free hand polish the back by putting a lot of finger pressure on the tip.

2. Use a good ruler and measure the distance between the fence and the skate at front and back. Mine is typically wider at the rear, which causes the skate to bind in the groove. Loosen the fence rear lock screw and push it around until the measurements are the same.

3. Wax (Paraffin from a candle) the face of the fence, the bottom of the fence, the bottom and side of the skate.

4. Don’t overtighten the cutter lock bolt. It doesn’t take much to hold the eighth inch cutter in place.

5. Use an eighth inch drill bit to set the depth stop. When the groove is finished, lay the drill bit in the trench and if it sticks up above the beveled surface, back off the depth stop and cut a little more.

Glue up tips for the Eleven Grooved Box

1. Glueups have to be rehearsed.  Make sure you can get the box assembled before the glue starts to grab.

2. I’m using Titebond III which has a little bit longer open time than Titebond II. I don’t have a Roy Underhill style glue pot.

3. Use an acid brush with the bristles cut off to about 3/8 inch to apply glue.  Avoid applying a lot to the inside edge as squeeze out is difficult to remove there.

5. Apply glue to all the miters and grooves then wait a minute for that to soak into the end grain. Then apply another coat of glue and insert the splines. An easy way to apply glue to the splines is to lay a sheet of foil or waxed paper on the bench, make a puddle of glue, and roll the spline around in that.

5. Don’t forget to insert the top and bottom panels. DAMHIKT.

Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 1: The First Three Grooves

The First Three Grooves

See the original “Woodwright’s Shop” video here.

I’ve made about a dozen of these now and will document the next batch here with photos.  Most of the boxes I’ve made lately are in Cherry or Walnut and are pencil box size, 3″ x 8″.  These next few will be larger, sized to hold 3″ x 5″ index cards.

The lumber for this project is leftover tongue and groove wainscoat paneling from my fathers house circa 1974. These were milled 5″ wide and 11/16″  thick. He never finished the basement so after 35 years, some of the stock was available. The Cherry had darked quite a bit and that had to be planed off to get an even color on both sides of the boards.

I cut 24 inch sections and resawed to produce a 3/8″ slab for the box sides, and a 3/16″ part for the top and bottom.  Should be a great grain match. The first board was resawn by hand with a good old Disston rip saw but I did not like the results.  It’s too hard to get a clean line and is a LOT of work.  The other boards I resawed on a table saw.  All were cleaned up and thicknessed with a Dewalt lunch box planer.  That will be the last power tool used on this project, all hand tools after that.  I suspect the lumber Roy uses in his classroom and the video comes from Lowe’s (it is 3 1/2″ wide) so I don’t feel bad about preparing the stock with power tools. Planer scallops and snipe were removed from all faces with a #4 smoothing plane.

The thin strips in the center of this photo were ripped from another piece of cherry. They will form the box lips.

Lumber

wid Cherry cut to make four boxes

The boards still have parts of the tongue and groove machining which had to be removed.  Here I’m using a 100 year old Stanley 606 to shave off the unwanted projection.

Planing edges

Cleanup edges

My planing discipline is not that great.  I admire people like Roy and Bill Anderson who can unerringly carve off a perfect 90 degree edge free hand.  I have to cheat. I have this little Stanley 95 edge plane that is made for truing up board edges.  A couple of passes is all it takes.

Truing edge

Truing edge

The workbench in my shop is a recycled office desk, is not very flat, and no end vise, so some time ago I made a flat plywood planing board. It has a cam arrangement to clamp the workpiece. For these thin pieces I have to raise the work up to clear the stops. I use old printed circuit board material under the workpiece.  With the 3/8″ material clamped and aligned with the planing board edge, I can cut the first 1/8″ groove.  This will hold the bottom of the box and is cut against the grain of the lumber.  The Stanley 45 does not seem to mind grain direction much.

Groove One

Groove One

Groove number two is also 1/8″ and is made by flipping the workpiece 180 degrees, and plowing the other edge.  This will hold the top of the box and is cut with the grain.  I have switched to the short rods in this photo.

Second groove

Second groove

Groove number three is a wide 5/8″ and will ultimately hold the lip.  I can cut this with the same board set up as groove #2 which is why groove 2 is set up with the grain.  Groove 3 is spaced down far enough so 3×5 cards will stick out a bit from the box bottom.

All these grooves are started far end first and gradually worked back to the near end. This technique gives the front of the skates a channel to follow as the groove lengthens and deepens.  To minimize skate dragging against the side of the groove, It’s important to check during set up, that the skates are parallel with each other and parallel to the fence. Waxing the skates with paraffin once or twice during the operation helps a lot.

Groove three

Groove three

For the lip groove, I’m using both depth stops as Roy does in the video, each set to 1/8″ depth. Here I’m checking groove depth with a 1/8″ brass block.  A set of these gauge blocks is very handy.

Depth check

Depth check

Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 2: Fitting the Lip Strip

Fitting the Lip Strip

See the original “Woodwright’s Shop” video here.

In the center of the first photo in Part 1, you see narrow strips of Cherry.  These must be precisely fitted into groove #3 before the board can be sliced into four box sides.  The strip forms the lip around the inside of the box bottom that the lid seats onto.  Roy glosses over this step in his video, he uses a strip already planed to width.

I was using a “Moxon” style vise wide enough to clamp a 24 inch strip for planing but found it didn’t hold securely enough to work the edges. Also it was a pain to insert and remove the strips. The strips are flexible enough in the wide dimension to bend and cause trouble while you’re planing.  That’s probably why Roy skips over this step. I now have a better method using the dog holes on my nice flat planing board.

I insert pegs in the holes at about a 6 inch interval then weave the thin strip around them.  This has several advantages:

  • holds the strip edge flat against the planing board
  • provides a wider surface for the plane so you get a truer planed edge
  • off and on in seconds for a trial fit in the groove.

The photo shows one of the strips and the board it will be fitted into.  I’m using the #6 Stanley which has a bed long enough to nicely ride the curved strip.

Preparing to trim lip strip

Preparing to Trim Strip

It takes many tries to get the strip to fit tightly. Sometimes part of the strip fits but in other places it’s too wide, then a block plane is best to shave a small area.  It’s not fatal to have the strip a bit loose in a few spots. It just has to stay in place during the next planing operation, and while slicing the board into four mitered side pieces.

At this point, the strips project above the side stock about 1/16″, I tap them in with a rubber mallet to make sure they’re seated in the groove.

Four lip strips fittec

Four Lip Strips Fitted

Next, the fitted strips get planed down level with the grooved board.  I use a thick set block plane to remove most of the protrusion, a longer bed 5/1/4 plane to get it almost even, then a #4 smoother over the whole surface until the strip is perfectly flush.

Four lip strips fittec

Leveling Lip Strip

At this point if there is some tearout to clean up, I scrape and sand the entire surface as it will be awkward to smooth after it’s sliced up into side pieces.  I sand to 280 grit because I have a lot of 280 paper.

Sanding the inside surface

Sanding the Inside Surface

Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 3: Slicing and Tuning the Box Sides

Slicing and Tuning the Box Sides

See the original “Woodwright’s Shop” video here.

This is a Stanley Miter Box, same as the one Roy uses in the Video.  The huge back saw will cut just over a five inch depth. In the video, Roy holds the stock with his left hand but I had trouble with the board moving so I use a couple of clamps. The side of the stock with grooves and lip strip is always facing the Miter Box fence.

Here I’m making the first 45 degree cut on the leading end of the stock.

First Cut

First Cut – Stanley Mitre Box with Grooved Stock Clamped in Place

These boxes will hold 3×5 cards so I use a sample card to lay out the inside length for the second cut.  It will be about an eighth inch longer than the card, and the mark is on the inside of the next miter. This will form the front of the completed box.

Marking for Second Cut

Marking for Second Cut using 3×5 card

Now the stock is flipped 180 degrees and clamped on the right side of the Miter Box. The second cut is made just to the right of the pencil mark.

Second Cut

Second Cut

The future box front has been sawn from the grooved stock with lip strip included.

Completed Box Front

Completed Box Front

Fiip the stock back to the left side and trim off the miter from the first piece.  This will be the first cut on the next section, forming the left side of the box.

First Cut for Second Piece

First Cut for Second Piece

How long should the box sides be?  The inside edge of the two miters have to fit between 1/8 inch rabbits on the thin top stock. So I use the actual top stock to mark for the cut.  Best to err on the narrow side here, as I can always trim the top stock a bit.

Remember that wood moves when humidity changes so the top has to be a little loose in the cross grain direction. This is actually “Frame and Panel” construction, the top and bottom pieces float free in their grooves.

Measuring Box Side

Measuring Box Side

The third piece sliced from the grooved board will form the rear of the box.  Here I am using the front piece to lay out where to cut.  I will actually cut a bit long and trim this rear piece to match the front later.

Marking Length of Rear piece

Marking Length of Rear piece

The fourth and final piece forms the right side of the box and follows the same procedure, matching length with the previously cut left side.

I put pencil dots where they won’t show in the bottom groove to keep track of the order the pieces were sawn out.  Assembling them in order maintains the flow of wood grain around the completed box sides.

Later, I will use the dot method to keep track of the lip strips as they are pried out.

Dots inside bottom groove

Dots Inside Bottom Groove

Now that all four sides are sliced out, I clean and trim each to exact size on the Shooting Board.  First I use a utility knife to relieve the leading corner of the two exposed grooves. This keeps the plane from tearing out that delicate edge.

Relieving Leading Corners

Relieving Leading Corners

On the first (front or left side) piece it’s only necessary to take a couple of clean up strokes.

On the Shooting Board

On the Shooting Board

The mating second piece (rear or right side) is always sawn a bit longer than the first. It’s cleaned up and then trimmed until it’s length exactly matches the first piece.  The photo shows the front and rear pieces back to back.

Matching Length of Front and Rear Pieces

Matching Length of Front and Rear Pieces

With all four pieces cut and tuned to length, the box can be dry fit with a couple of rubber bands around it, to check the miters.

DSCF0096

These miters fit pretty good.  If they were off, I would tune the Shooting Board miter attachment and re-shoot the miters. It’s adjusted by adding or removing strips of thin cardboard underneath. I use playing cards.

The technical term for this sideways holding fixture is a “Donkey’s Ear”. Having never owned a Donkey, I can’t comment on the name. It is simply a block of scrap cut at 45 degrees, and a thin bit of scrap screwed to the end for a stop.  I glued sandpaper to the 45 degree face to help keep the work piece from moving around.

Shooting Board with Donkey's Ear Attachment

Shooting Board with Donkey’s Ear Attachment

On a Shooting Board, the plane blade is vertical. It helps to get through the cut if the plane has a lot of mass so I use the big Stanley. Since it’s planing end grain, it must be very sharp and take a fine shaving.

The whole thing is clamped to a convenient massive surface (table saw).

Shooting Board with Stanley #6

Shooting Board with Stanley #606 in Working Position

Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 4: Plowing The Other Eight Grooves

Plowing The Other Eight Grooves

See the original “Woodwright’s Shop” video here.

I remove the lip strips and set them aside.  Each gets pencil dots on the bottom so it can be returned to it’s original position in it’s original groove. Dots are placed where they won’t show in the assembled box, bottom of the strip and lower half of the groove.

Marking Lip Strip and Mating Groove

Marking Lip Strip and Mating Groove

The jig I use to cut the spline grooves is discussed elsewhere on this BLog.  Here the first box side piece is clamped in the jig by the bench vise.  This particular board is warped slightly and won’t lie flat against the jig so I use a couple of F clamps to pull it tight.  If the grooves are not cut consistently, they won’t line up properly. Have to make sure the F clamps don’t interfere with any part of the plow plane.

Side Piece Clamped in Spline Groove Jig

Side Piece Clamped in Spline Groove Jig

In the video, Roy knifes the sides of the uncut groove at the exit point to control tearout from the plow plane.  He guesses where the groove will end up and misses the mark quite a bit.  My solution is to set the plane on the jig, put downward pressure on the main skate, and pull it back across the work piece.  This leaves a mark across the miter and you can clearly see where to place the knife.

Mark from Pulling Blade Backwards

Mark from Pulling Blade Backwards

Hold the knife perpendicular to the miter surface and cut down both sides of the groove an eighth of an inch. It doesn’t hurt to knife edges at the beginning of the groove also, where the blade is dragged back across on the return stroke.

Knifing the Exit Edge of the Spline Groove

Knifing the Exit Edge of the Spline Groove

At first I was still getting exit tear out at the bottom of the groove (and Roy does as well), so I made this little chisel from eighth inch key stock. It’s sharpened at a 25 degree angle.

Utility Knife and Homemade 1/8" Chisel

Utility Knife and Homemade 1/8″ Chisel

I set this in the groove in the stop block and give it a tap with a small hammer.  Now the wood fibers are precut on all three sides of the groove and most plow plane tearout is eliminated.

Knifing the Bottom of Spline Groove Exit

Knifing the Bottom of Spline Groove Exit

With the board secured and all preparation complete, the actual plowing of the spline groove commences. Even with the jig it takes a lot of discipline to keep the plane moving in a perfectly straight line.

The 45 is cutting across end grain so the cutter has to be as sharp as I can get it.  I will hone it after every other box (16 grooves).  Also at the beginning and when the groove is cut about half way, I stop and wax the outside of the skate with paraffin.

Beginning the Spline Groove Cut

Beginning the Spline Groove Cut

The reward is a perfectly executed groove 1/8″ wide and 1/8″ deep with no tearout on either top or bottom edge.

Completed Spline Groove

Completed Spline Groove

I’m making four boxes with this project, so 31 more grooves to go!

DSCF0199

One done, 3 to go

And they are now all cut! One finished box and three sets of sides ready.