In my last blog I went thought the process of making a small, dovetailed box from Red Oak and Chechem — some small pieces of wood from my shop. I’ve never had a large supply of wood on hand and with the Covid-19 crisis of course I can’t just run down to Woodworkers Source to get more. The dovetails turned out okay and the box will be added to my inventory at the Store at Mesa Art Center. Here’s how it looks, the lid design is based on a series of boxes I did quite some time ago and called the A River Runs Through It:
Red Oak has never been one of my favorite to work with, seems as if in the 80’s and 90’s every cabinet job I had was out of that material. Although good for cabinetry I’ve always found it difficult to work with hand chisels since it tends to be grainy even with the sharpest of tools. For this little box I could have easily had a lift off lid but decided it would be a great time (socially distanced as we are) to spend the time to install stop hinges from Rockler. Could have been done rather quickly by making a jig and using a router but enjoy hand tools and the challenge much more.
Lay out was difficult because of the graininess of the Oak. Scribed lines quickly disappear, especially with older eyes! I remembered a trick way to lay out dovetails using masking tape and decided to give that a try — it worked so thought I’d share it with you. It starts by putting down a piece of tape and then locating and scribing the hinge locations directly onto the tape.
Once they’re on, simply peel back the tape outlining the hinge location and chop it out with your chisel. I use the same technique here as you read about in the dovetail blog, after severing the fibers of the wood across the grain I take a sliver of wood from the back edge to get a sharp edge for the hinge to reference to. If you’ve chiseled hinge mortises before you’re probably wondering how did I set the depth? My technique for this is to use a small router plane, in my case an old Stanley 271. I set the depth off of the thickness of the hinge and use the edge of the blade to score the depth. Just like cutting a larger mortise, the ends are squared off and a series of shallow chisel cuts are made along the length. First pass is with a chisel to about half the depth. After another series of chisel cuts the router plane is used to remove the waste and the hinge is ready for installation. The same technique is used on the box.
The lid lift was installed the same way, you can see the mortise for it on the picture above. Anyway, that’s my trick for the day and hopefully you’ll find it useful in your own work.