Antique Victorian Bell Commission

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 7.13.09 AMI love getting projects that are interesting and challenge my woodworking skills.  This is a picture of an antique, Victorian book store bell that will be going on a restored, 110 year old farmhouse in Oregon.  A man found me via the Etsy store and after a dozen or so conversations back and forth he went ahead and ordered the box for this bell from me.  I’ve always been detail oriented so that’s why it’ll take a number of communications back and forth before the  piece is ordered.  This client provided   sketch up drawings he made plus the picture you see on the left.  The box will be dovetailed and made of some figured Maple and also Walnut.

The way he’s designed it is that the beautiful cast bronze/brass mounting will be attached in the Walnut box.  It will be partially concealed by a lid that will have a radius cut out of it to hide the electronics he’ll install but still show off the antique casting.  The bell is mounted on a 2″+ tab so the spring that connects the two will be proud of the box.  The way I understand it, when someone rings the bell it will trigger the electronics so you can hear a door bell chime in the house.  I’ve been told I’m a dinosaur when it comes to technology because I really enjoy the traditional, hand  wood working techniques but I must admit it was pretty cool to be able to put his address into a Google map and see the actual house this bell is going on!

He was inspired by my Tails Around the Corner box on the Etsy store.  He liked the combination of Walnut and Quarter Sawn Sycamore.  As I mentioned this box will have a sliding lid and that had me scratching my head a bit!  Usually a dovetailed box with sliding lid will have the groove for the lid cut into the pin board.  For this project I knew his focus was being able to see the dovetails from the side so that meant the groove needs to be in the tail board instead.  After some sketching and experimentation I came up with the solution.  Instead of having a half pin this will have a “half-stub” to house the groove for the lid.  WoodworksbyJohn-CustomWoodworker-BookstoreBell-2Here’s a tutorial showing my method of cutting dovetails by hand.  When ever possible I cut both tail boards at the same time.  I clamp them together firmly after scribing the thickness of the work on it and lay out the tails.  You can see what I mean by a “half-stub” at the left of the boards.


After sawing the cuts the piece at the right side was removed.  It’s a good practice to first cut a little wedge with a chisel before using your crosscut saw.  You’ll find it’s easier to not only start the saw but also to follow the line.  The pencil is pointing to that wedge, behind it is my trial lay out.  Always mark the piece of wood that is to be removed — I’ll admit to a time or two I thought I had that figured out and removed the wrong part!

WoodworksbyJohn-CustomWoodworker-BookstoreBell-4Next up is to remove the remainder of the waste, I follow the same procedure by making that wedge cut at the scribed line.  After doing that to one side, the board is flipped over and the rest of the wood is removed.

WoodworksbyJohn-CustomWoodworker-BookstoreBell-5The tails were transferred to the pin board and cut to match.  I give myself a safety net  by leaving the board way longer than it needs to be when cutting the first ends.  This way I can simply cut it off should I make an error.  God was guiding my hands and the joints came out the way they should.  Once one corner is done then the piece was cut to the required length (6″) and the other side was cut — no more safety net now!  This piece of Walnut will be the top of the box.  It’ll be trimmed to the bottom of that “half-stub” I mentioned earlier.  The lid slides into the groove that will be cut into the Maple sides.  Both of these pieces are cut and fit, next up is the joinery on the bottom of the box.  This will consist of a pair of tails with traditional half tails rather than the half-stubs!


About woodworksbyjohn

I'm a retired woodshop teacher. I build one of a kind furniture pieces and custom picture frames. You can see some of my currently available work, boxes, carvings through my Etsy store: Contact me about your project -- always up for the challenge of unique work.
This entry was posted in Antique Victorian Bookshop Bell, Current Commission, Hand Cut Dovetails, Tutorial and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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