Off the Fence — Details, Details, Details !!

At the risk of sounding like a whiner I’d like to get this on the page.  It seems to be a natural instinct for people to think that a small size project is much easier and quicker to make than a larger one.  Those of you that create things just know that’s not true!  The only difference is in the size of the final outcome; techniques and joinery are the same.  Sometimes making small items can be more exacting and tedious.  I’m liking how this series of boxes is coming out even with the challenge of the small parts and brittle wood..

Media Cabinet

Media Cabinet

If you’re not familiar with them you can see the previous post but I had some reclaimed fence boards left over from a media table a commission at the beginning of the year.  The boards were ones I’d picked up from a recycler and are Redwood fence boards.  Since I had a few left over and couldn’t bear to just throw them in the trash I chose to make some finger jointed boxes showing the beauty of the surfaced wood compared to the weathered results after who knows how many years out in the environment.  Problem number one was the dryness of the wood along with its inherent splitting and cupping.  This limited the over-all size of the boxes.  You can read about it in this, the first post on the project.

Now that they were assembled and shellacked it was time to separate the lids from the boxes.  My method uses the tablesaw with the rip fence to accomplish this.  They were separated at the 5th finger joint which was cut at its center.  My process is to raise the blade so it just cuts completely through the long sides of the box.  The blade is then lowered to leave a 1/16″ piece connecting them.  Some box makers use the bandsaw for this but I find that this can leave a rougher and sometimes uneven cut.  The purpose of leaving that piece connecting the two parts prevents them from closing up, seizing on the blade, and possibly kicking back.

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First of Off the Fence Series

First of Off the Fence Series

Now it’s time for setting the hinges and the hasp.  I bought these from a company in Canada called Small Box Hardware.  It took some doing to finally figure out the correct way to position the hasp on the front!  For the first box the flap was screwed to the outside of the lid which looks okay but I wasn’t completely satisfied with it.  Also, it needed to be bent slightly to get the little locking mechanism to latch.  I took this shot with my phone to give you an idea of how the rough, natural wood inlaid for the top contrasts with the surfaced wood used for the box — I like it!

Since I like using hand tools my first choice was to simply chisel out a mortise and recess the hasp into the bottom of the lid.  Without the mortise there was too much gap between the lid and bottom.  Being dry and brittle, the Redwood split rather than cut cleanly even with a sharp chisel and very light cutting pressure.  Luckily, this was fixable with a touch of glue and tape to repair the split on the inside of the lid — whew!  Enter a trim router with a 3/16″ bit to rough out the required mortise.

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Here’s another instance of the advantage of adding one more tool to my arsenal, the Black Diamond, rechargeable headlamp.  My vision is showing the effects of six and a half decades of use and almost qualifies me for cataract surgery, using this headlamp allows me to see the lines as I performed the delicate operation of cutting a tiny mortise for the hasp.  A spacer (mat board) is used to offset the hasp, holes located and predrilled with a gimlet, cut out with the router and trimmed with a chisel.  The surface mounted hinges were located then installed two screws at a time, checking the operation as each pair of screws were tightened.  I took the precaution of waxing each of the tiny little screws to minimize any chances of splitting the wood or breaking the screw — did I mention this wood is dry and brittle?

Okay, time to give my eyes a break for now.  All that remains is to line the bottoms of each box using some denim material to complement the rustic style of these boxes.  I may add some dividers to the largest box.  Then it’s time to photograph and add them to the Etsy store inventory.


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 Etsy Store, Finger Joint, Off the Fence Box, Recycled Wood Furniture and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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