Custom Order: Dovetailed Pine Box

In a previous post I mentioned that I have a custom order request from the Etsy store and the client was very understanding about my vacation and Armoire plans.  It’s now coming to the final stages and my goal for today was to finish the handle and have it glued in place so the first coat of finish can be applied tomorrow — I made that goal!

It’s always interesting to have a conversation about how to price your work with other woodworkers.  This came up at the meeting of Sin City Woodworkers last Wednesday.  Calculating the price of materials is pretty straight forward.  Calculating a final price is a tough call; do you charge time and materials only, do you go over your past sales and try to calculate the amount of time it may take, what’s the best approach?  What works for me is to make multiple of the same project in maybe different sizes and/or materials whenever I get a custom order.

Handle Profile

Handle Profile

For example, let’s look at the handle I came up with for this box.  It took almost an hour to create the profile out of a piece of Australian Lacewood.  It involved some tablesaw work to create the tongue and then some router work for the profile. I made enough for 5-6 boxes so now it’s essentially free the next time I use it.  Sometimes the pricing game I play is to decide how much would I enjoy the challenge of a requested project?  If it’s one that really intrigues me I may make a lower bid.  On the other hand, one place I used to work part time told me if he had a custom request for something he really didn’t want to do he’d make a high bid thinking that if they accepted it at least it’d be worth his while!  Not sure I want to follow that philosophy, rather just be honest with the client.

Process for Cutting Tails part of the Joint

I’m a tails first dovetailer so this is my method.  I like to utilize the Stanley 140 trick even though I don’t own a pair of skewed, rabbet block planes.  Instead I cut a rabbet on the insides of the tail boards on the tablesaw.  After deciding on the layout it’s time to begin the process, I cut both sides of the box at the same time with a rip-cut dovetail saw.

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What works well for me is to take an initial chip out, laying the chisel right into the scribed line.  The next cuts are made slightly proud of the scribed line which I then pare to after the material is removed. You can see the rabbet created on the tablesaw in picture #4.

Scribing and Cutting the Pins part of the Joint

I use a fixture to help line up the pieces which you’ll see in the first picture of the slide show.  When taking out the waste between tails I again start on the show side of the board.  I found that this Radiata Pine is what I refer to as punky — in other words it doesn’t cut very cleanly.  Rather than trying to remove chips during this process, a wedge cut was made to the shoulder line (picture #5).  This left a bit of wood for support when the board was turned over.  You’ll notice in the last picture how the shoulder is rough due to the punkiness of the wood.

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Flushing the Dovetail

Flushing the Dovetail

After the box was assembled and allowed to dry overnight the joint was planed smooth.  Always a good idea to leave them slightly proud.  I use a block plane for this, you can see the difference in this picture, the corner near the bottom has been planed.  I feel that planing leaves a cleaner finish on end grain than sanding does.  In the next post I’ll be showing how to make the small, mitered tray the will fit inside of this box.  I played around trying to make a YouTube video of  the mortising process which is uploading as we speak — probably put in on the next post as well.


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 custom order, Hand Cut Dovetails, Hand Tool Woodworking, Tutorial and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Custom Order: Dovetailed Pine Box

  1. Jay Amundson says:

    I agree with your philosophy about over charging on jobs you really don’t want. If you do get the job, you won’t enjoy doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. snwoodwork says:

    My first dovetail project was a box out of radiata pine from the big blue store. I don’t like the stuff. From what I’ve read, white pine is supposed to be nice but it’s scarce here in Florida. Your box does look good, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To me, a craftsman working to make his thoughts come true, putting his passion into the inanimate objects is an artist. Thank you for showing us how you made them.


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