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Wood Boxes



Another Wood Box

These are always fun to make.  I glue up the box first, then run it sideways thru the table saw to split the box into top cover and bottom.



Sliding Lid Boxes

More than 20 years ago, I bought a Sears dovetail attachment that allows you to use the router to make both dovetail and box joints. I used it back then, but I remember it took a long time to set-up.

I recently ran across a Woodsmith article and free plan for making wood boxes using just your table saw. I decided to try it out and see if it was easier than setting up the router attachment. This plan is for wood boxes with sliding lids.

Here is a photo of making the jig for the table saw:

 The index key is being glued into the cross-slide. I trimmed it down to size after the glued dried.

Using Google Sketchup and some other free software, I made up a crude animation to show how the jig works. I then put it on YouTube:

  Here is a picture of the first box I built, a pencil holder:

I had to glue up pieces to make the top and bottom of the biggest box:


I turned my belt sander upside down and placed it into the box to sand the excess joint stock:

And here are 4 boxes glued up, ready for final sanding and finishing:

 Here is photo of boxes drying after 1st coat of polyurethane:





 Closing Thoughts on This Project:

I was attracted to this project because I thought it might be a faster way of making wooden boxes (on the table saw) versus all the time involved with setting up the router and its jig.  It turned out to take as long with the table saw.

It is mentally tough not to make a mistake with regards to how many slots to cut in each piece, since the front of the box has 1 less than the back.


Larger Wood Box

At the Indiana Covered Bridge festival in the Fall of 2010, I saw some neat wood boxes for sale at a craft booth. They were about 1 foot cube. The guy that made them let the corner joint stick out versus sanding them flush.........and they looked good that way.

I had to make a new jig for the table saw, to cut corner joints 3/4" high. Here is photo of making the jig:


I had to buy a dado blade set because the larger box needs joints around 3/4" thick and my table saw blade is only 1/8".  I bought this set from Harbor Freight: 


I had to glue up the 5 pieces required to make the big box, using 1x4's which are 3/4" thick.  Below is photo of the 5 pieces glued up.  As I keep telling my wife, a woodworker can never have too many clamps!

Here is my sliding jig for the table saw to cut the corner joints:

 Preview Image

I decided to make an animation to show how the jig is used to cut the corner box joints:




When I assembled the big box, I found it was too tall.....this is one time that Google Sketchup's image did not really match the item when built (it looked in proportion in Sketchup).... 

I decided to take this tall box and make 2 different boxes from it. Here they are shown in Sketchup:


Preview Image


And here is how they looked when I made 2 boxes out of the one tall one:



I also made one small box from 3/4" stock just to see what it would look like:


Here are the finished big boxes. I did fill in the exposed 1/4x1/4 inch dado joints with 1/4x1/4x1/4 wood plugs which were glued in:


And here are the latest bigger boxes compared to the smaller boxes with sliding lids:

Closing Thoughts on This Project

My 1968 Sears 10" table saw had a worn 2.5 inch aluminum pulley with 5/8" bore and 3/16" woodruff key.  Several times, the high load from the 8 inch diameter 3/4" wide dada set caused the pulley on the saw blade shaft to fly off.  I finally bought a new pulley at Ace hardware. I did not use the new pulley with the 3/4" wide dado set, but I did use it with the 1/2" wide dado set....and it did not come off.

I operated the saw without a throat guard with the dado set. Since I had a sliding jig, there was little probability of dropping something into the big gap around the blade. If one was doing a lot of dado work, a modified throat guard should probably be used.

I did have one safety close call with the 1/4" dado set. I placed a 1x4 piece about 10" long against the fence, then ran a box bottom along it to cut the 1/4" groove on the box bottom piece. I left the dummy piece in place between cuts like I did when using a regular saw blade. Apparently the saw vibrated enough that the dummy piece caught on the blade, and it threw the piece at me..........bounced off my stomach, and ended up about 12 feet back from the saw. Since I was not standing directly behind the piece, it bounced off of my body.  The moral of the story is never stand behind the piece you are cutting and never leave a dummy piece in place while the saw is running.

My saw could just barely cut the 3/4" wide dados 3/4" deep on the big box I made. The blade speed almost went to zero. I made a sound recording of the drop in saw RPM:


When I made one box with 3/4" thick wood, I dado cut 3/4" wide and 1" deep. I had to cut each dado with about 4 passes to keep the blade speed going.  One should probably cut these using increments of 1/4" inch depth to keep the blade speed more constant.  When I cut 1/8" wide dados 3/8" deep using regular saw blade, there was no drop in speed.

These boxes require a lot of sanding time:

-rip 3/4" standard stock vertically on table saw, finish cut on bandsaw, plane to
  finished dimension, belt sand.  This works to make 1/4" thick boards max.
-Rotary plane 3/4" stock to 1/2" on drill press using Wagner saf-t-plane, belt sand.

-with either of these 2 methods, the finishing process is the same.
--sand to 220
--sand to 220
-sand to 220

Two things that could reduce labor time is use my old Sears 12 inch wide planer to plane to 1/2" and then use milk paint versus polyurethane to finish.

More to come..............


I decided to make a bunch of the shorter and taller boxes as Christmas gifts. This would also give me a chance to try out milk paint as a finish.

Milk paint was used in the 1800's until the advent of oil based paints in the early 1900's. All you needed was milk, hydrated lime, and some powder pigment for color. You can buy milk paint as a powder where all you do is add warm water:


Making More Milk Paint Boxes from Scraps

I made 17 wood boxes and used milk paint to finish them (see project above).  I had a lot of wood scraps left over of 1/2" thickness.  I decided to glue the scraps together and make 3 more of the smaller boxes.  Here is the pile of glued up pieces, boy I am glad I own a lot of clamps!

I fired up the old 12" sears planer and planed these pieces down just enough that they were smooth on both sides.  Worst case was down to 3/8" inch thickness. After I milk painted them, I tried applying a coat of polyurethane over the milk paint. The polyurethane removed the faded look of milk paint only finish. The two photos below show the comparison of plain milk paint versus milk paint plus polyurethane: 


The red box difference is more dramatic than the yellow box difference due to the pictures. I think I will add a coat of polyurethane to the 17 boxes I previously made.

Here are all the boxes after they got 1 coat of polyurethane:




More Boxes for Christmas 2011 Gifts

I decided to make a bunch of the shorter and taller boxes as Christmas gifts. This would also give me a chance to try out milk paint as a finish.

Milk paint was used in the 1800's until the advent of oil based paints in the early 1900's. All you needed was milk, hydrated lime, and some powder pigment for color. You can buy milk paint as a powder where all you do is add warm water:

I bought two pacakages of milk paint, Marigold yellow and Federal Blue. Here is my container of Marigold Yellow:


One thing I did first to reduce the amount of tearout from the dado set...I glued up a block in the notch where the dado blade had cut the 3/4" thick boards from above. After the block dried, I moved the saw up until it cut deep enough to leave 3/16" to 1/4" of side sticking out proud. Because the top of the new groove was exactly even with the height I wanted to use on this project, the amount of tear-out was reduced because the sliding jig prevented tear-out.

Here are 5 of the short boxes ready for milk painting:

And here is a box painted with milk paint, marigold yellow color...


And here is how it looks compared to no finish and just polyurethane finish:


I put about 4 spoons of milk paint powder in my glass container, then added a litle warm water and stirred.  I played with the thickness until it was thicker than water but not as thick as pea soup. 4 spoons of powder did about 1.5 of the short boxes.

It seems like using milk paint is kind of a "pay me now......or pay me later" scenario. If you apply it too thin, then you need a 2nd coat.......and 2nd coat goes on quicker. If you apply it too thick, you use up the high priced powder.....but don't need a 2nd coat.

Here is another shorter box painted with Federal Blue milk paint:


And here is one marigold yellow and one federal blue box with the original polyurethane only boxes:

The next step will be to make 5 tall boxes and paint them in milk paint also.

Because they would be difficult to paint inside the taller box, I painted the inside of the big boxes before I assembled them.

 Here are the 17 milk-painted wood boxes completed....................

Closing Thoughts on This Project

When table sawing the pieces for height and when dadoing the 1/4" groove, always stack the 4 boards on the table saw bed first with the correct orientation with respect to the fence....then run them through the saw. This avoids accidentally running a board thru the saw with the wrong orientation (I did this once).

From set-up to set-up of the dado blades, write down which thickness copper spacers you you get the same groove thickness on each set-up. I left two out of the total on the box project.






Recent Photos

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