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Projects

Making a  box using a saw

Please note that this is not a "recipe" or a constructional article.  It is the basis of a project methodology upon which you can build to create an object of your own choosing..  Amend the method as you see fit but take care when using tools: don't start a project like this, and don't use any power tools unless you are competent to do so and/or are being supervised by a trained operator.  No dimensions are given so that you can vary things to meet your needs.

The notes assume that you have access to a bandsaw (but you could use a handsaw) and a scrollsaw/fretsaw (but you could use a coping saw).

1)  Take a piece of suitable timber (Yew looks good used like this but any close-grained hardwood will work well) and saw it into a cuboid using a bandsaw, as per the sketch.  No need to plane it up as we're going to saw into it again.  Clean up the top surface so that you can mark out clearly on it and draw the box outline shape (e.g. the heart).  Also mark off a depth for a lid section a deep section for the body and a narrow section for the base, as indicated by the lines in the sketch.  If you plan to carve the lid to give it a 3-D look, you need to leave it a bit thicker.  Make the box big enough so that the compartments you will hollow out will actually hold something (unless it's just for a lock of hair!)

If you plan to split the box to create two boxes that will meet and kiss in the middle, then this split line needs to be planned now too.  If you do this, the compartments will be yet smaller - so work out your scheme on a piece of paper beforehand.  (This is also the best way to get a decent heart shape - full and plump - and from it draw a pattern you can trace.  A photocopier can be useful to adjust your pattern size.)

Having sawn your block into three, you now get to stick it back together using double-sided tape and ensuring that you get the pieces in exactly the same orientation as when you started.  (Keep the grain pattern matched exactly.)

2)  Now using the scrollsaw/fretsaw you should cut out the shape of your box outline (the tape should hold the whole block together whilst you do this so that the outline is identical in all three pieces).  If the box is to be split, now is the time to cut the split.

Do this operation slowly and carefully as there is little chance to rectify any major errors made at this stage.  A good surface finish on the parts now will make later finishing a lot easier.

The outside can be partially finished at this stage using a series of grades of grit abrasive papers or cloth.

3)  Now it is time to "hollow out" the interior and here the scrollsaw-fretsaw is a real boon.  (In the absence of a powered model, the same can be achieved using a coping saw.)  Take the stack of pieces apart being careful not to crack the thinner base piece in particular - double sided tape can be very sticky!  Drill a pilot hole large enough to take the blade of the saw and slide the blade through the hole, then re-fix it into the saw frame.  Now carefully cut out the "waste" pieces from within the body piece(s). 

Try not to make too many nicks and cuts in the side of the "waste" pieces as we will need to use these.

Take each of the waste pieces in turn and from the "top" face of each take a thin slice, as illustrated.  These slices will form the pieces which locate the lid onto the body section, preventing the lid falling off without the use of hinges, catches etc.

4)  Now glue these "slices" onto the underside of the lid section.  To help align them, tape the lid(s) and body(ies) together and put the pieces into place by working from the underside of the body, but taking care not to get any glue between the lid and the body.  To be safe, it may be a good idea to carefully lift the base(s) off the lid(s) once everything is in place.

Whilst this dries, you can be carefully cleaning up the inside faces of the box apertures.  The finish is less critical if the box is going to be lined when complete.  If leaving a natural wood finish, extra care and patience will be needed at this stage.

5)  The body(ies) can now be carefully aligned with the base(s) and glued in place.

6) Finally, finish the outside of the box, holding all pieces in perfect alignment (more double sided tape between lid and body may help.)  If it is wished to sculpt the lid(s) to give a 3D form, now is the time to do it.  Once everything is shaped to your satisfaction, finally sanded and treated with the required finish, staining etc., you can dress the inside by applying self-adhesive felt or spray-on flock, unless you have chosen a natural finish.  A final coat of wax and you should have a family heirloom.

FOOTNOTES:  A similar method can be use to create the box using a router instead of a scrollsaw to hollow out the interior.  In this case, do not cut off a slice for the base of the piece but leave the base and body as a single block.  Instead of sawing out the waste from the interior, make a pattern so that you can use a router with a guide bush, or a bearing-guided profile cutter to hollow out the interior to the desired depth.  To locate the lid on the body, you will need to hand-make inserts for the lids (see para. 4, above) since the waste pieces used in the sawn version will have been reduced to shavings by the router method!

If you need tools, equipment or finishes to help with this project, visit The ToolPost.

©1997-2004 P. Hemsley.  The information on this website is the copyright property of Peter Hemsley.  Whilst reasonable efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of information presented, no liability can be accepted for errors in this information nor for contingencies arising therefrom.  If you are inexperienced in any aspect of woodworking, we would strongly counsel that you take a course of formal instruction before commencing to practice

The Floyd Consultancy

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