Monday, June 11, 2012

The Urban Ranch Box

     As I've been writing, I'm gearing up for a show of custom boxes that will be held at the Urban Ranch General Store here in Las Vegas.  If you're ever in the vicinity it's well worth a visit.  Durette has an incredible collection of hardware and an eclectic mix of home accessories in her studio.  Anyway, in honor  of her store I've created what I'm going to call the Urban Ranch Box.  I plan to make them in a small, medium, and large size but started with a size in the middle for the prototype.
     Since it's a ranch store it's only fitting that the wood used is what you may have actually found in an old general store.  I choose Knotty Pine for these and am using finger joints stay true to the character of that era.  You would have found Knotty Pine boxes for anything that needed to be shipped and the finger joint, aka box joint, would have been used for it's strength.
     Using a finger joint jig the pieces had all of the joinery cut and dados to house the top and bottom panels:

Ready for Assembly

     The green tape is put into the corner to minimize clean up of any excess glue inside of the box.  After the glue dried the next phase is to trim the fingers which is easily done with a low angle block plane:

Trimming the Fingers

     The only thing you need to keep in mind is that you can't drag the plane back over the edge of the box.  Even with it's low angle there's the possibility of chipping the grain.  Here too you can see the raised panel for the top of the box.
     Now came the hardest part of this project for me -- giving it some age!  If this was really a box from the General store era by now it would probably be pretty beat up so out came the weapons of destruction!

Beat Out Your Frustrations!

I must admit though it's kind of refreshing to whack away at the box and give it some age and patina.  Also difficult because I really admire and try to achieve a smooth, lustrous piece of wood.  Need to have some exceptions to the rule!
     To make a lidded box this is the easiest way.  The box is assembled with the top and bottom in place and then they are separated.  This can be done with either the bandsaw or the tablesaw with the tablesaw being my preferred tool to use.  The problem you can run into though is that as you're making the last cut, the kerf may close up and you end up with an uneven mating surface.  My technique is to make a full depth cut in the long sides of the box but then lower the blade so it only cuts a bit more than two thirds of the way through the short sides:

Close Up of Short Side Cut

By leaving that small amount of material on the short sides there's no risk of the lid and box closing in on itself leaving you with an uneven cut.  All that's left now is to take a flush cutting saw to complete it:

Separating Lid from Box

Which leaves you with a small piece of material that's easy to plane flush with the rest of the surface:

Just a bit of Planing

     At this point the brass hinges are soaking in some vinegar to age them, I've fashioned an interesting knob for the box and it's had it's first coat of Danish Oil.  This box will also have a sliding tray to double the storage room.

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