Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Special Box for A Special Client

     It's always exciting to me to design a project tailor made for somebody who's asked for it.  When I know some of the story behind the projects purpose it adds much more meaning to it.  I received a convo from my Etsy store site regarding a custom box.  We discussed a few options and I directed them to pictures of boxes I thought might be good examples.  One that really fit the bill was the series I'd titled Contour Lines.  You see, this was to be a cremation box for a very special pet, look at this beautiful dog!

     The reason they liked the Contour Line box is because they had spent a lot of time running through mountains together, also the coloration of the wood (Curly Maple) bore a resemblance to Koda's coat.  Once we decided that this was the style of box that would be suitable the next step was to find the materials.  Lucky for me, Peterman Lumber here in Las Vegas had one board in their warehouse.  Look at the beautiful figure in this piece.

The Box to Be
      I just love the chatoyance this piece of wood shows.  Chatoyance has to do with the way the light reflects the grain of the wood, I've also seen it referred to when talking about gems like a cat eye.  I decided to go ahead and make a couple of smaller boxes to add to the store at the same time.  This box will be finger jointed and have a lift off lid.  For the Koda box I decided it was best to plane it down to about 7/16" in thickness.  Cremains tend to be fairly heavy and I wanted the box to be substantial enough.  For the additional boxes I went ahead and re-sawed the piece.  I love the marking gauge I made using the blade from Hamilton tools:

Ready for Re-Sawing
     It makes such a nice mark, screwed it up though when I penciled over it to make it show more for the picture!  When I re-saw a piece of wood I'll scribe a line from both sides.  Most 4/4 wood comes in at 25/32" so scribing in 3/8" from each side usually leaves just enough for the saw kerf.

Jet's Pivot Point

    When doing one or two boards I find it's easy enough to guide it against a pivot point like the one that attaches to the fence of my bandsaw.  If my cut is pretty accurate it will yield two boards that are 5/16" thick which is sufficient for a decorative box used for jewelry or other small keepsakes.

     The next step is to cut the pieces to size. For this I prefer to use a sliding sled on the tablesaw.  The only way to ensure a square box is to make certain that the two opposing pieces are exactly the same size.  A feature of a custom box is that the grain of the wood flows around the edges and follows the natural grain of the board.  Here's my technique.

Cutting Box Sides
     Since you can't set a stop block for the two long sides and cut them at the same time my technique is to go ahead and set the stop for the longest piece.  In this case it was approximately 8".  The short sides were approximately 6" long.  I cut the long piece first and then added the 2" spacer you see in the picture above.  It's the small piece between the clamped on block and the end of the board being cut. This allows you to cut the short piece, next; remove the spacer to cut the second long piece, put it back and now you can cut the remaining short piece.  Always important to mark the boards so you put them back together the right way.

Preparing the Sides

Here are the pieces for the Koda box being planed prior to assembly.  The very thing that makes the wood look so beautiful is the same thing that makes it difficult to work.  A very small throat opening and a freshly sharpened blade were required with the smooth plane -- love those fine shavings!  The figure in the wood is caused  by the grain being either interlocked or reversing back on itself.

At the same time, here are the sections for the other two boxes.  See how the grain will be continuous all the way around the box when it's glued together?  The Koda box is clamped together so that I can cut the dado for the bottom.  Once the surface has been prepared by planing I use tape to identify which  piece goes where and also which way is up.

Getting Close to Assembly
     Ended the day with fitting the bottom and gluing the box together.  I prefer using Liquid Hide Glue for finger joints.  It cleans up easy and has a longer open time than polyvinyl glues.  The trick I use when the weather is colder like it is now, is to run hot water over the glue bottle first.  The heat reduces the viscosity and makes it very easy to spread the glue on each finger.

Glued Up & Waiting
     This will dry at least overnight and then it's on to find just the right section of wood to create the top.  The goal is to find one that will show a great collection of contour like markings to remind my client of the mountains and hills she used to share with Koda.

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