Box 26 – 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks

52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
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OK, before I get to the latest box, let me take a moment to point out that this is box 26. I’m halfway there. It’s been 18 weeks since I posted boxes 1 and 2. I’m very happy, but also bit surprised that I’ve been able to crank out boxes so quickly. I’m also relieved, because I have some challenging boxes in the queue, and some might take me more than a week to make. That’s OK now, because I’m well ahead of schedule.

Well, let’s get to box 26. Although it’s not immediately obvious, I used a peculiar technique to make this one. Take a look at the end of the box. That’s end grain. Not surprising. This could be a bandsaw box. But it’s not. It’s a hollow chisel mortiser box. I took a solid piece of ash, ripped off a slice to be the top and then headed over to the mortiser. I then mortised out the inside of the box. This could be one of the smartest things I’ve done in the shop, but it’s more likely one of the dumbest. I suppose I’ll find out after a very dry Connecticut winter. If it stands up to severe contraction and then some Spring expansion, I’ll be happy. I think it will, but even if it doesn’t it was still fun to make. It took all of 3 minutes to hollow out the box and that’s pretty cool.

This particular piece of ash is an offcut from the ash I used to make turn this little hollow form vessel. I love the super tight and straight grain on the sides. The end grain is good looking, too. Because the ash is almost perfectly quartersawn, the top and bottom are flatsawn. The bottom doesn’t matter much, because you never see it, but the top is another story. I didn’t want some ugly flatsawn grain messing up this box, so I decided to paint the top before I even cut it free from the blank. I didn’t chose the color (Federal blue) until after I had hollowed out the box. I like the blue here because it stands out against the slightly-brown creaminess of the ash. I also painted the underside of the top, so that the space between the top and box body would be more than just a shadow line.

Speaking of the top, I rabbeted around it’s bottom edge (the rabbet is the same size as the one around the box’s bottom) to create the space between the top and box. I then glued a thin piece of maple to the underside of the top. This thin piece fits into the box and keeps the lid in place. As you can see, the underside of the top is also painted.

If you’ve used a hollow chisel mortiser before, you know that the drill bit cuts a little deeper than the chisel. It leaves nasty drill bit marks. There was no way to get rid of them (without extensive and tedious chisel work), so I just cut a bottom from some thin maple, painted the top surface and then put it in the box. I was going to glue it in place, but when I was testing the fit, it got stuck, so I just forced it all the way down. If it falls out this winter, I’ll glue it down.

A few random thoughts.

  1. Take a close look at the end grain and you can see that the hollow chisel was crushing rather than cutting the end grain in a few places. What the chisel did on the inside telegraphed onto the outside of the box. I might make another one of these boxes (as a thanks to the fellow who gave me a big box of ash offcuts from which the wood for this box came), and I’ll leave the blank about 1 in. longer than the final length. After I mortise out the inside, I’ll cut the box to length. This should prevent the chisel from crushing the end grain. I hope.
  2. I made this box very quickly. Not counting the time spent waiting of the paint to dry, I probably have less than 1 hour invested in it.
  3. I really like the proportions of this box, and I think I’ll make a version of it using traditional techniques. It should look very good. However, the top will have to be made differently. Perhaps just a solid piece of wood that sits in a rabbet.
52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
52 Boxes in 52 Weeks

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