Box 9 – 52 Boxes in 52 Week

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This box might look like others that I have made (walnut and marigold yellow together), but there is a huge difference between it and everything else I’ve made. This is my first bandsawn box. In the past, I’ve made it clear that I really do not like them (listen to our discussion with David Picciuto, the Drunken Woodworker). Here’s why. The vast majority of the bandsawn boxes that I’ve seen are ugly. Very ugly. The reason why they are ugly is simple. The folks who make them focus on the fact that they’re making a box with a bandsaw, so they throw in all kinds of wacky curves, goofy shapes, and drawers within drawers. The box is meant to display the fact that it was made with a bandsaw. Who cares how something was made other than the person who made it? (I know other woodworkers do. We care too much about that sometimes.) Personally, I want the people who see my boxes not to even think about how I made it. I want them to say, “That’s beautiful.” So, I tried to make a beautiful bandsawn box. Perhaps I succeeded. Perhaps I didn’t. I’ll definitely try again.

OK, I’m getting off the soapbox before I go too far. I made this box while at Peters Valley School of Craft teaching a woodworking course. (By the way, Peters Valley is a wonderful place to take a class.) I actually made two of this box. The first one was sold in the weekly auction held to benefit the school. The only difference between that box (right) and this one is that I painted the ends of the lid, too. I like both of the boxes, but I think the original (no paint on lid) is a bit more elegant. However, I do like that the lid on this version overhangs the box body more. I intentionally made the lid on the first one smaller, but the overhang got so small that it no longer looks intentional. Design should always be intentional—and look that way.

This box was a good learning experience. I’ve definitely thought of ways to improve the craftsmanship on my next bandsawn boxes. One of the things I figured out after making the first version of the box, but before starting the second one, is that you get tighter glue lines if you do not sand the bandsawn surfaces after cutting them. Look at the picture below that shows the inside of the box. Those are machine marks left by the bandsaw. That could be a very cool surface texture on the inside. The next time I make a bandsawn box, I’ll work on controlling the appearance of the machine marks. For example, for a fairly nuanced surface, I could use a variable pitch blade, like the 3-4 variable TPI resaw blades on the market. These blades are also very thin, and that would help with the glueline.

There’s not much else to say, but if you have questions, please ask. I’ll answer as best I can. Now for some random thoughts.

  1. To create a shadow line around the bottom, I routed a very small (1/16 in. by 1/16 in.) rabbet around the perimeter. This is a small box (it’s made from a piece of 8/4 air-dried walnut turned on edge), so that was an exciting process. Smart setup of the router table made it safe, but it was still exhilarating.
  2. I used blue painters tape to mask off the sides. This made crisp lines at the corner possible, but it also meant that the paint built up a small lip at the corners. I sanded those away with some 320-grit sandpaper before I shellacked the walnut.
  3. The lid’s overhang is a natural consequence of the bandsawing process. The lid was cut from the body before the sides were cut free. Cutting the sides free removed material, making the box body narrowing than the lid. This is cool, I think. I exploited the technique for the purpose of design. (It was unexpected, but as soon as I recognized what had happened, I knew how I could use it.)
  4. I’m still a bit skeptical of bandsawn boxes. I think it’s possible to make gorgeous boxes using the technique. Just look at what Michael Cullen has done (the black box at the top of this page is a bandsawn box, I believe. And he has an article coming out in FWW that shows more beautiful bandsawn boxes). So, perhaps I’ll come around. It’s fast, that’s for sure. I cut out and glued together these boxes in about 15 minutes. Perhaps after I’ve refined my approach to them I’ll embrace the technique more heartily.

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