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1839 School Boxes V1.5

author-gravatar Clock_Man Dec 08, 2017

I built one of these earlier this year during the Popular Woodworking sponsored contest, but felt like I could do much better with a little more patience and zen. I also have an increasing list of needed Christmas presents so I thought it would be a good time to see how I could do with a few refinements.

Every project starts somewhere. I was working out of Home Depot pine boards for this and had to get creative to find clear sections. I wasn't as worried for the sides, so I was able to get two mostly clear boards. In hindsight I wish I has made the extra fuss to get clear for these as well. 

The major part of this box is the dovetailed carcase. I used 14 degree tails on my first go around, but this time I have a 1:8 marker from LV so I decided to use that instead. I used the divider method to space the dovetails that is popularized by Megan Fitzpatrick in recent years in Popular Woodworking. (Not saying she came up with it, but I read her article about it)

I made sure to sharpen my chisels beforehand so I would avoid crushing the grain on the cleanup. I found that as long as I keep a heavy scribe line it's easy to keep the chisel where it should be. I'll go into my clearing method more below.

I managed to knock one of the sides off the bench when moving some tools, so you can see a dent in the first tail. Luckily this came off later when smoothing the tails to the case.

Another step I made differently this time was using Chris Schwarz's rabbet for the tails. I used my flat ground tablesaw blade to make a rabbet on the back of the tails. This way I could firmly seat the pin board in place and make sure it was lined up with the tail board. 

I must say it worked far better than I had initially expected. I had no problems with the boards sliding on each other as I normally do, and matching the baseline from the tails to the pin was so easy I couldn't believe it.

I also opted to use the blue tape method for marking the pins on the sides after the tails were cut. The slight extra effort here is well worth it. I had no trouble looking for scribe lines when sawing down the walls of the pins.

The first go around I used only a chisel to remove waste from the pin and tail boards. This time I managed to pick up a fret saw and used that to saw out 95% of the waste and get the last 5% with a chisel. I much prefer this method since I don't have to chop so much. The sawing takes a few minutes for everything and I'm much more comfortable keeping it above the scribe line after doing the box.

I wanted to give the joint a quick look at fit before I did cleanup. My first box had some very very tight pins which caused me grief when trying to seat the joints. This time looks a lot better.

I only had two spots where I had to make some adjustments. Not bad.

I couldn't seat the joint entirely by hand, but this was good enough for pine. The softness of the wood works in your favor as you can easily overcome a slightly oversized pin with grain compression.

For the glue up, I did a partial assembly to make glue application easy. By putting each joint partially together I could still apply glue to all the necessary surfaces without having to worry about assembling the piece with glue running everywhere.

Old brown glue is the only way to go. I can't say enough of how great liquid hide glue is to use. Just....go buy some ok?

Glue up was a breeze. Only thing that would have made it better would be a shop that isn't 55 degrees.

For version 3 I will definitely make some cauls to glue up the carcase. Just some thick boards with spots relieved so they don't interfere with the pins seating fully into the tail boards.

Looks pretty good! 

I ran into some difficulty because I left the pins so long. The end grain of the pine would just crumble when I was planing it down.

It wasn't so much an issue on the tails because they weren't so pronounced like the pins.

The only way I found to stop the fibers from tearing out when cleaning up the pins was to scribe them even with the case so when they broke from the plane, they wouldn't tear into the carcase of the box.

Here are the 4 corners after planing the pins and tails flush. This one has a few hairline gaps on the tails, and I also overshot the baseline when sawing the pins on two cuts.

You can see on the middle pin here how the grain tore out when planing. I also didn't have the right saw angle when sawing that middle pin as well.

This corner is just like the first, a few overshot baselines and gaps on the pins and tails.

I can't seem to catch a break on the baselines here. I do know that the remnants of the knot in the middle made sawing there bothersome. I'll blame my mistake on the knot wood.

All in all, much better than my first. My first box was so tight that I ended up crushing a few of the tail corners trying to get the joint to close.

Here I laying out the shiplap pattern for the bottom. I just used a cutting gauge to find the middle and picked an arbitrary length for the rabbet.

The itty bitty LN block plane was great to establish the chamfers on the shiplap.

I could have used anything to space the shiplap, but I was cautious and used nickels since I don't know if I'm going to see shrinkage or expansion on these when the box goes to its new home.

This was the perfect time to give my Miller Falls No. 2 a spin. Since I was using cut nails I had to pre drill to properly drive them into the case to hold on the shiplap. I had this drill restored and fitted with a new cocobolo handle and knob. Such a joy to use.

Shiplap secured to the case with cut nails and a hit of hide glue.

Here you see the base secured to the body, slightly oversized. Off camera I cleaned it up to be flush with the body.

I couldn't find enough clear stock to make the top out of a solid panel, so I had to glue up several clear sections.

Testing the fit of the moldings. I really need a shooting board to get these finessed better, but I'm well enough off with my miter gauge for now.

Tight fit.

The cold of the garage was cooling my hide glue faster than I wanted, so I didn't have as much time as I expected. This was quite hurried.

Yeah, I hate moldings.

I test fit the lid after driving in the cut nails to hold the moldings on. Version one only had glue and the long to end grain joint came loose just as I expected it would.

I used the hinges themselves to scribe in the mortise profile.

I wasn't too concerned cutting these in, but I still used a chisel instead of taking a shortcut with a trim router that I've seen done elsewhere.

They seem to have gone in well. Just a little resistance in the hinge itself.

I don't know if I'd use these hinges again, they claimed to be 90 degree stop hinges, but they'd only open to 85. The only reason they stay open is the friction in the hinge itself.

And done! I applied 3-4 coats of blonde shellac I made up from the flakes. Much better than the store bought shellac I'm used to. It was much nicer being able to know what kind of cut I was making up.

1 comment

Great looking box, Scott! I love the figure on the front panel. Dovetails look good, too. 

Thanks for sharing

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