Preparing the stock and cutting some grooves.

author-gravatar Timmy2Hands Jun 16, 2016

Sean has done a great job in his first video in this series describing the size, shape, and design of this box. So I’ll skip right to the materials I’ve chosen to use and a couple of size changes that I will incorporate in my build.

More on that as we go.

I’ve got some ¾” Hard Maple and Walnut boards that have been in my shop for about a year now. They are both about 7” wide and are both more than 36” long. I think I’ll use the Maple for the body of box and the Walnut for the lid panel and bottom panel.

I found a grain feature on this Maple board that I would like to keep on the front panel of the box and so instead of trimming this piece down to 2 ¾” as it is in the plan, I’m going to make this box a little taller at 4”.

I’m also not going bring the box sides down to ½” thick. I’ll keep them closer to ¾” and maybe ⅝” because, well, it’s Hard Maple and I don’t feel like thicknessing it down by hand.

Other than those two changes I’ll be keeping this project just as it was designed.

So the first thing I need to do is see if the edge is straight so that I can mark-out and rip cut this board down to 4” wide. I stand the board on edge and put my straight edge on it.

It does need some fine tuning.

The board goes into the vise and out comes the longest plane I have. This is a Stanley #7 jointer, but this operation can also be done with a jack plane as well, longer planes are better in this situation.

At this point I may also take the opportunity to remove a significant amount of material with the plane if I need to instead of making two rip cuts with a hand saw. It’s not necessary in this particular case, but it’s not unheard of to remove as much as ¼” to ½” of material like this instead of trying to make a very thin rip cut along the edge.

Now that the edge is relatively flat I can set my marking gauge to the 4” dimension that I need.

I mark a line all the the way around the board on all four sides. It’s hard to see in this picture, but it’s there.

Now it’s time to rip cut the board. If it were a longer piece I would lay it down on a saw bench to make this cut, but this one is short enough that I’ll use my face vise and cut it upright.

This will also give me an opportunity to use the new frame saw that I just finished building.

I first take a small panel saw to start the kerf for the larger frame saw, it’s just easier. I start the kerf about 1/8th to 1/16th away from the line and keep that distance throughout the cut.

Here I’ve switched to the frame saw. With 5 teeth per inch it really runs through this hard maple at a good pace. I’m very happy with this saw. It also takes less effort than a traditional hand saw.

You can find a link to how this saw was made here.

As I work my way down the board and get closer to the benchtop I’ll stop and raise the piece in the vise until I get about halfway through the cut.

At the halfway point I flip the board end for end and start a new kerf the same way I did before. Now I just need to get the two cuts to meet in the middle.

You can see here, I hope, in the top board that the cut is about ⅛” away from my line.

Now that it’s closer to the size I need I can put the frame saw away and get back to the hand planes.

I start back with the #7 jointer in the same way I did before and bring the freshly sawn edge down to within a 32nd of an inch to the line. At this point I move to a finely set smoothing plane. In this case a #4 ½.

The board is now exactly 4” wide and has two crisp clean edges that are 90 degrees to the face and parallel to each other. You can also see that the grain inclusion seems a bit lower than center here. The top ¾” of this board will become the lid of the box later in this process. These are things that you always need to be thinking about as you move through building your project.

Alright, Let’s get to cutting some grooves.

I don’t have a tail vise on this bench, but I find that a wonder pup from Veritas and some batons work really well as an alternative and get out of my way when they’re not needed.

A baton is simply a piece of wood clamped to the benchtop. I use thin strips of pine because it’s softer than the hardwoods I use and has less chance of damaging my work piece. I glue on pieces of sandpaper to the bottoms to give them more grip.

This board came rough sanded from the mill. At some point it needs to be smoothed, this can be done before or after cutting the grooves, and since my smoothing plane was already out, I decided to do it now. This will also help me gauge the depth of the groove more precisely.

I found early on in my hand tool work that a plow plane is one of those tools that is indispensable. This is a Record #050, it’s exactly like a Stanley #50 small plow plane. I found this one on eBay for around $100.00 delivered from the UK. This one is what they call a combination plane because it has beading cutters and tongue and groove cutters as well.

I’ve installed the ¼” cutter and then I lightly clamp the handle of the plane in the vise to give me better access to the bottom so I can set the fence and depth of cut more easily and accurately. We will be cutting a ¼” groove, ¼” deep, and ¼” away from the edge of the board.

I start near the end of the board taking longer and longer cuts moving back each time towards the other end until I’m taking full length cuts with each pass. When the plane gets down to the depth stop it will no longer cut and we’re done.

Here you can see that I needed an additional baton because the board kept moving away from the edge of the bench as I was cutting.

I’ve also moved my vise chop all the way open to get it out of the way as I finished each stroke of this cut.

This baton is actually just a paint stir stick. My Home Depot sells packs of ten of these for a dollar. They are nice and straight and flat, and at exactly ⅛” thick I find them very useful for all kinds of things in the shop. I pick up a pack every time I go to Home Depot. Also, squeeze clamps with reversible heads are great because I can remove the head, put the bar down the dog hole, and re-attach it underneath and then clamp directly to the benchtop.

After the first groove is cut I re-adjust the edge guide on the plow plane and cut the second groove in the same manner as the first.

I could have left the fence in place and flipped the board, but with Hard Maple I wanted to continue cutting with the grain to avoid tear-out.

I like to keep as organised as possible, so at the end of each major operation I put things back in their place and give the bench a nice brush-off.

I think this where Sean left off in his first video and so I will too.

In my next post we will start cutting things to size and cut some miters.

I’m going to go have a Bourbon.

Thanks for following along.


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This is an excellent start Tim. I really like that plow plane and plan on getting one soon. I also like the clamp through the dog hole. So clever!

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