Getting Carried Away

Have you ever started a project that should have taken you a mere couple of hours, and ended up turning into a multi week production? Yeah, me too. Case in point, my recent bout of “project creep”. Funny, I think I just heard another discussion about this same subject earlier this week.


This was just supposed to be a simple pine box. Nothing fancy, just white pine, through dovetailed corners, a few simple dividers and a top tray, with a simple pine board lid. Well, I stuck to the simple dividers and lift out tray anyway. The rest? Well, it’s a long story.

A few weeks ago I was going through the cupboard in my shop looking for some cut nails. As I rummaged through the ziplock bags and styrofoam egg carton housing my nails and screws, the frustration finally became too much. I had wanted to make a proper wooden nail and screw box for some time, and I decided to do it right now. Just a simple pine box. Nothing fancy, like I said.

So I needed some pine. No problem, head over to the cutoff bin and grab a few scraps. That’s when I looked on top of the cupboard and saw these.


If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile you might recognize these boards from this post from 2012.

They’ve been sitting atop my cupboard since then. As I took them down and looked them over, it occurred to me that they were the perfect size for box sides. But they were already veneered. So I had to change plans and join the corners with half blind dovetails rather than through dovetails. No biggie.

So after gluing the sides together and fitting a pine bottom with some cut nails, I proceeded to make the interior dividers. Piece of cake. Plane the boards, make a few saw cuts for some half laps and attach to the box with some CA glue and cut brads.


Then it was on to the lift out tray. No problem. Resaw and plane a pine 1 x 12 for the bottom. Then more planing and half laps for the sides, ends and dividers. Assemble with CA glue and cut brads and clean up with the plane. Cool.


You know, with the short ends veneered, the visible dovetails and nails on the long sides kind of look like crap. Maybe I should veneer those sides and cover them up. Sigh. Retrieve mahogany veneer from atop the cupboard. Damn, I’m out of hot hide glue. OK. Warm up liquid hide glue, add caul and lots of clamps. Hmmm. This liquid hide glue is 6 months past expiry. Oh well. Trim veneer and repeat on the other long side. Not bad.

Now what about that top? Where’s that piece of pine? Not wide enough. Hmmm. I could frame it. A mitered frame might look nice. But the box is veneered. Plain pine won’t look right. Back to the veneer pile for more mahogany. More liquid hide glue. Should I get a new bottle? Meh.

OK. Trim the veneer. Damn, should have flattened that pine board first. Oh well. Grab a mahogany off cut, plane to size, plow a groove, miter the corners, and more CA glue. Not too bad. Size the panel and plane the tongue on three sides. Cool.

Glue in the veneered panel. Damn, should have flattened that pine board first. Maybe if I just scrape the veneer down a tiny bit? That’s not bad. It’s almost flush. Maybe just one more pass with the scraper. Damn. Ah well, it’s just for nails and screws.


So how does it fit? Crap, still too narrow. Grab another stick of mahogany. Glue it to the back edge of the lid. Trim and plane to fit. Good. But I’m not crazy about seeing that mahogany end grain on the sides of the lid. Maybe I’ll add some banding around the edges, and maybe even some parquetry inside the lid? Derek’s looks nice. Nah. This madness has gone on long enough.



William & Mary Bible Box Completed

I finally finished my reproduction of the William & Mary bible box I have been working on. If you missed the previous posts about it, you can check them all out, including pictures of the original, here: William & Mary Bible Box Posts.

To give you the short version, this project was a group build with my woodworking club, the Central Jersey Woodworker’s Association. I co-mentored the build with our club president, and each group member built their own box. We met as a group four times, once a month from January through April, to discuss key steps in the build process. Then each member went back to their own shop to complete that phase of the build. For certain specialty tasks, like the veneering and turning, we did those at the mentor’s (Frank’s) shop so that everyone wouldn’t have to invest in specialty tools that they may not have. Overall it was a really fun project.

My biggest take-aways:

  • Veneer work is fun stuff! Everyone should try it.
  • Turning small items on the pole lathe is a bit of a challenge. One needs to be sure to leave an extra 4 to 6″ where the drive cord wraps around for turning small things like the feet for this box. For long items like Windsor chair legs, it’s not a big deal. You can just turn the leg end for end in the lathe and continue to go at it. For turning small stuff though, having extra length is the way to go. I didn’t have that here (the blanks were designed to fit Frank’s Jet lathe) and I struggled a bit with the turning (not just because of the short blanks, but that’s a post for another day).
  • The parting tool isn’t a lot of fun to use on a pole lathe. The skew works much better.
  • The tool rest on my lathe flexes too much. This was the first time I’ve done any serious turning for a piece of furniture on my lathe. Previously it had been only practice pieces and rough turned items for the shop, such as the handles for my tool chest. I hadn’t noticed the flex in the tool rest with those turnings, but it reared its ugly head while turning the feet for this box. So I’ll need to remake the tool rest before I do any more turning. If you make this lathe for yourself, do yourself a favor and use a stiff hardwood for the tool rest and not construction grade lumber. The hem/fir I used just flexes way too much to make a solid tool rest.

Tonight is our club’s annual member showcase meeting where the club members bring in projects to display and talk about. It will also be the unveiling of our group’s finished bible boxes. If you’re in the area, you should stop by. You can get the address from the club’s web site, linked above. There’s no cost for your first meeting, so you have nothing to lose. It’s sure to be a great meeting with lots of really great work on display.




William & Mary Bible Box, Building it Together

I’ve said it here before, but I think it bears repeating. One of the best ways to improve your woodworking is to get together with other woodworkers. While classes are probably the best way to do this, with local woodworking clubs coming in a very close second, even just going over to a fellow woodworker’s shop and farting around in the shop, trading ideas and methods can greatly accelerated one’s learning curve. You don’t need to have an organized local club to do this. Just find another woodworker who lives near you and get together with them. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in a short time, even from someone with completely different work habits and methods than you.


This weekend, our CJWA William & Mary bible box build group had our second meeting to continue working on our boxes. After the last meeting at my shop, the group all did a great job dovetailing their boxes together in preparation for this meeting. For our second gathering, we met at Frank’s shop and discussed different veneering methods, past and present, how hot hide glue works, and how to prepare commercial veneer. We then demonstrated how to prepare the glue and how to hammer veneer the burl to our box fronts. Before veneering our boxes, everyone took a turn hammer veneering a practice piece, even a nine year old (whom I might add was the most confident of the group and did an awesome job). Then we all finished up the day’s work by hammer veneering our boxes. I’m happy to say that everyone left for home with a perfectly veneered box front, ready for rabbets and banding.


So even if you don’t have an organized club that is close to you, don’t let that stop you from getting the benefits of learning from other woodworkers. Nothing beats first hand, in person experience. I’m sure everyone has at least one other woodworker who lives within a reasonable drive. If you do have a local organization you can get involved with, then don’t hesitate to do so. You are guaranteed to learn from the wide range of knowledge that the members of every organization have. Even if the other members don’t use the work methods that you do (I don’t know too many people who work like me), you will still learn and grow as a woodworker. Not to mention, you will make some great friends along the way!


Learning Something New

I’m going to be starting a new project with the Central Jersey Woodworker’s Association that will allow me to add yet another new skill to my arsenal. Our club has been running what we call group builds for the last year and a half or so, and they’ve been very popular with the membership. Essentially, a mentor leads a small group (first come first served by signup sheet) on a project and everyone builds their own version of the same piece. You might recall the joint stool build that we started earlier this year that I am also participating in. These projects are a fantastic way to learn new skills and a great excuse to get together with like minded friends with the same passion for cutting up large, fibrous plants.

This new piece that we will be working on is a reproduction of a box from the early 18th century. Some will call it a bible box, but it is doubtful that they were so called during the period. This one was made some time during the early 1700s in Pennsylvania and is distinctly of the William & Mary period style. It features walnut primary wood with a poplar bottom. The front also has a veneer banding around the perimeter and the center may also be veneered (it’s tough to tell from the pictures if the banding is inlaid into a rabbet in a solid walnut front or if there is a plain sawn walnut veneer on the front).

William & Mary Bible Box

William & Mary Bible Box Open

This will be a fun project because I will be co-mentoring the build of this box with our club president, who happens to be an extremely talented period furniture maker who focuses primarily on the Federal period. Having built quite a selection of Federal pieces, he has plenty of experience with using veneer and different veneering techniques. So I get to learn something new that I’ve wanted to try for some time now. In fact, I keep telling Frank that if he keeps showing me all of his Federal work, he’s eventually going to convince me to build a Federal piece, even though Federal is not really my style. Thankfully for me, William & Mary is my style, and they used quite a bit of veneer during that period too, so I get to learn a new skill and build a piece from one of my favorite periods in furniture history. Cool!

But first, before I can learn to veneer, I needed to build another new project. The veneer hammer is made from cherry with a mystery wood dowel for the handle, a walnut wedge, and a folded brass face (I knew that old folded saw back that I screwed up would come in handy for something). It was a fun little project that I built in a couple of hours last night. Tonight I prepared a few veneers that I can practice with. The poplar veneer is about 1/8″ thick. That’s a bit thicker than what was commonly used. The walnut veneer is 3/32″ thick. This is closer to the veneer thickness that was common during the period. Both of these veneers were sawn with my large Roubo frame saw and planed down to final thickness. I have one pine substrate board prepared. I might prepare one or two more for some additional practice before we veneer the real thing. We’re going to be using a burl veneer, which is much more fragile than plain sawn, but also much more beautiful. Can’t wait to get started!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Veneer Hammer