Rethinking Steve's Advice: Cantilever Sewing Box

TimboTimbo Posts: 7
To celebrate my first year as a disabled woodworker, I thought it time to attempt a project that would push my abilities to their limits. Like many novice woodworkers I found myself lurking on TwitFace and TubeBook and of course gravitated towards WWMM. There were three reasons for this. Firstly the clear and concise instructions in Steve's content. Secondly the thought Steve puts into 'simple' methods of construction and machining and finally the fact that Steve includes his mistakes. Let's face it if Steve is happy to show his errors and how he corrects them then I'm happy to give the project a whirl. So why then, after all Steve's hard work, do I find myself deconstructing his methods to find an 'easier' method?

I will give you an example. The box joint. Steve demonstrated an easy method of making box joints using a simple jig. Living in the UK I don't have the luxury of a dado set for the table saw. So instead the router table is my best choice. You would think so. I mean its often quoted as being the safest and most effective tool for carrying out many operations. It might be if you have two working hands. One handed...I almost killed myself.

One of the most important lessons I've learned from Steve is to think a project through. Design, materials, construction methods and how to adapt all of them to accommodate my disability. I kid you not, I even have practise the movements my body is going to have to make to carry out any particular operation. I almost dance my way through a project before I pick up a tool. So bearing all this in mind I decided on a project which would be a gift for my harshest better half. I'd seen Steve's video on the knitting box, I knew I wanted to try box joints, I also wanted to really push myself so decided on making a cantilever sewing box.

I found a set of plans suitable for beginners for a folding sewing box on Instructables and set about customising them to my needs. I had some small pieces of 12mm thick oak and sapele left over from some of the work I was doing on my boat cockpit and decided to use these. I thought the contrast in timber would be distinctive when using box joints. So drawing up my plans using Sketchup it was now time to attempt my first box joint.

As mentioned above this was a disaster. I made a basic jig to use on the router table, but quickly found that the uneven pressure applied to the jig pushing one handed not only created sloppy joints but eventually the jig disintegrated, one section embedding in the wall of the shed inches from my face. So a rethink and I resorted to my trimmer router which I can operate one handed quite easily. I now had to part with some cash and bought the Trend CDJ300 Dovetail Jig and bought the 8mm box joint comb to go with it. Although clamping the workpieces was initially difficult, once I taped them together it worked like a charm!

So with my redesign of the instructables plans to take into account my paucity of materials and a working jig I cut my pieces to length and started constructing the five boxes.

On the original Instructables example there seemed to be some considerable gaps between each individual box. So after gluing up the individual boxes I set about trying to square them up as a whole. I found by far the easiest method of doing this was to sand each individual box using sandpaper glued to a large sheet of plywood and 'grinding' the sides of the box joints flush and then levelling the top and bottom of each box, measuring the boxes against each other so that they were the same height. I then stacked the boxes and taped the lot together using some painters tape and 'ground' each face of the box as a whole, retaping when I changed face aspect.

I then labelled each boxes position and routed out the rebate to accept the box bottom. These I made from some sections of black walnut I had loafing about.

I squared the corners with a corner chisel and then a bevel edged chisel before adding a dab of glue on the corners and sanding everything flush again.

It was now time to tackle the hinges making sure the whole stack of boxes was securely fastened together with tape. I measured half way down each box in the top two layers. I found the center of each box and marked it. Then measured in 15mm from each edge on the center line and marked these points too. I transferred the center measurement onto the bottom box measuring down from the top. I then divided the bottom box as though it were made of two of the top boxes and transcribed the marks from the boxes above onto the edges of the bottom box. Lost? too! It came out like this with the hinges also made from walnut.

I then repeated the operation on the other side of the box.

You will of course have noticed the gaps between the boxes were back. Admittedly not as wide as the images on the instructables plans, but they were still there. After much pratting about I decided that the gaps were very much the nature of the project, but how to disguise them? Round over the edges with the router...'extra fancy' eh Steve?

So finally I added two simple lids with butterfly hinges before dismantling the whole thing for final finishing. Two coats of Ozmo and then flocked the inside of the top four boxes and then reassembled the box. I was annoyed at first, then pleased, that I had some of the boxes in the wrong place yet they still fitted! So I dismantled the whole thing again and put it back together in the right order.

In the end I was really pleased at what I'd achieved, the better half was a bit shocked at how good my woodwork had become...she's now making lists of projects she 'thinks' need doing. Pity that boating season is almost upon us and I have a boat that needs finishing. Priorities!


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