Boxes 13, 14, and 15
I'm not sure where to start with these boxes. I could talk about the design, and I certainly will. However, in making these boxes I employed a technique that is pretty freaking brilliant (I developed it with significant help from Mike Pekovich). I guess I'll start with the design, as that will naturally lead to the technique. There is quite a bit going on with these little boxes (they're only 6 in. long), but it all started with a desire to make a box with sides that slope gently inward. I don't know the angle of the slope. I sketched it out on graph paper, and went from there. But it is very slight. Because the sides slope inward, the miters at the corner are compound, and that's where the technique comes into play. I'll get to that soon.
I believe that a box needs to be lifted off the surface in some way. The way I normally do this is to have a bottom that is slightly proud (1/16 or 1/8 in. depending on the size of the box) of the bottom edges of the sides. This lift creates a nice shadow line and gives the box a sense of lightness. With these boxes, I decided to try something different. I cut a gentle curve into the bottom edge of the sides, create "feet" at the corners. The arc suggests that the box lifted up off the surface. All of the arcs are 1/8 in. tall at their apex, but the ones on the ends look taller, because the radius of the arc is smaller than the radius of the arc on the front and back. I really like this technique for creating lift and I'm sure that I'll return to it.
When I first sketched this box, the lid sat directly on top of the sides. It struck me as odd, as if the lid was a heavy slab holding down the box. I though some lift would be nice, so I rabbeted the outside edge of the sides. The rabbet gives the tops a bit of float, and I really like the shadow line it creates. The tops have a shallow rabbet on their bottoms, which creates a raised field in the middle of the lid. This field fits into the box and that's how the lid stays in place. Because the box is rectangular, the sides of the field need to be straight. So, before I rounded the ends of the lid, I cut the rabbets on the bottom. I then formed the round ends with a template and router bit. After the ends were arced, I routed the rabbets on the top of the lid so that the field would be arced on the ends like the lid.
I decided to make the box in three different woods (and I actually made two in each species, for a total of six) for several reasons, some having to do with experimenting with a new technique, but the primary reason was so that I could try out different ways of using milk paint on the box. The walnut box has paint just around the edges of the lid. The cherry box has it only on the top field of the lid. (I like the Lexington green with cherry.) I used marigold yellow on the white oak box, too, but where isn't immediately obvious. I painted the rabbet on the top edge of the sides. You can see it when you open the box, of if you get down low and view it from straight on. This box got the best reaction around the office at Fine Woodworking.
OK, enough about design. On to the technique. I'll explain it as best I can, but I'm sure that I won't explain as well as should be. (I see an article in my future.) Compound miters are a pain to cut. Normally, you angle a miter gauge and then tilt the tablesaw blade to some angle other than 45 degrees. Because I worked on an article with Chris Gochnour, I know a technique for doing this that doesn't involve any math. It's a technique that Steve Brown from North Bennett Street School wrote about about 10 years before. It works, and I've used it, but I thought there might be a better way. So I went to Mike one day and threw some ideas at him. He came back with the wedge. He said that I should cut a wedge to match the slope of the sides, put it on a crosscut sled, and then tilt the blade to 45 degrees. The wedge would hold the sides at the correct angle to cut the compound miter. I immediately saw that it would work, and it did. The miters were absolutely perfect. And it was so easy. By the way, the wedge I made was actually longer than the front and back, so that it supported the full length of the sides.
But I took the wedge even further. I realized that I could put the wedge in the routing templates for the arcs and that when I routed the sides, the bottoms would automatically be cut with the correct bevel on them. I also used the wedge when I ripped the sides to width, and that cut the top edge at the correct bevel. I even used the wedge to cut a groove for the bottom, and the rabbet not the top edge. Without the wedge, all of this would have been difficult. With the wedge is was dead simple. There was no fussing with the blade angle. For the miters it was at 45 degrees. For all of the other cuts, it was square to the table. There was no hokey pokey with miter gauge fences. I used my everyday box sled for all of the cuts. The routing templates were made as normal and then a bit of wedge of put on them. Freaking awesome.
7/10/2015 02:47:32 am
I've been following you through this journey and have been motivated to build some boxes using different woods and the milk paint. This design speaks to me, I like the asian influence. I'll have to modify the technique do to shop limits, no table saw. I'll cut the wedge on a bandsaw, true it up with hand planes then use it on a chop saw to cut the sides. Should be interesting.
Interesting design. Love the wedge technique. Peeked my interest. Love the small details. The rabbit on the top of the box, the curved bottom, the rabbit on the top of the lid,the slightly sloped sides, the rounded ends on the lids. The green painted top section, do tell, was it separate and glued on or painted in place? If painted in place, coloring outside the lines was potentially a disaster.
7/11/2015 01:22:37 am
For the cherry box with the green paint, I painted "in place" after taping off the area around it. On these boxes I used shellac and then wax over the milk paint.
7/21/2015 02:13:13 am
Every detail is spot on.Beautiful boxes.
3/19/2016 03:52:26 pm
Having brain farts trying to visualize making the wedge. You set the table saw blade or the miter fence to the angle?
3/22/2016 02:49:28 pm
The blade is angled. No miter gauge is involved when I make the wedge. The wedge is long and tapered across its width. Hope this helps.
11/23/2016 04:24:59 pm
Thanks - this is a really great approach. After driving myself nuts remembering how to position the work-piece and the wedge for each router pass and cut I realized that I could avoid hard thinking and errors by securing the wedge to the "inside" face of the work-pieces. I used double sided tape, but I imagine hot glue would work as well. I positioned the thin edge of the wedge 1/2 in from the "top" of the work-piece. Found that I could make the wedge fairly thick (3/16 on the thin side) and it worked for both routing and using the mitre sled with the blade at 45 degrees.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
I love furniture design, and smart techniques. This blog is about both.