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Thread: Pennsylvania Spice Box build

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Orange, CA
    Posts
    69

    Pennsylvania Spice Box build

    I will be building this spice box for a couple of dear friends. It will be a gift for their 20th anniversary in the middle of July, so that means I have a deadline. Actually, the deadline will probably be the latter half of June, as I intend to visit them and would like to present it to them then.

    case.jpg

    Iím very much looking forward to this project and the challenges I face. The most daunting tasks for me will be personalizing it with inlay lettering. The rest of the inlay work should not be too bad. Lots of it to do, so Iíll just go slow and steady. Another challenge may be the joinery on the door with the beveled interior edges that are mitered. I may deviate from the plan in this area. Even though I have only done a few large dovetails on my workbench, I donít anticipate the dovetails on this project to be an issue. Iíll be sure to practice before the real thing.

    At this time Iíve already cut the material for the sides and top and will begin the layout work for the many grooves, notches, rabbets and dovetails in the case as well as figuring out an order in which to do them. Speaking of dovetails, in particular the ones for the case top and bottom, not much of this work will be seen: The ones at the top will only be seen on the very top, the sides will be covered by crown molding and the bottom ones, other than an eighth of an inch will also be covered by some molding. Are dovetails worth the effort or should I just use a lapped joint? I think with a lapped joint the top will look cleaner, being a solid piece from side to side. The possible reason against a lapped joint would be the fact that the back is not fixed to give it the strength to stay square. In fact the back is removable to reveal some hidden compartments. Here's a better look at the case:

    case assembly.jpg

    You should be able to see how little of the dovetails on the case will show. Dovetails or lapped joint for the case?

    Updates and photos coming as I progress.

    Dennis

  2. #2
    If you're worried about how your dovetails will come out, remember that most of them won't show. I'd definitely go with the dovetails for strength.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Clarks Summit PA
    Posts
    489
    I agree with Mike. As you said, practicing dovetails is a good idea. And hopefully they will be spot on right off the saw - but if they are not do not fret, all of us have inadvertently cut poor dovetails and there are simple techniques to make them look perfect. If you are not satisfied with them let the forum members know & we will help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    So Cal
    Posts
    2,330
    Find some spectacular wood for the drawer fronts any small gaps on the dts will be unnoticed. Looks like a challenging piece.
    Good Luck
    Aj

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    1,984
    Cool project. I suppose you could reverse the joinery and make the sides the tails and top/bottom the pins and do half blind dovetails. The top/bottom would then be free of exposed joinery and the molding would cover the sides.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Orange, CA
    Posts
    69
    Half blind dovetails, the best of both worlds. The top would be like a drawer face, no visible joinery. Can I reverse the joint at the bottom so the side is like the drawer face with no joint visible? The base molding only covers the bottom 5/16" of the side piece. For assembly, the sides would have to go into the top, then the bottom would go up into the sides. Any issues doing it this way?

    Dennis

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    SE Michigan
    Posts
    1,984
    If you do half blind on the sides/bottom joint, only about 1/4” would need to be covered up (if I understand the design correctly). The other thought was the potential stress on the bottom piece. Looking at the design, the chest would likely be picked up by the upper molding or sides. If there is weight on the bottom, having the sides be the tails adds strength to the side/bottom joint.

  8. #8
    I just finished this project in November. It was a fun build, but it had it's challenges. For me, the lettering and door frame were where I had the most issues. This was the first frame and panel door I've done, so getting it to lay flat took a couple of attempts. Mitering the beaded corners wasn't all that hard with a simple angled jig. I think I ended up with one that needed a piece of veneer to "close" it up, but the rest turned out great. For the lettering, there are a couple of videos out there where Steve demonstrates how he did it freehand. The Woodwright's shop is probably the best. If, like me, you're not an accomplished carver, start practicing now. I spent a couple of weeks playing around with it, but could never get it consistently good enough that I was willing to try it on the real piece. I ended up punting and put second stringing design on the inside face. As for the dovetails, I'd say stick with through. Honestly, they're not that obvious on the finished piece and the extra strength is probably worth it. The final piece is HEAVY, surprisingly so.
    Dan

  9. #9
    One other thing to think about. If you like the ring pulls that Steve used, they are hard to find in the small size needed for these drawers. The only place I found the correct size was at Ball and Ball, and they are expensive when you need 13 of them.
    Dan

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Orange, CA
    Posts
    69
    Yes, I will need to practice the lettering. Thanks for the heads up on Ball and Ball, do you have a part number for the ones you used? What did you use for the rest of the hardware?

    Dennis

  11. #11
    The pulls were G22-157 (5/8", $23.69 ea. x 12) and G22-158 (1-1/8, $23.69 x 1). The hinges were from Brusso (CB-303). The lock was 2" standard cut cupboard lock from Lee Valley (P3021). An inch and a half lock would work, but I couldn't find one in stock last fall. I forget where I got the wire escutcheon, but you'll want one that is quite small. I found a small key tassel at JoAnn's.
    Dan

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Orange, CA
    Posts
    69
    Daniel,

    Thanks for the info. Looks like I'm in luck, the ring knobs are only $18.16 each! lol.

    Dennis

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Brewster, New York
    Posts
    147
    If you are worried about seeing the dovetails on the bottom case sides, you can do a rabbeted dovetail (I think that is the right term). You would cut the dovetails as usual on the bottom, then cut an 1/8" rabbit. On the case sides just lay them out from the bottom board. The molding will cover the exposed dovetails. I've done a few Spice Chests that way. For the hardware I've gotten small pulls from Londonderry Brasses. Horton Brasses bought them not to long ago so check out their website, or call them directly. They are a pleasure to deal with. You can get the hinges and a door lock( if you choose to do so) from them also. Their quality is top notch. I really want to try some stringing and inlay on my next Spice Chest. I just haven't worked up the nerve to try it yet. Good luck with the build.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    Orange, CA
    Posts
    69

    Pennsylvania Spice Box Build

    Finally getting something done after being sick the week after my initial post. I got the two sides and the top piece cut out of one wide walnut board I had. I also made the bottom piece from some walnut and poplar per the plans. I'm not sure it's worth the effort to join to boards to save a small amount of walnut. Here's the bottom piece with the tails cut, the 1/4" groove for the back panel done and the rabbet at the front for the door:

    IMG_1726_small.jpg

    BTW, I tried using my Knew Concepts coping saw to remove the waste between the tails but I had no luck in getting the blade to turn horizontal after sliding it down the saw kerf. I don't know if the kerf is just too narrow to allow the blade to turn just enough to bite in and start cutting? I used a LN dovetail saw. Without being able to remove the bulk of the waste I had to take the scenic route and enjoy the moment using a chisel!

    Next up was marking the pins on he sides. I recently finished the little table for my moxon vise and figured I could clamp down the tail piece to hold it in place so I could mark the pins. The only problem was the table and the piece I was using to mark with could move. I was thinking about finding a way to attach the table to the back of the vise, but decided on a t-track and clamps to hold the work in place:

    IMG_1729_small.jpg

    The first set of completed dovetails were just a touch loose, but respectable. I could tell because the the left side piece is cupped just a bit and the tails allow the front and back edge to pull away a small amount while the center is snug. This is an area where the moxon vise helps flatten the boards while you layout your second piece, in my case the tails. Without that board being flattened it would be pretty hard to layout the tails with any accuracy.

    The second set of dovetails went better and were very snug on the first fit. Actually too snug so I removed some from the tails and now have a very nice fit:

    IMG_1733_small.jpgIMG_1732_small.jpgIMG_1731_small.jpg

    The dark areas on the tails are pencil marks, not big gaps! The biggest offender can be seen in the middle picture and is on the baseline, but no worries because these won't be seen once the molding is in place. So I look at these as an opportunity to practice!

    Here are the sides and the bottom put together:

    IMG_1734_small.jpg

    And here it is with the false top in place:

    IMG_1736_small.jpg

    I've been busy with other aspects of the project, like the feet you can see in one of the photos, and getting stock planed the for dividers and drawer parts.

    More to come soon.

    Dennis

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    MT
    Posts
    267
    This looks like a fun and challenging project. Looking forward to more progress.
    Regards,

    Kris

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