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Thread: Poplar File Box

  1. #1
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    Poplar File Box

    Making boxes is a fundamental part of woodworking. Whether one is making a bookcase, drawers or a container for keepsakes it often is made in the form of a box.

    It was my good fortune to purchase a bunch of files in a hardware store clean out sale a little over a year ago. One of my friends is like me a tinkerer. He is more likely to work with metal whereas mine is more likely to be done with wood. My thought was to take some of the duplicate files along on a visit to his new home near Nevada City, CA. Unfortunately a pandemic and a forest fire in his area has put that on hold for a while.

    Since his birthday is in the near future it occurred shipping them to him might be best. Then it seemed making a box to hold them would be a good idea.

    First the length of the longest files were determined followed by figuring out how wide and tall the box would need to be. My usual design is to make a note of the inside dimensions. A hunt around the shop of all the scraps to see what was available turned up a piece of poplar big enough to do the job. The piece was re-sawn on the bandsaw to the desired thickness before planing.

    This was convenient since it is easier to get all the plowed slots holding the bottoms to meet if they are done on a single piece instead of a lot of small pieces:

    #1 Grooving the Stock.jpg

    It was a bit of a hunt to find longer rods to fit on my #50. Turns out my #46 rods fit well. That is why it is on the bench. The rods on various Stanley combination planes are somewhat standard but the fence mounting holes and rods do vary slightly.

    The plan was to make the box with two chambers, thus the two slots.

    In another thread someone suggested this would be a great way to make two drawers.

    When making multiple square cuts it is easy to set up a miter box:

    a Does it Miter?.jpg

    When making a dovetailed box having the work square is imperative. The shooting board was set up at the other end of the bench:

    a Oh Shoot!.jpg

    Shooting the stock on a dovetailed box is helpful. Starting with pieces matched for length and truly square helps to keep the finished box square:

    a The Size of Things.jpg

    Some of my time in the shop before this was spent in determining the layout for the dovetails and cutting practice dovetails. My attempt at making a story stick for the layout didn’t work as well as hoped. This led me to a different approach. The tail board was lain out starting from the center as this is how the center slot was positioned about a quarter inch above center.

    a1 Tails of Layout.jpg

    From this the position of the tail from the slot was marked. It was duplicated for the other slot. Then the position of the tail below the slot was set. This was duplicated at the top of the box. The spaces created between the top and bottom tail edges was then divided. At the division point a divider was set to a little more than half the width of a 1/4” chisel. This was used to mark the space between two tails on the top and two on the bottom.

    The pieces were gang cut. After using a fret saw to cut out the waste the idea came to me to flip the pieces end for end and mark the tails from the first ones cut:

    a2 Marking the Other End.jpg

    For cutting tails first a knife line is often used. For me a pencil line also works well.

    For clearing the waste enhancing the gauged base line is helpful:

    a3 Enhancing Gauge Marks.jpg

    This is only done where waste is to be removed. Another aid is to chamfer the waste if the fret saw line is above the base line:

    a4 Chamfering the Waste.jpg

    It seems to be easier to set the paring chisel on to a chamfer then a flat edge.

    Eight images is the limit for a post.

    To be continued.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-17-2020 at 4:09 PM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  2. #2
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    Great stuff Jim. Looking forward to more.
    "The Danish government believes that if we train 5,000 designers, and produce
    one Hans Wegner, the money is very well spent." - Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen

  3. #3
    Hi Jim.
    Great post and tutorial! Almost like attending a class. Thank you.

    Could you talk more about camphering the waste? I understand it's easier to pare but how do you (eventually) get it square/flat? I've usually just chopped it square, but if you do that wrong you bruise the baseline. So I'm interested in your approach. Thank you!
    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Hi Jim.
    Great post and tutorial! Almost like attending a class. Thank you.

    Could you talk more about camphering the waste? I understand it's easier to pare but how do you (eventually) get it square/flat? I've usually just chopped it square, but if you do that wrong you bruise the baseline. So I'm interested in your approach. Thank you!
    Fred
    Hi Fred, As posted the gauge line is often cut deeper using a square and knife. Then the waste is chamfered using a skew chisel. Just start at the far end of the waste and carefully work back. Having the chamfer helps get the majority of the waste cut without pressing against the base line. For the last few paring cuts the chisel can be at an angle to avoid the gauge line and do a light undercut in the middle of the surface.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  5. #5
    Thanks Jim!
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  6. #6
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    Good project Jim....Well done.
    Jerry

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    Thanks Jim!
    You are welcome Fred.

    Quote Originally Posted by glenn bradley View Post
    Great stuff Jim. Looking forward to more.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Olexa View Post
    Good project Jim....Well done.
    Glenn, Jerry, Thanks for the kind words.

    When laying out dovetails my chisel sizes are always taken into consideration. The spacing between pins or tails is always set a little bigger than the chisels to be used.

    For clean paring the chisels needs to be sharp. My paring chisels are beveled at 15-20. A piece of wood is under the tail board and it is held by a pair of clamps. This not only protects the bench it supports the wood to help prevent blowing out the other side. The chamfering on both sides also helps:

    b Paring the Waste.jpg

    Making thin cuts will also help to prevent unwanted deformation of the wood. Once the baseline is cleared the tails are checked for square:

    b1 Checking For Square.jpg

    This little square has really helped to improve my dovetails. If the face of a tail is found out of square it is marked on the high side. A slightly out of square face will get a light single line at the edge. A bit more out of square will get a heavier line or two lines and so on. The out of square faces are then pared to square. At this point the tails are checked to make sure the corners at the base are all clear of any debris.

    There are many different ways to line up the tail board to mark the pin board. Using a straight piece of wood clamped at the base line works well for me:

    b1 Pin Marking Set Up.jpg

    The image shows the side to be registered to the pin board. The piece of wood on the other side is to protect the tail board from clamp prints. It is set 1/16” or more away from the base line. Marking the pin board from the tail board like this can eliminate having to set the tail board on something while marking the pins.

    There are also many techniques to enhance or make the marks clear. Some like a red pencil. Others use blue tape. Whatever one is comfortable using is likely fine if it produces the desired result. For the pin board my preference is a knife line. My biggest problem used to be taking a slice off of the tail when not being careful. Holding the knife at a lower angle has helped to avoid that. When the pin board is marked it helps me to make the lines deeper:

    b2 Making Marks Standout.jpg

    Sometimes it helps to use a sharp pencil to darken the line. For dark woods a white pencil or chalk can help. This also makes drawing the vertical lines easier:

    b3 Face Marks.jpg

    The poplar was a cooperative wood in this venture. The sawing and cleaning the pins wasn’t photographed. The pin faces were checked for vertical square and adjusted as needed. Tight spots were corrected with 13 & 15 grain rasps. After this a dry fit was accomplished:

    Proud Pins & Tails Dry Fit.jpg

    Most of the time my dovetails are marked to have proud pins & tails. The plowed slots are a little unsightly. An easy way to make them less noticeable is to add some plugs to the end.

    A piece of scrap was rabbeted to the size of the slot. A gauge with a knife grind to the pin was then set a little proud of the slots depth:

    b3 Setting Gauge for Plugs.jpg

    The image shows the pin in this gauge is sharpened more like a knife blade than a pin. The gauge was then used to slice an edge off of the rabbeted piece:

    b3 Slicing Off the Plug Stock.jpg

    The slicing took multiple passes from both sides until the piece came off.

    This brings us to the eight image limit.

    To be continued.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-18-2020 at 3:02 AM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #8
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    When the box was dry assembled the end of the long side’s slots were marked from the depth of the short side’s slots. This was used to mark cuts for the individual plugs:

    c Plug Cutting.jpg

    The plugs are cut and then set in place ready for gluing. A plug can be seen at each end of the slot near the saw. The plugs were moved outward a bit at glue up as a little insurance for the fit of the bottom panels

    Clamping is easy:

    c Plugs Glued & Clamped.jpg

    Binder clips can be useful in the shop for many things. They are used to hang kitchen knives in the shop whenever their wooden handles need a coat of tung oil.

    The depth of the plug stock was cut proud of the slot depth. Trimming this was fast work. Use a wide chisel and hold it flat on the surface of the pin board.

    c1 Plug Trimming.jpg

    Having not yet made up my mind as to leaving the pins proud or to cut them flush, the plugs were trimmed flush to the ends of the pins. It was very quick. It also makes the ends of the slotted pins look a lot better:

    c2 Pin End View Plugs Pared.jpg

    This image also shows a photographic trick that works with many automatic cameras. The blurry piece of wood falling from between my fingers was being held flush with the pins to help the camera’s automatic focus have a large enough area on which to focus. It was dropped just as the shutter release was fully depressed.

    The bottom panel was made from another piece of scrap long enough to make both panels. The sides were rabbeted with a Record #778. The ends were done with the same plane with the nicker lowered:

    #778 on Poplar.jpg

    This was a bit rough on the cross grain so it was followed with a shoulder plane:

    #93 on Poplar.jpg

    The thickness was checked regularly with a piece of scrap from the side stock:

    c3 Rabbet Gauge.jpg

    This should slide over the full length of the rabbet. This can be a helpful gauge on any project with grooves and panels.

    The shoulder of the rabbet was given a few passes from a small hollow plane. Passes were taken from both ends toward the center.

    #2 Round on Poplar.jpg

    This gets us to the eight image limit.

    Still to come is the trickiness of gluing this up and a design change due to brain farting the size needed.

    To be continued.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  9. #9
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    The glue up for this seemed as if it was going to be an ordeal. Then it dawned on me to dry assemble one side of the box while holding it in the vise to glue up the other side. Then it could be flipped over and held in the vise to take apart the dry assembled side for gluing:

    d Applying Glue to Pins.jpg

    This worked well. Notice the piece of cardboard under the vise chop extenders:

    d Fini Glue.jpg

    This was left overnight for the glue to set. The pins & tails weren’t proud enough to have a dramatic effect so my decision was to make the dovetails flush:

    d Paring Proud from Pins.jpg

    This chisel is great for paring. It is a Union Hardware 1-1/2” socket chisel. It slices right through the poplar leaving a decent surface:

    d1 Finished Corner.jpg

    The band saw was checked for the blade being square vertically before this cut:

    d1 The Bandsaw Cheat.jpg

    A push stick is being used here to hold the piece against the fence and another push stick was picked up to finish the cut before my hand was anywhere near the blade.

    Then my smallest bench plane was used to remove the saw marks:

    d2 Planing the Saw Marks.jpg

    A #3 or #4 could have also handled this. A small bench plane or a block plane could also have done the job. A smaller plane seems easier for me.

    My plan was to make dividers the full length of the box with pieces at the ends using dados to hold the dividers. Somehow my original calculations for this came out wrong. A different way to make the dividers was needed. This will be the subject of the next post.

    To be continued,

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  10. #10
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    Nice work, Jim, thanks for the pics and step-by-step. Do you turn your own chisel handles and if so, which lathe do you use?

    Thanks again.
    Kevin

  11. #11
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    Nice work...but...somehow looks very firmilar ....
    Chisel box, check for lid's fit.JPG
    Except I used a handsaw to remove the lid part...
    Chisel box, Bishop saw.JPG
    Chisel box stained, inside done.JPG
    "The Old Chisel's Home"

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Adams View Post
    Nice work, Jim, thanks for the pics and step-by-step. Do you turn your own chisel handles and if so, which lathe do you use?

    Thanks again.
    Kevin
    Thanks for the kind words Kevin.

    My main reason for choosing to use socket chisels many years ago was for the ease of making new handles. My lathe is a Craftsman lathe, made by King Seely, most likely from the 1950s or so.

    Here is an image of my grandson from about six years ago starting to turn a beadle for my froe:

    Mike on Lathe.jpg

    It has also made a lot of handles for files along with many other items.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  13. #13
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    Nice work...but...somehow looks very firmilar ....
    Boxes do tend to have similar yet traditional qualities and appearances. Though my lid will be a solid piece. My scrap for the panels wasn't large enough to make bottoms for the two tills and a top.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  14. #14
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    Nicely done Jim. Will last a lifetime.

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    Due to my error in measuring for the inside dimension of this, my original intent of having full length separators between the files wan’t possible. Plan B was to have short dividers in the center of the box. There are a few ways this could be done.

    One thought was to do it in the same way the divider was done in my file drawer:

    e A Dry Fit of Divider Rack.jpg

    The fitting of this was a bit time consuming. It seemed it might be faster to cut slots in a base for holding the dividers.

    A Stanley #45 was set up for cutting stopped slots:

    e Auxiliary Sole Detail.jpg

    A slitter stop and an auxiliary stop were attached to a piece of squared stock to use as an outboard sole. This was set even to the bottom of the skates. The blade holding bolt was set so the blade could still be adjusted. The first cut was set very light to help locate the location of the stop cut made with a chisel. After the first cut is taken a chisel is set across the end of the shaving and given a tap.

    e Defining The Stop.jpg

    This is a second chisel cut done after a few shavings remained attached below the first stop cut. This is a mortise chisel since my slots were 5/16” my only 5/16” chisel is a mortise chisel. What the heck, a slot is just a long mortise, right?

    e Groove Stopped Cut.jpg

    This went rather quick. On each stroke the depth adjuster was given about a quarter turn to advance the blade. The blade can move a bit laterally due to the planing forces. It should be checked often and pushed back into place as needed. With the holding bolt tight, it didn’t move much. It occurred to me a cam stop might be helpful for one with a less steady hand. Maybe next time it will be given a try.

    Because of the blade bedding angle the start end of a stopped slot will develop a ramp during cutting.

    e Removing Start End Ramp.jpg

    This can easily be removed with careful chisel work.

    The slots are ready to be fitted with their dividers:

    e1 Finished Grooves.jpg

    Since Candy wanted to use the camera there aren’t any images of cutting some scrap ash and planing it to size to fit the slots. Just the finished piece:

    e2 Finished Dividers.jpg

    With the dividers removable the box can be repurposed if my friend so chooses.

    All that is left is to mount hinges and latches. My plan so far is to leave the wood unfinished, maybe a coat or two of wax. The weather has been too cold to do any finishing in the shop. The cold weather is why the dividers are on the dining room table for gluing.

    To be continued,

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 10-25-2020 at 3:27 AM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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