A Box Full of Love – Part 1

After a weekend of planning my box I was jumping out of my skin with excitement to learn the process and start building it.

IMG_9632I picked out a straight piece of 1×12 ponderosa pine board. We ran it through one of Duncan’s planers. The planer was a neat looking portable one; I had never seen one like it. Duncan explained to me that usually in order to get a board flat, straight, and square you would need to run it through a jointer first which would completely flatten one side, then you would run it through a planer to make the other side flat and parallel to it. But because my board was wider than the jointer we skipped that step and went straight to the planer.

Once we had a smooth straight surface, Duncan ran one of the edges over the jointer to make that edge perfectly flat and squared to the planed sides. Then he used his table saw to cut the opposite edge off leaving a perfectly straight and squared board.  I asked him why he used the table saw instead of the jointer for the last edge. He said that the jointer would make that edge straight and flat but not necessarily parallel to the other edge.

IMG_9633I took that board and measured out my sides trying to work around as many knots as possible. Knots are harder to plane and can degrade the integrity of a structure. They also don’t always look good. Then I cut the pieces to size and made sure the two long sides and the two short sides matched up perfectly. One of my long sides was off a little and I had to recut just a sliver off. After that they were all good.

Then Duncan sets up a nifty router jig. He put all the cut boards together with a scrap piece on either side and clamped them together. Before clamping them, he made sure they were all square. This took several tries; he would square them but by the time they were all clamped they would be a little off and he would have to take the clamps off and start again. He was so patient and didn’t seem to mind how many times it took. It was more important to get it right than be fast. This quality of calm patience is who he is through and through.IMG_9635

Finally he got it all clamped and square. He turned on the router and proceeded to make the box joints. After doing a few he handed it to me telling me to hold it tight but gently and push it firmly downward and while moving it slowly forward. I did just that. It was fun! After I finished that side it was time to square and clamp the other end. The process went just as it had the first time around.

When it was all done, Duncan’s shop and I were completely covered in dust. I brushed myself off and got the shop vac.

Now it was time to get the hand plane ready, the blade needed to be sharpened again but this time instead of sharpening it evenly all the way across I needed to make it into a crescent shape. This takes the corners off the blade so they don’t dig into the wood.

Duncan showed me how it’s done then handed it over to me to finish. You sharpen it normally twenty to thirty times then you rock it to one side, keeping the bevel of the blade at the proper angle (so not lifting the end up or pushing it down), and sharpen it twenty to thirty times then rock it to the other side and repeat process until a burr forms. The burr should be larger on the outer edges now.

It took me a bit of time to get it but the sharpening process overall was becoming easier. I ended up cutting my knuckle not on the blade but on the sharpening stone. I guess I will have to work on the way I hold it.

Finally it was time to hand plane the pieces. When planing a board you want to check the direction of the grain to make sure you will be planing off the grain. The same is true when you are using the joiner or the electric planer machine. Otherwise it may cause “chip out”.

IMG_9642I picked the nicest looking sides of each board to be on the outside of the box. I spent more time planing these sides than the insides and I really worked to get them perfectly smooth. I also planed the edges of the boards that would be on the top.

When you hand plane something it cleanly slices the wood fibers which leaves a natural shiny finish, as apposed to sanding which rips and mangles the fibers leaving it with a dull look. Hand planing ponderosa pine makes it shimmer; oh my, it looks so beautiful! 

The boards have been prepped and are looking pretty good now. They are ready to be glued up and made into a box. Stay tuned for part 2.

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