Never Ending

Last week! This is my very last week of internships for school. I have completed 4 months of fine woodworking and furniture making. It will be nice to have a break but at the same time I will miss woodworking. I’m know this is not the end for me, but I will be going back to regular classes and between them and my family I won’t have that much spare time until after I graduate. I guess there is always summer vacation and weekends.

For the first part of my last week I helped Duncan resize a bed frame. He had made a cherry bed frame 20 years ago for an older couple that he is friends with. Due to the declining health of the wife, they are moving into an assisted living facility. Their new bedroom is a little smaller than their current one so Duncan offered to turn their king sized bed frame into a queen.


Drilled hole then squared one side to bolt mortise and tenon together

I helped Duncan pick the bed frame up from their house. We took out all the bolts and pulled the pieces apart and loaded it into Duncan’s small pickup truck. The next day Duncan cut a bit off each side and I helped knock the glued mortise and tenons apart with a hammer whacking, like a mad woman, one side than the other. Then I cleaned out the excess glue left in the mortises. Duncan redid the tenons then I redrilled the holes that the bolts go in that attach the tenons to the mortises and used a hammer and chisel to square one side. The next time I came in Duncan had everything finished and glued back together. We then brought it to the couples new apartment and reassembled it.


King sized bed frame made into a queen size

With only a few days left Duncan suggested I could make another box. The first time I made a box with Duncan it took me almost a month, now I had less than a week. I had promised my son that I would make him a toy box so I took this opportunity to do so. He dug through his wood and pulled out a long 1×12 of pine. We figured out the max size the box could be; it would be just a little smaller than the first one I made.

I cut the pieces to size then surfaced all the sides. Next, using a router jig, I made box joints. Then I hand planed all the sides and made a dado grooves on the bottom inside of each where the bottom would fit. I cut a piece of thin plywood for the bottom and sanded it. Then I glued everything together. Now I had the carcass of my box. I quickly decided that I wanted a small trim around the bottom. I cut the boards, glued them around the bottom, and clamped them.


Router jig for making box joints


Routed box joints


Basic box glued up

Next it was time to think about what I wanted to do for the top. Duncan suggested I could either make a lid that would lift on and off or I could put a hinge on it like I did before. I though about it for a bit before deciding that a hinge would be better, that way my son wouldn’t take the lid off and drag it around the house. So the next morning before going in I stopped by the local hardware store and picked up some little brass hinges. When I got in I measured and marked where the hinges would go and used a chisel to make a little nook in the box where they would fit. Then I screwed the hinges on and marked and screwed them onto the lid.


First coat of oil drying on my finished box

The last step was to oil it. I put on two coats over two days. And it was done. It went a lot faster the second time around regardless of it being a lot simpler than the first box I made. I knew the steps to follow and how to make a basic box for the most part. I still had to ask Duncan questions now and then and I still made a few mistakes but all in all it went really smoothly. And I must say, I really like making boxes; maybe I will become a box maker.

I had a really wonderful time working with Duncan. The atmosphere is very relaxed and the conversation is very meaningful. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him and to have an open invitation to come back any time. I know it’s the end for now, but not the end forever. I learned a lot during my time with him by working with my own hands, watching him work, and talking with him. I can’t wait to see what I make of all this knowledge and what I will end up building over the course of my life.


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.