Sunday, July 1, 2012

Walnut Box

He scrutinized the boards, choosing from half-inch-thick walnut planks. He was looking for interesting figure, for something beautiful, though it’s difficult to see wood’s full potential when it’s rough cut. His selection made, he fed the boards into a planer, passing them through three of four times per side, making minor adjustments between each pass. Then he finished one edge, passing the board through a jointer two or three times. He measured and marked his cuts with chalk, avoiding a loose knothole, inspecting the grain and anticipating the ways the wood might change, the cupping or bowing, the potential warping. Then he waited to give the wood time to move.

The following week, he planed and jointed the board again to attain the final thickness of 3/8”. Using a table saw, he cut the wood into five pieces. Securing each of the pieces on a workbench with bench dogs, he used a scraper to smooth the surface of the wood, shaving tiny curls all the way across the board in one continuous motion, producing a silky finished surface.

Next, he traced two arcs, large and small, onto a piece of pine. Using a router, he cut the curves onto the pine board, creating a template. He transferred the curves from the template to the walnut side pieces, creating gentle elliptical curves at the bottom of the box. Then he drew a curve on the lid of the box and shaped it with the router. In the corners of the lid he cut four knock-outs where the legs would fit. Using a small plane, he chamfered the edges of the lid. On the inside of the box’s sides, he made a slot with the table saw where the bottom of the box would be inset. On the two shorter sides, he added another slot for a small piece of wood that would support the tray.  

For the legs, he took a piece of 1x1” walnut stock, finished it, and cut it in half. Using a table saw with the blade set to 45 degrees, he chamfered all four ends of the two pieces. With a plunge router he made grooves on two adjacent sides of the leg pieces. Then he cut the two pieces in half, making four legs. Using a chisel, he made tongues in the edges of the side pieces that matched the grooves in the legs. In the rear legs he drilled small holes that would hold the lid pins. The bottom of the box he cut from a piece of aspen plywood, making small knock-outs for the legs.

Once the pieces were ready, he built the box dry, without glue, to see how it would fit together. The finished dimensions were approximately 20x8x4”. When the pieces fit well, he began gluing the case together, putting glue in the grooves and carefully working in the tongues. After attaching the short sides to the legs, he waited a week for the glue to dry. Then he glued the long sides to the legs, fit the bottom into its slot, and assembled the case.

While the case dried, he built the tray. Again, he selected and milled the wood. After cutting it into five pieces for the tray’s bottom and four sides, he cut a groove in the side pieces into which the bottom would fit securely. Then he made half-lap joints on the corners of the box, using contrasting birch-wood the diameter of a toothpick to pin the corners together. He glued the tray and let it dry.

He applied three coats of polyurethane to the case, lid, and tray, sanding between each application. To the lid and the inside of the drawer, he applied two extra coats. When the finish was dry, he secured the lid with brass pins, attached the brass chain, and inserted the tray. The box was finished.

And then he gave it to me for twelve years of marriage.

1 comment:

  1. Impressive - Doug is a man of many talents and a creative husband to boot.