I made reference to this project a couple of weeks ago in another post. It’s a small gift I made for someone I consider to be a very close friend, even though we’ve only known each other a matter of months. I’ve kept it a secret until now just in case she happened to stumble upon these pages but, there’s no longer any danger of that. She’s delighted with the small plectrum (guitar pick) box that I made for her and I’ll show you how I made it (well, two of them, in fact!).
This is a near-direct copy of something I saw in one of Steve Ramsey’s videos over at Woodworking for Mere Mortals. This video appeared a matter of weeks before I met the young lady in question and, when I realised how much she loved guitars, I knew that I wanted to make a box like this for her… I just needed an occasion! 🙂
If you’ve seen Steve’s video then you’ll notice that I approached things a little differently. For a start, I don’t have a scroll saw but I’m also incredibly safety concious after slicing my thumb open on a stationary planer knife two years ago.
I wanted to use English walnut for this one and I’ve had these lumps of 2in thick stuff hanging around for two years. They’re leftovers from the arm chair seat that I made at college. Too nice and too valuable to ‘disregard’ on some ‘general’ project. I’ve been saving them in the hope of finding something special so, I was happy to cut a few inches off of one end.
Can you see the Spalting?
I made myself a simple paper template, by sticking a plectrum down on to the sheet (with double-sided tape) and scribing around it with a washer, using a washer for the spacing. I wanted to ensure that the perimeter around the housing in the centre would allow for an 8mm diameter rare earth magnet.
I’d decided to make two of these so that I had a spare in case something went wrong with the other. But also, I envisioned it would be safer to machine a small block of wood that was double in size or width.
Cutting a piece off on my chop saw was a bit risky without a perfectly straight edge to butt against the fence. Even though I tried to pack it out with some strips of MDF, the waney-edge on invited the saw to bind ‘pinch’ as I completed half the cut. I had to stop and turn the piece over to complete this usually ‘simple’ part of the making process!
After squaring a reference face and edge to work from with a block plane, it was over to the bandsaw to start resawing.
With a sharp 4tpi blade (from TuffSaws) and a steady feed-rate, I first parted a 4mm thickness for the base, 16mm for the ‘body’ of the box and a generously thick slice (8mm, later thinned down to 4mm) for the lid.
I cut out those paper templates and glued them on to the middle section with spray adhesive. It’s fair to say that I used far too much glue though!! 😳
Next, I drilled out most of the waste from the centre, using a pair of forstner bits in my drill press.
These holes were then cleaned up with two bobbins on my oscillating spindle sander. I’m really glad now that I spent a bit extra on the Jet JBOS-5 model, as none of the cheaper sanders seem to accept a ¼in/6mm bobbin. It was tricky following my lines though as the paper kept curling up and disappearing (I don’t think all that glue helped…).
Before I did any shaping, I thought it might help to transfer these holes through to the underside of the lid. That could help to align the pieces later and maintain the grain flow and orientation.
I took the middle section back to the bandsaw and removed a 2mm slice from the upper face. This was so that I could embed a rare earth magnet where it wouldn’t be seen.
Right Magnet, Wrong Place!!
Unfortunately, I placed these magnets exactly where I wanted the pivots to go!!
I was so frustrated with myself at this point! Neither box would’ve worked if the lid pivoted at the other end so, I knew, in the back of my mind, that I’d have to start over again. Still, I persevered and glued it all back together, just to see how well my other ideas would come together… They did, except for the part where I tried to drill through the existing magnets for the pivot and nearly set my workshop in fire (…Well, those small flames coming from the pillar drill were scary!). I used Titebond’s Dark Wood Glue to try and disguise the glue lines as much as possible. I also used my offcut from the bandsawing as a clamping caul.
So, it was back to the beginning with another block of walnut and some more sawing…
This time, I held my paper templates in place with plenty of masking tape and, not only did it make them easier to remove later but, they didn’t disintegrate like the sticky mess I’d made before.
A Less Sticky Solution!
Once the two new boxes were glued, with magnets fitted and pivot points in the right place (!), I used short nails (with heads clipped off) as centre-points to mark the pivot points on the lid, before I began shaping.
I took another thin slice from the lid and, after some careful marking out, embedded one M6 washer above the location of each magnet, before reassembling with glue. I should mention that I had to set these back from the ‘edge’, as they’re nearly twice as wide as the magnets.
Both boxes were roughed out on the bandsaw and trimmed to size on my disc sander, using a 120g disc. I usually fit it with a 60g disc and leave it but, even the finer grade was leaving cross-grain scratches so, I had to try something else. My bobbin sander was too ‘violent’ with convex components so small so, that left me with the ‘belt-sander-clamped-to-bench’ method (apologies for the absent photo)!
I am glad that I persevered a made a second pair of these boxes, instead of just the one. If you look closely to the right (above), you’ll see that the magnet is partially on show, where I drilled the 8mm hole too close to the edge! Fortunately, the other box was fine! 🙂 I’ll keep the ‘defected’ one for myself for now. Maybe I’ll be able to draw from it for future inspiration.
It’s a little crude but, I did use galvanised nails for the pivots on these, fitted in to a 3mm diameter hole. I didn’t think it was worth sourcing any brass rod or similar as they shouldn’t be seen. With the heads clipped off, points removed and cut to length, they should be fine. They’re glue in to the lids with super glue but free to turn in the main section. Actually, the ‘ribbed’ section of each nails grips in to the body of each box well enough that they shouldn’t need gluing and will not fall out.
I did have to continue my holes through to the base at one point when the nails got stuck during a dry fit, so that I could punch them out. I’ve decided not to try and fill them as that can easily make things worse; try to disguise one blemish and it’ll stick out like a sore thumb! I now refer to these holes as a “maintenance feature”… 😉 On the ‘reject’ box, the lid doesn’t sit or fit as well as on the other so, again, I’m relieved I made two and that both flaws happened to appear on the same box (now, that is unusual! :-D)
As I said at the beginning; she’s delighted with her “weird alien-head-shaped box” and, once I told her the true meaning behind the shape and design, she could hardly contain herself. 🙂 This is why I enjoy making things for other people. Most often, it’s been a coffee table or dining table for a family member that takes many weeks (even months) to complete. But for something so small to bring so much joy to the face of someone I care about who struggles so much in life… Well, it’s very heart-warming all round. She did (at first) she suggested that she could keep her ear rings in there so, perhaps I should try to come up with something else in time for Christmas! 😉
Another thought I had for this was to make a yin and yang style box, with one for each of us, perhaps out of contrasting timbers as well. I’m feeling energised and reinvigorated. I want to spend more time in the workshop again now and I am keen to get on with my never-ending list of ‘must do’ projects. I’ve got some more videos coming through, too. Moving house has made me reconsider the ‘need’ for some of my household possessions but also, I keep looking at the workshop and thinking that could do with a thorough clean and sort-out in time as well.
Oh, before I forget – I used Chestnut Finishing Oil on these boxes!
Thanks for reading! 🙂