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The Simple Box Project

Think of a time when you learned a skill for the first time. Perhaps it was learning to ride a bike, drive a car or fly an airplane. The skill once learned flows easily to you and you can’t imagine why it was so difficult to master in the first place. Can you see where I’m going with this? Well there has been nothing “simple” regarding my Simple Box Project I’m making for my wife Susan.

Friends, if you are like me and learning to woodwork for the first time, let me put your mind at ease. If you are “concerned” over the difficulties you seem to be encountering and expecting things to go more smoothly, rest easy I am with you.

Here are a few of the challenges and lessons that I have learned on this “easy” project. This wood project is my third, following a couple of Joiner’s Mallets and a Bench Hook.

Simple Box Glue Up

Challenges and Lessons

Challenge #1:  Purchased the wrong sized stock for the box project.

Lesson #1: The box in the book is made from 1/2″ stock but the notes on the table suggest purchasing 1 x (one by) stock which is 3/4″ thick. I blindly followed cutting steps one and two then began to test fit the pieces together. Humm, nothing is going to line up.

Resolution #1:I could have modified the dimensions and cut new pieces but I decided to go off the reservation and change the design. Instead of finger joints I would use simpler butt joints but I would dowels to pin the piece together. I can also use visible dowels on the side if I want to keep with the idea in the book but in this case it would be decorative and not structural. Made of 3/4 this little box will be solid.

Challenge #2: Cutting the pieces square.

Lesson #2:Hey this IS an exercise in skill building right? And I’ve been cutting all my stock with a hand saw using a bench hook as a guide.  And I’m getting way better at it. But I’m still chasing the edges. Still not exactly the right length, still not square or straight at least not for this type of work.

Resolution #2:Throw technology at it, I bought a sliding compound miter saw. I am saving for a table saw. Taking a small measure of setup my cuts were accurate, square and true. I was then able to clean up the edges with my low angle block plane. I’m still not very good with it either, see the next Challenge.

Challenge #3: I was to chamfer the edges of box lid using my block plane to make an even and appealing box top.

Lesson #3: Although I have used my LA block plane a few times previous to this project, I clearly wasn’t as competent with it as I needed to be. I just couldn’t seem to get the right settings to take off the corners like I wanted to. Suffice it to so that I got frustrated.

Resolution #3: I pulled out the router and a 3/4″ round over bit. I’ve never seen so much dust in my life. Again this is an unsatisfactory work around for skill building except, I haven’t used my router but one other time. So I’m still learning many things with each new activity.

Challenge #4: Accuracy and building to plans.

Lesson #4: If you have unlimited time and resources, you can and should stick with your plans. Projects take lots of time and learning while doing them takes even more time. This is a good thing, not a problem.

Resolution #4: If you want to get your wife’s present finished for Valentine’s Day, you problem solve and improvise. This too is a good thing but in the real world, things rarely come out perfectly or exactly as planned. Some of your effort will be spent correcting boo boos. You need to be able to problem solve and this too is a very important skill.

I chose to blog here instead of maintaining a woodshop journal.  Fellow woodworkers out there are likely chuckling now if not down right laughing and shaking their heads. It’s OK really, woodworkers like us are a guild whether we started yesterday or 45 years ago. I reasoned with my middle daughter Callie, “What does it matter if it takes us 3 months to build your table when it will still be beautiful 500 years from now?”  In a world of fast food and the Internet I’m learning the hardest skill of all: patience.

Simple Box

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