Home > Woodworking > Thomas Jefferson Book Boxes – The Build

Thomas Jefferson Book Boxes – The Build

Over the long holiday weekend I was able to get the 5 book boxes built but it took all three days in the shop for me to complete them. I have to admit, I enjoy my time in the shop and long days seem to fly by as I focus on my project.

Methods and Materials

I stopped by the home center on my way home from work and picked up 5, 8′-1×12’s. I opted not to go with the “select pine” which I have used so many times in the past because the boxes were to be painted so I mulled over my options and went with construction grade pine. After picking through the entire stack I came up with 4 half-way decent boards and one not-so-great board.  They all had knots and dings and in retrospect I can really recommend following my example here. In the end I think for what I’m building it turned out OK.

Construction grade 1x12 pine  8 ft in length.

Construction grade 1×12 pine 8 ft in length.

The box design was kept simple so I didn’t actually need any printed plans other than my last post which listed the box sizes that I was going to use. The main feature I had to sort out was the shape and placement of the hand-hold cutouts. For the template, I used my largest Forstner bit which is 1 3/8″ and drill three holes side-by-side, 2 3/4″ from the front edge of the box sides. I then connected the top and bottom with a straight line and chiseled out the waste. From there I took the work-piece to the spindle sander and worked the cutout until it was smooth. Giving consideration that these will be used for lifting I needed to relieve the sharp edges I had carefully just created. I attempted the use of chisels and really just ended monkeying it up a bit. Good enough as a proof of concept however. I would make improvements during the production phase.

The basic structure.

The basic structure.

I started by building on of the largest boxes to completion. Again using the exercise to work out minor details and techniques. This proved valuable although it did make a wreck of my small shop space. Still although I lost economy I was able to work out method and templates which served me well on later boxes.

Prep

Boards were cut to approximate length on the miter saw then both ends were trued and cut to final length using my crosscut sled. The handle cut-outs were kept consistent but placing a stop block to locate one of the outer drill locations with a depth that stopped just when the center tip poked through. The board was then flipped over and the other outer hole was drilled on the opposite side. Both holes were then completed by simple flipping the board and aligning the drill bit to the tiny through hole. To remove the waste in between these two holes, top and bottom lines were drawn tangent to the circles and cut with jigsaw. The cut-out was then taken to the spindle sander and cleaned up by sanding to the lines. After doing one or two I became quite proficient and the work went quickly. To finish up the handle, I found an old spindle of sand paper and hand sanding worked efficiently and reliably to relieve the sharp edges while providing a consistent look.

Relieving the sharp edges on the handle.

Relieving the sharp edges on the handle with a spindle of sand paper.

Before assembly, each board was sanded P-80, P-120 then P-220 using my random orbital sander.

Working through 3 grits the boards were sanded prior to glue-up.

Working through 3 grits the boards were sanded prior to glue-up.

I got tired of the hose from my vacuum cleaner getting pulled loose so I duct taped the fitting and used a twist tie to keep the hose and cord connected together. This limited the use of my vacuum cleaner but made sanding much less frustrating.

Joinery

Tried and true, I used screw, glue and plug joinery. Miter clamps kept the 4 sides in orientation while I pre-drilled and counterbored holes. I then loosened two (miter) clamps to free a side, applied glue then slid it back into place. Because neatness matters, I created a simple template to arrange the screw pattern. Screws found their pre-drilled holes and cinched the piece tight. For insurance the box frame was left in the miter clamps and F-clamps were used in cases were some of the pieces were a bit cupped.

 

Screw, glue and plug joinery

Drill the small hole first then use it to center the Forstner bit for the counter bore. I find it works out if I sink the bore the same thickness of the bit head which is about 1/4″.

 

A template was used to locate screw locations on each of the four sides.

A template was used to locate screw locations on each of the four sides.

IMG_6963

As mentioned in my previous post, I opted for 1/2″ plywood for the box backs (bottoms) in an attempt to balance weight against strength. On one hand the boxes are heavy and when loaded with books, they will require two people to carry. On the other hand, the books will put a lot of stress on the bottoms so I’m hoping 1/2″ is enough. I think it will be if used prudently.

IMG_6961

I glued, screwed and counter sank holes for the back. I began by lining up the back to the frame, marking and drilling before the glue-up. Once glued, screws brought the pieces in alignment and no clamping was required.

One down, four to go

One down, four boxes to go.

Plugging the Holes

If you have been following my blog, you will see that am completely new to woodworking. I would say that I am self-taught but really that is a gross misrepresentation as I have been learning from many Masters via the magic that is the Intranet. I love to learn new tips and techniques. I learned how to safely and reliably make these plugs on the Internet. I have however, struggled with trimming them flush to the work piece without marring the furniture or blowing out pieces of the plug. One technique I saw used with using a trim router and straight bit to trim plugs close. That actually worked very well but it wasn’t without some challenges. Plugs that were close together interfered with the router base as did plugs near the edge of the work piece. One slip off the edge and the router digs in to mar your surface. Plus it really is a scary piece of kit with that spinning bit. This time I tried a new tip, use a spent sanding disc to protect the work piece while using the flush cut saw to trim. I have to say, this technique was easy, fast and relatively safe. Although it doesn’t cut that close (due to the sanding disc) it was close enough to finish up with my block plane. I would take quick successive slices off the remaining plug top until flush. Reminding me of watching my Mom slice a cucumber with a mandolin slicer.

Wood Magazine Tip - use a spent sanding disc to protect the work piece when flush cutting.

Wood Magazine Tip – use a spent sanding disc to protect the work piece when flush cutting.

Three Days and Five Boxes

With the prototype finished, it was just a matter of “rinse and repeat” until I made all five boxes. At the end of Saturday, I had two boxes essentially completed (box 2 needed plugs) and by the end of Sunday I had four boxes completed (minus plugs on one). My design called for two large, two medium and one smaller box.

Rinse and repeat.

Rinse and repeat.

By mid-day on Monday (the holiday), I had completed all five boxes. Not without a few mistakes I must admit but nothing that was a show stopper. A couple of times, I misread a cut and had to cut another piece. Twice I had the same bone head mistake of cutting the handle on the wrong edge of the sides which leads me to the lesson learned for this project. Wait for it….. “err on the side of labeling your work pieces”. As simple as this design was I still managed to misread assembly. I mean when you’re busy doing, you are sometimes not busy thinking. That is where labels will help keep you on the path. For the first time I used a yellow crayon instead of a pencil and found it useful. I’m not sure how difficult it is to remove the marks after assembly but I knew I was painting so I didn’t worry too much this time. I’ll have to see what removes crayon but I already know pencil doesn’t remove easily so I’m willing to try something new.

Ready for painting.

Ready for painting.

Having finished the last box early in the afternoon I was on schedule to get them painted. I was concerned about finding a good space so I hauled them upstairs to our screened porch. I really wanted to get a coat on them in one session so I fabricated a “bed of nails” aka painter’s points so that I could paint all sides of the boxes. I used two 2×6’s that I drove in 3″ screws from the underside. I’d paint the backs (bottoms) and the long sides of each box then place them on the points where I would then finish the insides and the two short sides. Several hours into the process I began to question myself, “Just how many sides does a box have?” Answer: 6 on the outside but minus a top there are only 5 but there are 5 more on the inside. So 10 sides times 5 boxes means 50 pieces to paint. I used a small roller for the bulk of it and a foam brush for the corners. It took me forever and the bulk of it bending over or on the ground.  I have a new respect for painters. Now I also understand the benefit of spraying furniture.

Almost finished, one more coat and  it will be ready for books.

Almost finished, one more coat and it will be ready for books.

You have been building and painting with the Turtlecovebrewer.

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