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NYPD Pipes and Drums Box – Part One

August 30, 2011

Kilted and working wood...

This past Sunday afternoon, the wife took the little one to the park with a new friend and her one-year-old. And I got to put in a little shop time!  Out came the kilt!  Ahhh… what a grand feeling, to be down in the shop, listening to the swish of a plane on wood, relishing in creative freedom!

But enough of the dilly dally!

I already have a project under way, and it’s a little behind schedule, so I got straight to work.

This presentation box is for a member of the NYPD Pipe and Drum Band. The buyer wanted something interesting, and made with mahogany, so I tossed out an idea I’d been pondering for a while – making a box with a Greene & Greene flair to it. He was all for it, so I set aside some lumber and started working out ideas.

Shortly thereafter, I noticed an article in the April issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine about a similar design concept by Gary Rogosky. The height was close to the same, though the length and width varied quite a bit. What I found most interesting about Gary’s article was his technique for cutting the large box joints. That is the part I was stressing, to be sure. My band saw is… how do you say?  Not tuned up?  So it made it kind of difficult to use for the cuts. But it didn’t take much thought to extrapolate that idea into something I could do on the table saw. Hey, those 1/8″ thin slices of mahogany in my scrap bin DID come in handy!

(Unfortunately, my camera was MIA when I was out in the garage making the cuts, so I didn’t get any shots of the set-up I used.  So far, though, I like the look of the box, and I’m sure to make more.  I’ll take pictures the next go. And yes, I’m keeping the big power equipment out of the basement shop. I suppose I could figure out a way to get it down into the non-walkout basement, but… having the table saw – and eventually the jointer and the planer – out of the workshop forces me to think of using a hand tool before I trot upstairs to make a cut.)

Any time I end up trying a new (to me) design idea when I’m working on a box commission, I like to make another one along side it out of poplar. Poplar is my woodworking muslin.  It lets me test out ideas and get warmed up before I work on the one I’m going to sell. The end result is that I get a box for use around the shop, or maybe one for Finley to play around with, so I don’t mind the extra work.

Jointing an edge for the bottom

In the background of the image to the right, you get a bit of an idea of what the box looks like.

But don’t look at the bottom of that plane.  What the heck is up with that? Didn’t notice it until I was loading the images up, but I might have grabbed the wrong #5 there… I think this is one I haven’t done any work on yet (except for sharpening the blade).  Oops!  Ah, well.  I don’t write to make me look perfect!

I guess I didn’t think about the stock I had available when I was mocking up the poplar, either, so I had to edge joint two boards to get a piece big enough for the bottom of the box.

Simple technique for jointing the edges is to find a small riser board you know to be parallel on both faces and put the board you want to edge joint on top of it, with the edge hanging off.  Then lay your plane on its side (assuming the sole is perpendicular to the side, which was apparently the case with this old plane, thank goodness) and plane the edge.  As long as your plane, the riser block, and the board you’re planing are all parallel/perpendicular to each other, you’ll end up with a nice straight edge.  Do the same thing with the other board.  Glue them up, put them in in some clamps for a few hours, and call it done.  Later I’ll scrape off the glue and cut the board to size before planing it to final thickness.

A fun little tool...

I was going to use a piece of hardboard for the bottom of the mahogany box, but… the prep and glue-up for the poplar board went so well I decided to do the same for the “good” box. And why on earth was I thinking of using hardboard, anyway??  Oh, because it’s stable and I can glue it in place to make the box stronger. Ah, well!  Solid wood it is!

Dug through the pile of thin stuff and came up with a piece of Spanish Cedar (which is neither Spanish nor cedar) just a hair over 1/4″ thick.  Not quite wide enough, though, so I did the same thing and glued it up. That will add a pleasant smell to the box!  I might even advance that idea and add a Spanish Cedar lining…

While the bottoms were curing, I smoothed the sides (see first image) and prepped them for cutting a groove for the bottom board. The short ends are the easy bits – just run the ol’ Record 043 across the bottom of the inside face until it stops cutting.  But the longer sides (the front and back of the box) are going to be a little harder, because I can’t run the plane all the way across its length – I’ll end up with grooves showing on the protruding pins.  So they need to be stopped grooves.  That’s easy to do when you’re using a router table.  It isn’t quite so easy when you’re using an 043.

After a bit of thought, I came up with an idea I’m going to try. I marked where the grooves need to start and stop on the long boards. Then I chucked a 5/8″ (er… I wanted a little leeway) bit into my hand drill and bored out the starting and stopping points of the groove.  The hope is that I can control the plane enough to keep it within those points.  We’ll see how it goes!

If it doesn’t work, then I guess I’ll have to chuck a 1/4″ bit into my palm router and zip it out real quick (hey, it’s called a blended shop for a reason).

(And looking at that last picture, I’m reminded that I wanted to attach a longer wooden fence to that one… something else to add to the list!)

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