The Next Box

Today I started another attempted tiny box. The last box started with using my manual miter box to cut the pieces. This left cuts which needed to be cleaned up on the router table with my Freud chamfer bit. Today I decided I would see how Jeff the bandsaw might do.

Jeff is a 14″ Powermatic bandsaw, who wasn’t a part of the team when I began the last box. His table tilts to 45 degrees, so I decided I would let Jeff make the cuts. When I was trying to decide whether I should buy Jeff or not, I read a lot of forum posts. There was a comment that mentioned one needs to check the angle of the table, when doing such cuts. This seemed like sound advice.

Before I could make this cut, I switched to the correct blade. I have bought a better quality blade for rip and cross cutting, and Jeff was wearing the resaw blade. With the new blade installed and Jeff’s table tilted to 45 degrees, I ran a piece of oak across his hungry teeth. The piece of oak is similar in size to the walnut, so I reasoned that it would be a good piece to use to set up Jeff for a precise cut.

I cut two 3 inch box sides and when I put them together they looked perfect. But I wanted to be sure. So I used my try square and found out that they were slightly off. The angle was probably about 90.37. Ok, I just guessed, but I am sure it wasn’t off by a full degree. If I really could eyeball something to the nearest 100th of a degree, well that would be a super power, and I would be spending my nights fighting measuring crime.

Because it was such a small amount I loosened Jeff’s table and just moved it 1 metric smidgen, which is coincidentally equal to .37 of one degree. I re-cut the two pieces and check them. The results made me do a brief happy dance.

With two pieces for a tiny oak box cut, it seemed like I should go ahead and cut two more. When I had all four I put them together and they didn’t quite fit correctly. I was confident that the angles were 45 degrees so I asked myself, “What do you think you would like for dinner? You seem to be getting hungry.”

I was getting hungry and after a break for a quick snack, I returned and asked myself another question, “If the angles are not correct, then what would cause the joints to not fit well?” The first thing that popped into my head was that one or more of the piece lengths may be off.

So I lined them up and looked. The second piece was slightly wider than the others. So I made a pencil mark and returned to Jeff and asked if he minded nibbling off just a tiny bit. He didn’t mind at all. So with the precision of a NASA scientist (not one who worked on the optics for the Hubble when it first launched), Jeff shaved off the requisite amount. The box went together and looked marvelous.

More Happy Dancing (Not Pictured)

So now I could take the piece of walnut and make my first cut. When I did, it was obvious that it wasn’t quite true. This puzzled me. Everything was calibrated and had just worked. I looked at the piece of walnut and I noticed that there was a slight variance. One corner was slightly thicker than the other three. So the piece didn’t lay flat on the table and the cut isn’t quite on the mark.

If I were to guess, many woodworkers would just run the piece through their planer and give it another go. I do not have such a planer. I have hand planes, which I love, but am far from mastering. I have no doubt that I will eventually be able to get absolutely true thicknesses, but at this point, I am not quite that good.

So I think I have moved planer up on my wish list. Since I don’t have one though, I will try to make the fix with the hand planes. I don’t want to screw up this piece of walnut, but if I do, I have 200 board feet of walnut just like it, so it would hardly be the end of the world.

There was one other interesting feeling that emerged from the shop today. When I was changing the Jeff’s blade, calibrating the table, routing the groove, cutting the pieces, and figuring out solutions to my problems, I felt like I was working on a project at a reasonable speed. I felt efficient. Every other project has required me to do a lot of clever thinking to complete a each task, which would have been easier with the proper tool. I didn’t mind this at all, but it is fun to make progress in a quicker than glacial speed.