Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Rusling Box, Part Three...

Previously, on Lost...

Sorry, wrong beginning.

When we last left the latest dirk box, I'd just finished the glue-up and checked for square. I let it sit overnight and half of today before doing anything else with it.

In the mean time, Dana and I went on our birdwatching hike at Babler State Park this morning. We almost canceled per the rain, but I suggested we tough it out and see if the rain lets up. Sure enough, about 20 minutes into the hike the rain let up and we could put our umbrellas away and concentrate on birds. Won't go into minute detail here, but we did see some cool things, including a barred owl (who-who-who-cooks-for-you-all is the call they make; I hear one almost every afternoon and night here in St. Peters).

Fast-forward to this afternoon, when we finally got back home from birdwatching and running errands...

After the glue-up, the next step is to cut the slots for the miter keys. They are best cut with a rip blade on the table saw, which has a flat tooth and thus leaves a flat bottom. That makes for little or no gap after the key has been glued it and trimmed flush.

I usually leave my blue painter's tape on the corners when I'm cutting the miter key slots. It reduces tear-out and it also provides a place for me to figure out where I want to put my miter keys via test marks. I decided on trying to evenly space them out, with the top key being a half inch from the top edge, the middle key being one inch down (after calculating waste for cutting the top off the box), and then the bottom key being one more inch down and ending up just a half inch from the bottom of the box. I'm very OCD like that with some things...

Here is my jig for cutting the slots for the miter keys. It is just a piece of 1/8" hardboard, a piece of 2x4 I cut at 45 degrees and then laid out flat, and a piece of oak to ride along the tablesaw fence. I'm probably going to rethink this jig in the near future and create one that rides in the miter slots on my table saw. That way, it will always cut in the same spot and I can adjust the position of the slots with stop blocks to cut the grooves in the different locations. For now, this jig works just fine, but I did notice today that I'm starting to really tear into the right side of it.

When I was resawing my lid inlay piece at Vic's, I also took the time (seriously, like a whole three more minutes) to resaw some more bog oak into 1/8" thick strips for my miter keys. They are actually more like 3/16" thick, but I'll have to sand them a bit to remove the bandsaw marks. After throwing a 60 grit disc on my Festool ROS 125, it didn't take but a few seconds on each side to get them flat and at just about the proper thickness.

To make sure each key sits tight against the back of the slot, I have to joint the edges of the bog oak strips. I found out several boxes ago that the easiest way to do this is to turn my #5 upside down on the bench and run the strip of wood over the sole of the plane, sort of like a mini-jointer. Here you can see the small shavings starting to gather under the plane. It doesn't take very long with a sharp edge and a steady hand.

Bog oak is not cheap, so I'm quite frugal with it. I joint both long edges of the strips because of the method I use for cutting my keys. I fit a part of the strip into a slot, mark a triangle a little larger than what I'll need, cut the triangle out, then flip the strip over for the next slot.

I've found that even though I cut all of the miter key slots at the same time and with the same blade at the same setting that they aren't always exactly the same thickness. So I individually fit, cut, and mark a key for each slot. If I end up with some wood that is too thin, I set it aside for a future box. If the strip is just a hair too thick, I'll pound it a bit with my warrington hammer (on the right in this photo) to get the right fit. Marks on the bog oak are made with the white artist's pencil.

After all of the keys are cut, I'll grab a plastic lid from the recycle bin, put a bit of glue on it, tape up an acid brush, and start applying glue to both faces and the back edge of each miter key and press it into place. This generally goes quite smoothly, although I occasionally end up with a miter key that is a little too thick after it starts swelling from the glue. If it sticks while I'm trying to put it in, a few taps of the warrington is usually enough to coax it into place. When I'm done, the lid goes back into the recycle bin (that, my friends, is called "reuse"and "recycle").

I'll let these miter keys set up over-night and trim them flush tomorrow after church. Then I'll sand the outside of the box, cut the lid free from the top, and start working on hinges and the lock. I originally wanted to try a brass push-button lock from Lee Valley, but after looking at the required wood thickness, I now know I'm not going to be able to make that work. I need to use at least 3/4" thick wood for that mechanism and my box sides are only 1/2".

Fortunately, I usually plan for things like this and ordered a mortised lock set from Lee Valley last week. It shouldn't be too difficult to install. It comes with a brass escuschion, but I'm thinking about making my own out of bog oak. If I have the time, that's what I'd like to do, anyway...

Look for more tomorrow night!

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