Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Home for my Gnomon

There's no such thing as making a simple box if you're a woodworker.

I wanted to build a container for my reference ruler, or gnomon according to Stephen Shepherd, and had every intention of making a utilitarian one.

But while making the grooves to hold the lid and bottom, the scratch stock tore out some of the curly cherry (something I swore that scratch stock would never do!)

No problem. I'll fix it with my Lie-Nielsen side rabbet planes. This is a gravy tool—unnecessary, but really nice when you need it.

Smoothing the tearout of course made the top edge too narrow, which would leave a gap when the lid was glued in place.

No problem. I'll just add some string inlay to fill the gap. While I'm at it, might as well add string inlay to the bottom of the box.

Mitered corners was the joinery of choice for the box, but how do you cut miters on such tiny pieces? It's not very safe with power tools, in my opinion.

No problem. I'll just build a miter box and handsaw them.

Cutting a perfect guide line for a miter box proved to be more difficult than I thought. Even a slight miscut results in poorly fitting miters.

No problem. I'll build a simple miter block (also called miter jack) to trim the miters square.

Miter blocks are cool jigs that go for hefty prices at antique auctions and I had planned to build a beefy one with threaded rod someday, not really knowing if they worked well or not.

I was shocked at how perfectly this simple jig squared up the miters...and a beefy, threaded rod miter block just moved up the ranks on my to-build list.

To plane the inlay strips to thickness, I used an invention by Steve Latta that we students made in one of his classes. (Lie-Nielsen now carries this tool.) Basically, it's a piece of steel with a bevel and a burr (like the blade on a scraper plane), that's attached to a block of wood. By dragging the inlay through the gap between the burr and the "wall" of wood, the inlay piece is made thinner.

After the box was glued up, I cut the lid off at the bandsaw, which resulted in rough surfaces along the cut. Flattening these rough edges is easily achieved by laying a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface, like your table saw, and "scrubbing" the workpiece until it's dead flat.

In order to keep the lid secured, I had to add some insert pieces. But rather than leave the top edges flat, I decided to embellish them with a bead. For this, I used a bead profile in my scratch stock.

The miters were cut with the box and block as before. Using a miter block enables you to take very thin shavings so you can sneak up on the final fit.

I prefinished the inside with shellac before glue up and had planned to shellac the outside, but the contrast between the unfinished and finished cherry is attractive, so I might just put a couple coats of wax on it instead.

What started out as a utiliatrian box project turned into something a little more complicated.

But why settle for a shed when you can build a little cottage for your gnomon?