Bandsaw boxes in 10 easy steps

Very simple if you have a bandsaw:
1) Glue up some layers of plywood, sandwiched between two pieces of oak
2) Print out a cartoon shaped heart from the internet and stick to the top of the block. Add a stand to the piece of paper.
3) Follow the outline with the bandsaw, trying not to cut off your fingers with the saw. Doing “relief” cuts at the top and where the stand meets the body of the box makes means you don’t have to back out the blade.
4) Mark on the paper to show where you want to cut the drawer about 6mm from the edge of the outside. Cut out the shape, coming in at the bottom and following the curve round to the top central point, then back the blade out, and repeat the cut on the other side to create the drawer.
5) Cut off the front and back of the draw.
6) Carve out the inside of the draw with the bandsaw, in this case with two simple straight cuts.
7) Sand the drawer front and back smooth so you get a nice tight joint. Sand the inside and out of the box. The inside curves are easy with a spindle sander. The outside curves are best done with a flat sander, like my random orbit sander. Round off the corners of the front whilst you’re at it.
8) Glue the front and back of the drawers on, and the top of the heart shape back onto the base where the entry points for the bandsaw was created
9) Finally place the box on a sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface and sand the bottom of the box until it stops tipping. I’ve never made anything like this that didn’t tip when placed on a flat surface.
10) 5 coats of shellac with a light sanding with some 220 grit sand paper after the 1st coat, 3rd and 4th coat, leaving a minimum of an hour between the coats for the shellac to dry. In the cold weather we’ve been having I’ve been leaving it on front of a heater on a low setting to make sure the alcohol solvant flashes off properly.

Not including the glue up and shellac drying times, probably took me a couple of hours or so to do. The sanding takes the most time because you have to start with the 80 grit sandpaper, then the 120 grit and finish with the 220.
Of course without a bandsaw, it’s rather more difficult but could be done with a coping saw if you really want to spend hours cutting it by hand.


Winter is no long coming – it’s arrived

With a light dusting of snow on the ground, the shop relocation has begun in earnest. Some tools can’t be relocated. My beloved tablesaw will have to remain up in the barn. It’s too big to get in the shop without dismantling it, and even if I did get it in over muddy ground I wouldn’t be able to do anything else in the shop, there just isn’t enough room. Similarly, the jointer will have to stay up in the barn. I don’t use it often enough to justify trying to move that hunk of cast iron down the slope. Like the tablesaw, it will have to remain in the barn and I’ll just have to clear a path in the inevitable snow bank when I want to get up there to joint something. To prep them both for winter I’ve applied a thick coat of paste wax to help prevent the surfaces from rusting. It won’t stop it completely and I noted that it had already begun a little on my table saw. Time will tell how effective that will be.

However, the bandsaw, the compound sliding mitre saw, the planer and drill press have come down. Apart from the planer, they are on their own stands and don’t take up a lot of space. I might end up putting the drill press on wheels as it’s in the corner of the room, but I haven’t yet decided. In another corner of the room, I still haven’t got rid of the ancient wood burning cook stove. It weighs too much to put out during spring/autumn clean up. Currently it has a pile of junk on it. I really ought to clear that off to use as an assembly area. The stove is a little short for me to use as a workbench for power tools, but I could use it for glue ups and putting finish on projects. Next to the stove I’ve lined up the mitre saw on it’s stand. There’s enough space I can cut down most lengths of wood. Anything longer than I currently have space for and I can open the door to the mudroom. I also have my old Black and Decker Workmate workbench. It’s very low which is ok for hand tools, but a PITA for power tools. I’ve found some blocks of wood I can put under the feet to raise the level up to a more manageable height. I’ve also got a slab of pine which came from the top of an Ikea chest of drawers which recently self destructed. It’s surprisingly flat and the vise in the workbench means I can clamp the top down when I want to use it and break it down when I need the space to do something else. With the work top in place, it almost doubles the work space on the top which is far more usable.

There are still a few tools in the barn, but that’s going to have to wait till I finish my current project: My contribution to the Wood Workers Fighting Cancer build for 2013. This year it’s a “Young Artist’s Easel”. I’m building it from some red oak I picked up earlier this year from Kijiji. Most of the consignment came as 12/4 stock, which meant ripping a lot down to 3/4″ stock.

When saw mills are cutting lumber from the trees the wood is never dry at that stage. They cut it by 1/4″ increments. 12/4 is 3″ wide when they cut it. However at that point it will begin to dry and in so doing will shrink, twist and bow. My 12/4 red oak is rough sawn, the same as if it just came from the saw mill. The good news about this stock is that because it’s thick, there isn’t a lot of bowing and twisting. There’s some cupping but not a lot, and it can be quickly cleaned up on the jointer. Having milled some of the oak, I was able to cut it down ready for the project. After making a lot of saw dust, I realised the fence on my saw was misaligned. The distance at the back of the blade was closer by around 1/8th” (a little over 3mm). This is potentially very dangerous. The blade on the saw rotates, so the front of the blade pushes down against the table top, but the back of the blade has nothing stopping the blade from lifting the work piece up and causing “kickback” (NB: Do NOT watch this video if you are at all squeemish. There’s no blood but it freaks me out every time I watch this one). Fortunately I always use the blade guard on my saw unless I absolutely have to (which is incredibly rare). From now on I’m going to pay a lot more attention to the fence alignment. But because of that alignment there were a lot more saw marks on the surfaces than I really should have to deal with a sander. Most of that was cleaned up with the planer.

Having cut down a lot of the wood, I realise there are quite a few splits and the odd know. Some are terminal, others are repairable with epoxy resin. This is why the wood was a cheap as it was. This has slowed the project down quite a bit as I’ve had to replace the odd piece, and other times I’ve had to wait for the epoxy to harden. I’ve gone through nearly a syringe of epoxy too. With all the parts cut to size, I had a decision to make. Should I brave the cold temperatures, or try to cut them with my router. I’ve had some success with the table saw so I figured it was time to try a different technique. After all when the snow falls in earnest I will want to spend as little time as I possibly can with my table saw, so I opted for the router method. The bandsaw can be used to cut the ends of half laps, but not so useful in the centre of pieces.

When gluing two wood surfaces together, ideally you want to join them so that long grain is facing each other. Either running in the same direction as each other, or in the case of the half lap joint running perpendicular to each other. A half lap joint is very strong because of this grain direction and a quick joint to cut. It’s also not a very complicated joint, but it’s also not a particularly pretty joint. The mortise and tenon joint is stronger and prettier, but more complicated to cut.


Having marked out the joint on the surfaces, I proceeded to cut the half laps. Things didn’t go quite according to plan and all the joints are a little sloppy. I’m hoping long term this isn’t going to be a problem. Some practice required! However, the surface areas are quite large and I’m sure they’ll hold. If it falls apart, there are always screws!

After the glue dried, I went on a mammoth sanding session during which I sprained my left thumb with the random orbit (RO) sander. The RO sander is superior to other sanders because the patterns left by the sand paper don’t immediately attract the human eye as a repeating pattern. It’s there but no where near as obvious as palm sanders and way better than the belt sander. The sander is just about big enough to fit in my hand but it stretches my thumb a little. Once you turn it on, then the vibrations impact the muscles and tendons by vibrating them like the sandpaper. I think I might need to manufacture a handle to make it more comfortable to use in the future – not too difficult with a bandsaw and some plywood.

All the pieces are now sanded so I cut the rabbet needed to take the boards. This is quick and easy with a rabbeting bit and the router. Put the rabbeting bit in the router collet. Drop the bit down so the cutting edge is flush with the base of the router. To set the depth of cut, use something with a known thickness between the depth stop and the depth stop turret. Often people will use finely engineered set up bars, milled to thousands of an inch. I don’t have them, but I do have a LOT of drill bits with a huge range of widths. They work well enough for this kind of purpose. The work pieces are 3/4″ thick so I used a 3/8″ drill bit to set the depth stop. Using the turret I cut it in two passes. This makes the work easier on the tool, on the router bit itself and I’m less likely for the bit to tear out the wood. The router I used was the heavier of my two routers which on reflection was a mistake as it was more difficult to control. If I were to do this again, I’d use the lighter router as it is less likely to tip off the narrow pieces. It has enough power, but it’s currently sat on a shelf in the barn still. With the rabbets cut I now have the sizes for the boards. I cut those on my table saw. I finished the day’s work by putting a coat of primer on the surfaces of the boards. This is oil based and has stunk out my workshop. Respirators FTW!

Now the primer is dried, I need to give the boards a light sanding and a second coat of primer. The surface is a little rough with quite pronounced grain pores, so it may take a few coats and sanding between coats to smooth that out. Finally I’ll apply a couple of coats of blackboard paint.

Kicking the tires on some red oak I picked up the other day

I got a little time at the end of today’s session where I didn’t have anything specific to do. I’d run out of clamps and done a little finishing. I figured I’d kick the tires a little and mill some of the stock. I didn’t get much time to look the stock over when I picked it up, but I did notice a little checking and one 12/4 did look like it was in a state – perhaps some rotting so I’ve kept that one separate until I can take a better look at it.

Craftex CT052 tool review

Craftex CT052
I’ve only cut a couple of sets of dovetails with the jig, but enough to give an overview of set up etc. Until now I’ve not attempted cutting dovetails in any other way, with power tools or by hand.

This is a review of the Craftex CT052 dovetail jig. It is designed to accommodate pieces up to 12″ in size. I got mine on special offer from Busybee Tools for $80 (+tax) CAD.

The Craftex CT154 can go up to 24″ and is available for $189 (+tax) CAD, although at the time of writing there was a $20 off sale.

Both these jigs allow you to cut both pins and dovetails at the same time on the same pass.

Some people online have commented that whilst they may own a cheap dovetail jig, they’ve usually hated the things for some reason. It maybe because they have found them difficult to set up, or they are not very flexible. Having watched the video (see the link below), I found the set up pretty easy. I would however agree that they aren’t very flexible.

Out of the box
Out of the box a minimal amount of assembly is required. There are two clamp levers that need installing, and two thumb screws on the side. When you screw the clamp levers on, make sure you screw them in the right way round so that when the clamps are applied the long handles don’t obscure your work. (Which is what I did when I first put it together). The thumb screws on the side prevent the template gantry from moving during routing.

There are a number of templates available usually for around the $25 CAD mark, but it comes with a 1/2″ blind dovetail template already installed.

Build quality
The body is made from steel, and has quite a bit of weight to it. There are two holes in the metal at the back feet you can screw onto you bench or into a piece of plywood. The feet aren’t big enough to use to clamp the jig to the bench. That said, I’ve used the jig a couple of times and I’ve not really noticed movement to be a massive problem. The only time the jig moved was during the initial scoring cut, where you’re moving laterally across your stock.

There are a number of plastic parts which are for the most part fine. My only gripe on this front are the four stop blocks used to place the pieces in the jig. They are made of plastic, when they really should have been made of aluminum or steel. They are such an integral part where accuracy is needed. That said they are fine for now. I might replace them later if I really see a need.

Set up
Confession: I’ve not read the manual. I did watch the video (see the link below) and found that to be an awesome guide. Mark Eaton from BusyBees does a good job of walking you through the set up. I don’t have set up bars that Mark uses, but a 1/4″ and 1/2″ drill bit do a good enough job of getting everything in the right place.

My only criticism of the video is that during the setup half, it doesn’t discuss the fence at all. The fence is only mentioned very briefly at the very end of the video.

I do like Mark’s phrase for ensuring your router bit is set to the right depth:
“Heighten to tighten, Lower to Loosen”
If your dovetails are not tight enough, raise the router bit. Too tight, lower it. As with all jigs, some test cuts are needed to get things right.

Cutting my first set
I positioned the two pieces of stock in the clamps, vertical pieces first. There is a little frustration in positioning the vertically mounted pieces. Gravity has a way of taking hold! Mount the vertical pieces first, tweaking the screws on the clamp to hold the pieces in place before locking the clamp down. If you are doing a small box/drawer you will find that you can only mount the short pieces in the vertical mounts. My test pieces had a 5″ side, which is too short to go in the horizontal mounts.

The video recommends doing a gentle scoring cut on both work pieces first to help with tear out. I don’t know if it was the cheap pine I was using, or I didn’t do enough of a score, or it’s the jig, but I found a little tear out on the right hand side of both sides of the cuts. More attempts will with harder wood may tell.

Having cut the first set of pins and tails I removed them from the jig and noticed my first problem. The fit was tight enough that I needed to use a mallet to push the pieces together (perhaps a little too tight as it might squeeze all the glue from the joint).

As I’d been following the video, and didn’t really understand what the fence was for, my tails were cut too deep, resulting in the tails sinking too deep into the box by just under 1/8″. This resulted in me sanding off the extraneous tails. Not a problem with a box, but if your drawer needs to fit in gap, you’ll be 1/4″ too narrow. Once you’ve done one test cut, you can see how much you need to move the fence by and then use setup bars (or in my case, drill bits) to help with that placement.

I then made the mistake of not watching which way round I was putting the vertical pieces back into the jig, and cut the pins the wrong way round, resulting in a question mark shaped “box”. Lesson learned.

I also found that one of the stops on the left hand side of my jig was not in quite the right place, resulting in a step between the two pieces. So I wouldn’t have been able to complete my first box anyway.

Second cut
I went back through the very easy set up of the left hand side of the jig, and proceeded to make my second set of cuts. Everything went smoothly although again there was a little tear out on the right hand side – which makes me think it’s my technique and will probably be resolved with practice.

The resulting box (which I have glued up, but not taken pictures of) is square without any need to tweak the joints. I did note that the second cut was far looser than the first. So much so I was very surprised when it came out square first time!

Dust collection – none. I was sprayed with pine fibers from head to toe. It wouldn’t be hard to create a shroud around the jig. I might make one if I find myself using it a lot. There’s no point in putting a shroud on the tool itself as you need to use a guide bushing, and the router rides on the template meaning there’s very limited air flow.

Quick to set up. I managed it with the video guidance in an hour or so if you include the time to reset the left hand guide blocks.

It is very limited. You can only cut even spaced 1/2″ dovetails. This can mean the edge of your project can have half a pin exposed on one of the corners. This means you either put up with it (or arrange it so all the halves are concealed in some way), or design your project with this in mind.

Generally I like the jig.

  • It was very easy to set up.
  • You can cut both pins and tails at the same time making work very quick. This adds to the limitations of the jig, but at the moment it suits me.
  • The video is worth its weight in gold. It gave me a lot of confidence to try to fix things when they didn’t quite fit.

That said, it is very limited (see above):

  • I wish the setup blocks were not made of plastic. Otherwise the build is of reasonable quality given the cost.
  • You can only cut half-inch, evenly spaced, half blind dovetails – which means there is a tendency to design the work around the jig.
  • If you don’t already have a half-inch dovetail bit, and a 7/16ths outside diameter guide bushing. I happened to already have both of those so I wasn’t more out-of-pocket than the $80 I spent.

What next?
I might actually have to read the manual.

I’m going to build a few boxes with hard wood. I’ve got some cherry and birch which I can play with. I see small boxes for my family for Christmas on the horizon.

Related links:
Instruction video
Craftex CT052 at Busybee Tools
Craftex CT154 at Busybee Tools