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    Simple Box with Half-Lap Joints






    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    UPDATE: When we originally published thist post, we accidentally omitted an entire section on pinning the box joinery with dowels. Please scroll to the bottom of this post for the updated steps.

     

    Simple Box with Half-Lap Joints: Part 1/2

    Aime Ontario Fraser’s book, Getting Started in Woodworking, is chock-full of beginner projects that are approachable, and easy to tackle. This little half-lap box is a perfect example. Built using home center pine, we made ours using a few power tools, although Aime used mostly hand tools in her version.

    Sharpening Basics

    This project required the use of a block plane as well as a smoothing plane. Although you can get by using a sanding block, a well-tuned handplane is an absolute joy to use. For information on how to properly sharpen chisels and plane irons, be sure to watch Season 1 of Getting Started in Woodworking.

    Check out part two of this project. We'll tackle pinning the joinery for some added reinforcement, craft a lid, and apply a finish!
     


    How to Make

    Prepare Your Workpieces

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Rip to Width: Begin by ripping your stock to width. For the the four box sides, you’ll need rip your workpieces to 2-1/2-in.

    Orient and Mark for Joinery

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Crosscut: Square an End: Next, crosscut the four pieces to length. You’ll need two long sides measuring in at 10-1/2-in. and two short sides measuring in at 4-1/2-in. Begin by squaring up one end of each piece using your miter gauge with an auxiliary fence screwed to it.

    Cut the Joints

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Crosscut to Final Length: Now clamp a stop block into place for the final, measured cuts. The stop block allows for repeatable cuts. You’ll need to reposition it for each of the two sides (long and short).

    Measure and Cut the Bottom

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Mark for Orientation: Now it’s time to orient the sides. You’ll want the nicest sides facing outwards. Mark the outside surfaces and use an arrow on each piece to show which end should face up. Additionally, it’s a good idea to mark the mating corners as seen in this image. In this case I’m using two letter “A’s” to let me know that these two corners go together with one another.

    Glue-Up

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Mark the Joints: You’re ready to mark for your joinery. The simple half-lap joints in this box will intersect halfway down the ends of each workpiece, so I begin by marking the exact center point of each end.

    Handplane the Sides Flush and Smooth

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Set Your Square: Now set your square to the thickness of your stock.

    Pin Your Joints for Added Strength

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Mark the Ends: Clamp your workpieces to a surface and slide the square down along the end, marking the thickness of the workpiece along the ends of each piece. Clamping the workpiece down just makes it easier to mark when sliding the square down the end of each workpiece.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Mark Out the Waste: Now mark the waste you’ll be taking away on the end of each workpiece. When you cut the joints, you’ll be left with an “L” shape on the end of each piece.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Set the Blade Height: Set the blade height of your tablesaw to the line denoting the exact center of each workpiece (when standing on edge) and cut the shoulders of each half lap joint.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Cut the Waste Free: Now clamp a stop block that is perfectly square to the saw table, onto your miter gauge’s fence. This stop block will act as a fence to position your workpieces on end. You can but the workpiece against the fence, hold it in place, and cut the remaining waste free. Just be sure you orient the workpieces in such a way that when you cut them free, you’re not trapping the waste between the workpiece and the stop block/fence. You want the waste to be able to fall away to the side of the saw blade.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    What You'll End Up With: You should be left with four box sides with L-shaped joinery in each end. Almost ready for glue-up!

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Measure and Rip To Width: Now you’ll need to measure for a box bottom. The bottom for this simple box is the exact same size as the box’s interior (it will be glued into place later on). First I measure the exact width of the interior and then rip a piece to that dimension.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Crosscut to Final Length: Now hold the piece you just ripped in place, mark for length, and crosscut the piece.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Glue the Bottom: I began by applying glue to the two long edges of the bottom and resting it atop the bars of a couple of bar clamps. Then I set the long sides into place. Keep in mind that normal woodworking practices don't allow for gluing in a solid bottom like this. The reason is that the bottom will want to expand and contract with seasonal changes in humidity, and that could cause the box's joinery to fail. That said, this is a pretty small box, and expansion/contraction should be minimal.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Glue on the Sides: Now apply glue to the joinery and bring the two short sides into place. Tighten the bar clamps.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Clamp Away: Because of the nature of the joinery, this little box actually requires a lot of clamps. After tightening down my bar clamps along the short dimension, I had to apply pressure along the long dimension. Plus, I added one F-style clamp on each corner (horizontally) to ensure all the joinery was tight, with no gaps. I allowed the box to dry for two hours before taking it out of the clamps.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Plane the End Grain Flush: With the box out of the clamps, you're ready to smooth and flush all the sides. I began by using a block plane to flush up the end grain on the joinery. Some of the end grain on the corners of this box came out slightly proud of the box sides after glue-up. This block plane made short work of that!

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Break the Corners: Before using a smoothing plane to finish all the sides, it's a good idea to "break" the box's four corners just a little bit. Use your block plane held at a 45 angle and just take a few swipes on each corner. This will help to prevent blowout on the corners as you use your smoothing plane in the next step. Without breaking these corners, your smoothing plane would cause nasty blowout on the end grain portions of each corner's joinery.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Smoothing Plane Leaves a Flat Finish: With the edges of your box "broken," it's now safe to use a smoothing plane to impart a glass-smooth finish to your boxe's exterior. If you're unfamiliar with handplane technique, you could certainly use a sanding block, but a handplane like this makes the job go much more quickly and easily.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Block Plane Smoothes the Top Edges: Finally, I used my block plane to carefully smooth out the top edges, working the plane around the entire perimeter of the box. Come back next week, Thursday, June 6, 2013 for the second half of this project. We'll tackle pinning the joinery for some added reinforcement, craft a lid, and apply a finish!

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Drill and Glue: I purchased 1/4-in. dowels and used a 1/4-in. Forstner bit to drill holes through each joint. Consult the photos or plan for appropriate pin locations. You could also use smaller 1/8-in. dowels for a less obtrusive look. Once you've drilled your holes, use a small stick to apply a bit of glue inside the hole to be pegged. Don't bother applying glue to the actual dowels - it will just rub right off as you insert the dowel into the hole.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Insert the Dowels: Use a hammer to gently tap the dowels into place and allow them to dry for a bit before contining on to the next step.

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    Saw Off the Excess: Use a small crosscut saw to trim away most of the excess dowel. Just make sure you don't mare the side of your box with the saw!

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    A Chisel Flushes the Dowel: Use a sharp chisel to pair away the bit of dowel remaining after sawing.

    Rip to Widthclick to enlarge

    Final Product: With any luck, you'll be left with some joinery that functions as the focal point of your box.



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