Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Better Box Alternative

I have built a lot of wooden boxes over the years for various things and their size usually dictates their materials. If they are small enough, I can use solid wood of various types present in my local big box store. If they are large however, I'm usually constrained to oak or birch because that is what types the cabinet grade plywood come in. If I want a larger box out of walnut or in this case mahogany, I'm out of luck. However, I recently came across an article in a magazine about making a humidor using veneer construction that would allow me to have some middle ground.

What you see above is the box I built using solid mahogany for all the side pieces and some 1/2 plywood for the top (seen in the photo) and the bottom. To the left is a piece of mahogany veneer which I got online a lot cheaper than it would have been to purchase solid mahogany. I've never used veneer so I had to read up on how best to attach it or what kinds it buys since it comes in everything from self stick to just a sheet of thin wood which is what I bought.

I just took regular wood glue and applied a thin coat to both the top of the box and the bottom side of the sheet of veneer. Once it was applied evenly, I let it set up about 30 minutes until it was almost dry to the touch. This allows me to flip over the veneer and position it easily where I wanted to go. Once I had it positioned, I took a hot iron and using a paper sack to prevent any glue from ruining my wife's good iron, I applied heat to the veneer. The heat helps for the adhesion between the veneer and the top of the plywood and then cure it to form a tight bond. After the veneer had bonded and all the air bubbles worked out, I let it set up and then trimmed the overhanging edges with a router and flush cut bit.

I was pleased with my veneer job but unfortunately, I had a problem not related to my new found method of applying it. While using the router, my bit which has a bearing that rides against the wood to keep the bit flush had the bearing seize up. I was almost all the way around before I noticed and because the bearing was now spinning at high speeds instead of rolling gently, it left a scorched black mark clear around my new box. I could sand most of it out but in every corner it actually burnt out the wood where it was thin leaving indentations. It is hard to explain and I don't have a picture but I will take one later.

I am planning to put thin inset banding around all the edges to define the box and give it some character as well as hide the edge of the veneer and I think I can modify it to make it wide enough to cover up my burn marks. I'll have to play around with it a bit and see how it looks. If not, I'll have to putty the indentations left and sand it but those are always visible since they have no wood grain in putty. I also need to invest in better quality router bits so that this doesn't happen again.

Once I get the box all prettied up on the outside, my plan is to cut the lid from the rest of it on the tablesaw, pretty up the inside and install hardware and finish to it. More on all of that in future posts as time allows. I'm mostly going to use this project as a time filler when I'm not working on more pressing projects.


Kelly said...

Most of this post goes over my head since I'm not a woodworker (nor is my husband), but I can certainly admire your handiwork. I look forward to seeing the completed box, inside and out.

Vince said...

I did a Marquetry course as a teen. This was in the days long before a kid could afford power tools and so had to cut and fix the slivers of wood. I remember the horror of that winter to this day.
My best to you on this one.

Ed said...

Kelly - I love woodworking and wish I had more time to spend to pursue it.

Vince - Marquetry is something I would like to explore more but haven't had the right project. It certainly is tedious work but if one has the time and enjoys doing it, it can be really beautiful.