Monday, 9 September 2013

Box project ... ...

When ever I do anything wood work related our kids are always quite eager to lend a hand, doesn't matter what it is they like to help, as was the case with our recent foray into siege engine building.

So I decided to get the kids to make a box, and instead of them helping me I helped them, although I did kind of set the size of the box and methods used to build it, but this was mainly down to what wood I had available at the time, and because I wanted to show them a variety of techniques.

Here are the finished boxes -

Simply made, and functional.

Both boxes are made in the same way, but the kids decided they wanted slightly different colours, they are both made from lengths of tile batten fixed together with screws and wooden dowels, with a plywood base.

Admittedly I did make the grooves for the base myself with a router, but apart from that they did everything else, with a bit of help from dad, they even got to use my post drill and the sanding attachment for my lathe, which seemed to please them no end.

On to how we made the boxes, the first thing was to cut out two rectangle bits of plywood to make the bases (I used 5mm ply) if you decide to have a go at this then the sizes are up to you, but the kids boxes are roughly 6 inches (15 cm) by 7 inches (18 cm) to make the sides and the lid of the boxes I used tile batten.

To make the grooves that the base slides into I used a router with a bit the same size as the plywood (so 5mm in this case) this gives the base a nice tight fit, and with a bit of glue it makes it quit sturdy.

Making the grooves - 

Four grooves for the ends of each box (two each)

Close up - 


You can see that I haven't gone all the way to the lines I've marked, if I had you would be able to see the grooves on the outside of the box, and we don't want that.

Now onto the sides of the box - 

Straight (ish)

Because these parts make up the sides of each box you don't have to worry about them being seen as the end parts will cover the grooves when it's put together.

Here's how it fits together - 

The ends cover the grooves in each side.

Not a bad fit - 

Just needs screwing and gluing.

Onto the fixing, we used screws and glue on the first section of the box, and using the post drill the kids drilled the holes and counter sinks so that we could cover them with wooden pegs.

Fixing the sides together - 

Clamps would have made things easier.

Once all the screws were in we then filled the holes with wooden pegs to hide where the screws are, as the next picture shows we just glued a bit of dowel in each hole, we weren't to careful when we cut the dowel because the whole thing was going to be sanded anyway, and any bits that weren't flush are easily sanded to smooth them off.

Yep, clamps are definitely better.

Once that was done we had something that looked like a box, all be it a very shallow one, so to increase the depth we used dowel joints to add more lengths of wood to each side, we could have just glued the wood together, but adding a few dowels adds strength, and it teaches the kids how to join two bits of wood together, or at least one of a few ways in which you can join wood, I actually used this method to make our fire surround, which I made from floor boards and a couple of bits of 3x2 timber.

Making dowel joints is easy, it's just a case of making matching holes in the bits of wood you want to join, then using pegs to hold it together.
You can buy kits in most diy type shops that help with this, they come in various sizes, and they cost around £5, I have several in different sizes, and I've used them to make fire surrounds, gates and to join wood together to make sheets for various building projects.

Here's one of my dowel jointing kits - 

Simple to use and works.

The kits consists of a drill bit, a drill stop (the bit on the drill) and collars, these help to get the holes in the right place, the drill stop allows you set the depth you drill to, if you have a post drill you can set the depth on the drill itself, a post drill also comes in handy for keeping everything level and straight, but you can do it by hand, there are numerous systems that are easy to use as well, a quick search for dowel jointing will yield lots of possibilities, but to be honest I prefer doing things this way, sometimes the simplest way is the best.

Okay so next we set about joining bits of wood together with dowels, this is just a case of drilling two holes in each piece of wood (for longer lengths use more holes) I used an 8mm drill bit, and 8mm dowel for the pegs.

First lot of holes drilled - 

A few bits of dowel already prepared.

Next we use the collars, these go in each hole you drill - 

The points mark where you need to drill in the other bit of wood.

Once the collars are in the holes you just need to line up the other piece of wood and push down on it, so that the collar points mark the wood, then you can go ahead and drill the next lot of holes.

And as long as you're careful everything should line up - 

Looks about right to me.

To fix it together spread some glue along the wood and in the holes the dowels go into and tap it together with a mallet, you can then add some clamps to make sure it stays together until the glue dries.

It's best to use a wooden mallet, if you don't have one then use a scrap bit of wood, place the scrap piece on the wood and then tap it with a hammer, this way you won't damage the wood, just the scrap bit.

Fixing the sides together, couple of good taps with a mallet should do it - 

I know the shed is a mess.

After we'd added the sides we then fixed them at each end with screws like we did with the first section of the box, and again we used dowels to fill the screw holes.

To make the lid we measured and cut enough lengths of wood to cover the box, as it turns out this meant each lid needed four lengths of wood, we fixed these together by cutting another two bits of wood and laying them over the four strips and again we fixed them all down with screws and glue, the cross pieces also serves as a way of keeping the lid on the box.

The lid - 

Can't get much easier.

Box and lid done, just needs sanding and painting - 

Bit rough round the edges, sanding will take care of that though.

All sanded, ready for staining or painting - 

One rustic looking box.

After much deliberation the kids decided to use the vinegar and steel wool wood stain we made for staining the bathroom furniture I made recently, it's easy and safe for kids to use, best do the staining away from any other wood as it will stain that as well.

 Just apply the stain with a brush - 

A spot of staining on a sunny day.

You can also paint the boxes, or just leave them plain, although a coat of wax might be an idea to protect the wood.

Here's what the boxes looked like with one stained and one plain - 

They look good either way.

My daughter decided to stain hers and then use a clear wax on it, so hers is a little lighter than my sons, he decided to use some of my restoration wax on his box, the wax has given it an old look, and because we didn't go too mad with sanding both boxes actually look old, like they've been around a bit.

Applying some wax, again best to cover any surfaces - 

Don't worry the wax is safe for kids to use, gloves might be an idea though.

And there you have it, two hand made wooden storage boxes, the kids are very pleased with them, all in all I think they enjoyed making something for themselves, they are eager to make other things, which is good I was hoping they would enjoy the whole experience, and if nothing else it's a good way to build practical skills, which I still think are important, even in today's technology driven world.

The boxes again - 

Antiques of the future ? well maybe not.

Thanks for reading.


  1. They're really fab, a big well done to them! :)

    1. Thanks, the kids seemed to enjoy making them, although it may have been more about being able to use dads power tools.

  2. Those are fabulous. I love the unstained one. My lot would fill those with treasure in no time. You should sell them!