By Rob Johnstone
Small boxes make great gifts and represent a low-cost way to hone your woodworking skills, but where do you find that nice thin stock that keeps the proportions of a small box looking right? Well, it might be right in your shop, hiding in your scrap lumber bin. If you've got a band saw, you can resaw 3/4" material down the middle to make the perfect sides and ends for small boxes.
In our last installment I demonstrated my technique for making lids (and bottoms) for such boxes. This time around, I'll show you how to create the sides and ends. Next time (stay tuned!), we'll bring the pieces together and end up with a stable little box.
Get started by selecting a piece of scrap that's a full 3/4" thick and long enough for one side and one end. I like to look for nice grain on these pieces because, if you're careful, you can show continuous grain patterns around two corners and book-matches around the other two corners. Once you've selected your stock, head to the worktable and spend time on the layout, being sure to clearly mark all your pieces (Photo 1). It's important that the layout lines for the front and end on one side of the board are reversed on the other side. After resawing, the grain on one side will wrap around a corner, as will the grain on the other side. The other two corners will resemble book-matches, since the grain is essentially the same, but from opposite sides of the board.
With everything laid out, it's time to move to the band saw (Photo 2). I used my T-handle magnetic square and Rockler Resaw Guide to keep my cut tracking the centerline, but a shop-made single-point fence will also do the trick. The "point" of a point fence is that you can compensate for blade drift by steering the wood as you feed it through the blade. If the blade starts to move off of the centerline, you can turn the wood ever so slightly, using the fence as a pivot point, to get back on track. You simply can't make that kind of adjustment with a long, flat fence.
Once you've resawn your board in two, I suggest moving to the planer for a quick pass to clean up the resawn faces. After that, step over to the table saw and cut a shallow 1/4" groove about 1/4" in from both long edges of each workpiece. These will house your top and bottom (I'll cover that process next time around). Now, set the blade to cut the 45-degree miters to form each of your pieces, staying as tight to your layout lines as possible. Double-check the orientation of your parts as you test-fit each corner to make sure the grain matches (Photo 3). My advice is to always use some scrap wood to test your blade setting before cutting miters on your resawn stock.
You're just about ready to glue up a six-sided box, but it's always good to complete one final test-fitting. I used a Mini Clamp-it™ and web clamp (top photo) to double-check the corners. Next time around, I'll bring my top and bottom back into play, complete the glue-up and finalize our little gift box!