Mystical orbs don't like to be naked outside in the cold. Today I'm going to teach you how to make a cork box which will provide a good cozy home.
Step 1: Obtain a Gargantuan Block of Cork
Or a minuscule block of cork. It's up to you. But you're going to need a block of cork, that's for sure.
Because I want to make a production run of these boxes I opted for a very large block- 4” x 24” x 36”. These are sold to be used by hunters for carving duck decoys (because they float and they're soft/easy to carve). In the end, the quantity discount offered for the large size block made it more than worth it for me.
I ordered mine here. Great customer service, and overall highly recommended.- The Duck Blind.
Make sure to take a selfie with your cork block. This is one of the most important steps in the entire process.
Step 2: Rough Cut --> Final Cut. (Make a Little Block From Your Giant Block)
I want to make a cube just under four inches when all is said and done. So I took a rough cut of slightly over four inches from the block on the band saw to allow for cleanup. I took this long section (now 4"x4"x24") to the sliding miter saw to do the final cuts of the cube shape.
I wanted to make sure every one of the faces was cut on the miter saw, even if only removing a 1/16". This is because the raw sides of the block are not quite as compressed or uniform as what's just below. It's also to make sure every face was square to every other face. I set up a stop on the saw at about 3 15/16" out with a scrap 4x4. In addition, I cut a 1/16" sliver of the 4x4 to use as a spacer from the stop- using this with the stop would be the second step. (see picture)
First step- cut at 3 15/16" to shave 3 faces.
Second step- add in the spacer to remove remaining 3 faces.
When done properly all faces should be shaved fresh and should be more or less square to one another. If they're not square the routing will be uneven and you'll have to do extra cleanup with a sander. But more importantly it just won't be square, you'll know it deep down in your bones, and it will haunt you into eternity.
Step 3: Route 'er Edges, Sand 'er Smooth, and Chop 'er in Half
Next I set up a 1" radius round-over bit on the router table and routed all edges evenly. Eazy Peazy, the cork cuts like butta' in the summa'. I leave the corners with the slight point that happens naturally. I like the look of it on this project, but of course you can sand these over if you like.
Next I used a palm sander to get the entire block smooth. The block is so small and lightweight that I just hold the it in my left hand and the sander in my right. The cork is soft- it doesn't take long until you have a beautiful finish all around. I used 220 and then 360 grit. The feel of this fine-sanded cork is really unusual, it feels almost like velvet.
Next I measure and mark center on the block and go back to the miter saw. In what is possibly the most critical and careful operation of the entire process, I cut it right in half. If the piece moves or is off center at all for this cut it will be very noticeable when the two sides come together later, so I take great care by setting up a stop block and moving slow and steady.
Step 4: Build a Jig for Drilling Out the Cavity
No silly, we're not going to the dentist! It's time to drill out hemispheric cavities which will embrace the mystical orb. I realized life would be many times easier if I built a jig for the drill press, rather than trying to clamp both pieces in exactly the same spot. This is especially true if you are making more than one, which I am. In addition, I would have to worry less about marring or marking the block.
I build mine out of scrap wood cut on the table saw. I made the sides slightly lower than the cube half is tall, so about 1.75". I built it just a hair wider than my cube so that it would fit snuggly without much wiggle room, about 1/16" larger in each direction. I left one face of the walls off so I could clamp it on later to compress the block in the jig, keeping everything rigid. A strip of wood is screwed across the bottom for the vice to grab on to.
Step 5: Form a Glass Drill Bit to Grind Out the Cavity. Then Fail.
My plan was to have a hemisphere recess that would perfectly encapsulate the like a glove. Because I have glass flame working abilities and can make a solid sphere fused perfectly on center to a glass shank, I thought why not make a glass "bit" the exact same size as my mystical orb? I could stick on some sticky-backed sand paper, chuck it up in the drill press, and grind out my hemisphere to the exact size I need! Seems perfectly natural, right? Ok, maybe not natural, but possibly effective and definitely fun, thus worth a try.
I measured the sandpaper, and made the glass just undersized so that when I added the sandpaper it would be the size of the orb. I made it on my torch no problem, and after annealing it over night it was time to test it out! I wanted to have as little material as I could to have to grind away, so I first drilled out a cavity a little smaller than the hole. Then it was time- I chucked up my glass bit, said a few Hail Mary's, and flicked the power switch.
Despite my shopmate's heckles, it worked! However the process wasn't perfect. For one, I had to go slow, with the shop vac at my side, and clear saw dust every few seconds. The other problem was that the adhesive on the sand paper, despite being the most durable I could find, did not like the intense heat + pressure it was receiving, and was continuously pealing off. This was really a pain, as I would have to remove the bit, clean it thoroughly with adhesive remover, cut new sandpaper strips, reapply and rechuck. Not fun to have to do over and over during a single operation. Despite the fact that the resulting hemispherical cavity I obtained was gorgeous, perfectly sized and smooth, I figured there had to be a better way. I needed a new tool.
Step 6: Build a Custom Spade Bit and Try, Try Again.
I decided it was time to get serious- I needed a tool guaranteed for repeatability and shelf life. I decided to build a custom spade bit with my 1" radius. Using the cut-off wheel on an angle grinder I removed a section from an old used saw blade- hardened tool steel. With the same grinder I cut the end off of a 1 1/2" spade bit, and then ground both of these pieces flat and roughly square on the disc sander. With a compass I drew my 1" radius on the section cut from the saw, and then welded the two pieces together as centered and square as possible. Back to the sander, I ground up to the line of my drawn radius. Next, I set up an angle on the bench grinder to grind in a relief angle on either side, overlapping in the middle. Without too much work I had myself a semi-legit looking cutting edge! I did this all by eye so the process was not perfect, but I figured worst case scenario it would teach me if I was on the right track, best case it might actually work! I also figured that it was in my favor that the cork is so soft.
The only next step was to try it out. So I chucked it up, clamped in a scrap piece of cork, and flicked the switch.
Kaboom! I was overjoyed to find that it cut like butter.
Step 7: Back to the Glass: a Final Shaping on the Drill Press
I was happy to find that my glass bit was not to be relegated to the garbage, or even worse, to take up space in the junk drawer for eternity. The cut from my tool-steel radius was great, but the shape was not perfect and the finish it left from those rough scrape passes was, well, pretty rough. It occurred I could take a final pass with my glass bit for clean up. I shouldn't have to worry about about failing adhesive as I was removing so little material this time. I tried it out- it worked like a charm!
The process. was. down.
Did a little dance and it was on to the next.
Step 8: Locate and Attach Hinges and Hasp
I searched locally for hinges and hasps, but after coming out unsatisfied I turned to the web. I ended up finding exactly what I was looking for on Etsy- ornate, high quality hardware in a multitude of styles. I ended up going with these Chinese butterfly style hasp and hinges, they suited my fancy just fine.
I was worried that because the cork is so soft it would not hold the tiny screws included with the hardware. I thought I might have to drill out larger holes and glue in dowels to screw into- not a terrible process, but a lot of extra work, especially to carefully hide behind the little hinges and hasp. I decided to run a test before solving a problem that didn't necessarily exist. I was delighted to find that the cork held the tiny screws surprisingly well. Despite it being soft, I think this is because it is not only fairly dense but also it's so spongey. The screw goes in, and the cork bounces right back to give it a big hug. So much love!
It was time to locate the hole placement. I measured to find center, set up the hardware and marked the screw positions. Instead of pre-drilling I used a tiny nail, narrower than the screws, carefully pressing it by hand through the surface on my marks. This worked really well, when I inserted the screws everything stayed aligned and tight.
Step 9: Fin.
And that is that! My mystical orb now has a cork box. The final result was a total success- it provided a home for a naked mystical orb, and it looks super fly.
High fives all around! Now it's time to listen to jazz. smoke cigars, and discuss philosophy. See you folks next time, don't be a stranger.