Introduction: Bandsaw Box Basics
Bandsaw boxes are not new, but they are not very common in some regions. While bandsaw boxes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, I’m writing this Instructable for a box made from a section of log that is about 10 inches tall and about 6-8 inches in diameter. I’m using red cedar for this box, but I’ve made them out of oak, mesquite, pecan, and pine. The main difference in these species is the effort required to make the various cuts.
Step 1: Getting Started
Your list of supplies needed for producing bandsaw boxes is pretty simple:
• Section of a log
• Sandpaper (various grits starting at 80 and working up to 120 or more – depending upon the type of finish you intend to apply to the wood)
• Finish material. Depending upon the wood and the look I want to achieve I’ll use Danish Oil (neutral) or diluted polyurethane varnish.
The list of tools you will need is also pretty short:
• Bandsaw capable of cutting your log section from any angle. I use a 14” bandsaw with a 6” riser block. This allows me to slice wood that is up to 12” thick.
• Two bandsaw blades, one wide and one narrow. I typically use a 5/8” blade for the rough slicing of slabs and a 1/8” or 3/16” blade for cutting the curves.
• A sander (I use a 5” random orbital palm sander)
• A Dremel tool with a sanding drum attachment.
• A variety of clamps for the re-assembly process.
Because my customer for this box wanted only cedar heartwood, I had to split off the sapwood. If you look at the first photos you will see the heartwood of this log is a distinctive red color. The sapwood is white. Because this is cedar, the wood splits easily. I use a 1 inch wide chisel and a mallet to split the sapwood from the log.
The sapwood and bark are saved for fire starters. Yes, I feed my wood stove my scraps. The nice thing about working with wood is any mistake can feed the stove and nobody has to know how badly I messed up my first (or second) attempt.
Once the sapwood is mostly removed I’m ready to lay out the cuts I intend to make.
Step 2: Slicing Off the Back
Using a fairly wide bandsaw blade, slice off the back of the log section. I used a 5/8" wide blade because it was the widest I had on hand. I normally use a 3/4" wide blade. The photo shows one of the logs I’m working with marked for the saw. I use the widest bandsaw blade I have for this cut. The wider the blade, the straighter the resulting cut. Make sure you are using a sharp blade in your saw. A dull blade tends to either burn your wood or be deflected and result in a curved piece.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Box
Change to a narrow bandsaw blade and adjust your saw. You will set the body of your log on the newly formed flat section and mark out where the core is going to be removed. When marking the core you must ensure that you leave a wall thickness of at least ½” all the way around. If you aren’t sure about the wall thickness, look at the top and bottom of the body of your log. The perimeter of the flat area touching the table will be the outside of the box. A vertical line drawn to the rounded top will show you the boundaries you need to be constrained by. Draw your core section within those boundaries, leaving ½” between the core and the boundary.
I almost always enter the cut from what will become the bottom of the box. Whether you turn to the right or left will depend upon your personal preference and how your blade cuts. Only experience will tell you the best way to make this cut. One note, make certain your blade is at right angles to your bandsaw table. If your blade is tipped to an angle greater or less than 90 degrees, you will have difficulty removing the core from your log. You will also have a LOT more sanding to do in order to fit the core back into the log later.
Step 4: Slicing and Dicing the Box
Once the core is removed you need to make three marks on it. You will need to mark 2 slab cuts from the curved front of the core and one slab cut from the rear of the core. The outermost slab taken from the rounded front of the core will later become both the drawer pull and the frame surrounding the drawer pull. The second slab taken from the front of the core will become the wall of the storage space you will create later. The rear slab will become the back of the storage area.
Cut the two front slabs off the core and set them aside. DO NOT cut the rear slab at this time.
Step 5: Add a Secret Drawer
For a “secret” drawer in the back of the box you will need to lay the core down on its front side. Draw the area you want to use for your secret drawer. Adjust your bandsaw and remove this drawer cutout.
Step 6: Slicing the Drawer
The “secret” drawer is created by taking a slice off the front and rear of the cutout removed from the bottom of the core. These slices are typically ¼” up to ½” thick. The front of the drawer should be thick enough to carve a drawer pull into the wood later.
The hollow area of the drawer is created by turning the remaining piece of the cutout up on end and cutting it into a U shape. Look at the photo to see the ends and the center section that has been sliced. Now you can glue the front and back slices onto the U shape you’ve created and you have a small drawer.
Step 8: Back of the Box
Now take the back slab off the core. Set this aside with the two front slices created in Step 3.
Step 9: Making the Tray
In this step we need to mark what is left of the core for the removable tray and the main storage void. I failed to take a photo of this step, but I’ve attached a drawing of what was done. The tray area will need to be removed first. Cut the tray blank off and set it aside. The storage void is then removed and discarded (fed to the fire).
Step 10: Tray Time
On the tray blank we need to mark what will become the front and back of the tray. These slabs are typically about ¼” thick. Once they are marked, cut them off at the bandsaw.
Lay what is left of the tray cutout down flat and mark the two pockets, leaving a center section that will be used to lift the tray off the core later. If you have a very narrow bandsaw blade you can then cut these pocket areas out of the tray. If you don’t have a bandsaw blade that will make tight enough turns to cut the bottoms of the pockets you can use a large drill bit and drill the bottoms of the pockets out and then use the bandsaw to cut down to the holes you drilled. I’ve attached photos of both methods
Step 12: Framing the Front
On the front slice of the core – this is the rounded portion that is the outer surface of your log – cut out a frame. From the waste piece that was the center of this front slice you will cut your drawer pull. On the boxes I created while making this Instructable I had one pull as a five pointed star and the other was a horse head. Your pull design can be as complex or as simple as you desire (or as your skill allows).
Step 13: Glue Time - Assembling Your Box
You have now done all the cutting required. Now you will start the re-assembly process of putting the bandsaw box together. You may want to use your Dremel to sand the insides of the drawer and tray pocket areas. You may also want to sand the inside of the front frame. I’ll leave this up to you to sand it as much or as little as you want. I’ve also known some folks to line the storage areas with felt. That is a personal choice. Either way, do the interior sanding before you start the glue assembly process.
Start by gluing the front and back onto the tray you just created.
Glue the back and inner slices back onto the core. Make sure you align these pieces properly and have the opening in the bottom of the core line up with the cutout in the back slice. The opening should be in the back.
Step 15: Glue the Main Body of the Box
Glue the main body of the box (the log section) together at the bottom where you made the cut that removed the core. Clamp it tight to close any gaps. Also glue the back slice onto the log.
Step 16: The Frame, the Frame...
Glue the frame onto the front of the core and glue the draw pull in place.
Step 17: Sanding Time!
Once all the glue has dried you start sanding. Due to the movement of the wood you may find that your tray or drawers will no longer fit into the cutouts they came from. You will have to sand these areas until they fit together again. Try not to sand so much that there are large gaps, but once assembled the gap surrounding the removable portions should be about 1/16”.
If you find that there are gaps along your glue lines that detract from the look of the piece, you have a few options for making this look better. The simplest (but not necessarily the best) way of filling the cracks is to squirt just a little white glue on top of the crack or void and then push sawdust onto the area and sand it smooth. Another way is to use commercial wood filler to fill the cracks and voids. The problem I have with commercial filler is matching the color of the original wood. I tend to use the glue and sawdust method.
Step 18: Finishing Up
Using a permanent marker (I use a fine point Sharpie) you should sign and date the bottom of your creation. Now you need to decide if you want to leave this as raw wood or put some sort of finish on it. I tend to use a Danish Oil finish for several reasons. First is it is simple to apply. Second is I don’t have to be in a totally dust free environment to use it. Third is it is easily repaired. Other folks may use spray lacquer, shellac, or varnish and that is fine. My motto is to use what you are comfortable with or what you have on hand.
On my boxes I will also use a paste floor wax on everything to give a soft luster to the wood. The wax also helps the various pieces slide in and out better.
Good luck on your own bandsaw boxes. These boxes can be quite complex, but with the simple approach shown here you should be able to create your own masterpiece.