Step 7: Making the Handhold Template

If you want quick and dirty handholds and you've got a decent size hole saw (maybe 2 1/2" or bigger) you can just use that.  If you're just going to cut them out with a jigsaw, then making a quick marking template out of cardboard is probably the way to go.  I used mine not only for drawing the outline, but also as a template for routing, so I had to spend a little extra time making it.  If you're not planning on routing, then you can skip this whole step.

I started with a piece of 1/4" MDF I had laying around and cut it big enough to hold one of the pieces, along with extra room on either side.  I raised it up off my table with more scrap pieces so the heads of my larger clamps would fit on under the edge.

I put one of my cut pieces down, aligning the bottom edge with the edge of the MDF and held it in place with a couple of spring clamps.  Then I took a couple of pieces of scrap and butted them against the outer edges.  (These were leftovers from each strip after I'd cut the 6 side pieces out.  Just a few inches wide, but perfect for this.)  I clamped each of those down tightly.

Then I flipped the entire thing up so I could get at the back side and put in maybe half a dozen 3/4" screws to hold each piece.  I countersunk all these since the underside of the template would be riding on my router table and I didn't want any protruding screw heads.

That done, I turned to the layout of the handhold cutout.  I scribed a line across the tops of the pieces and measured the gap.  Remember that the ultimate width of each side of the box will be the width of the side pieces plus the thickness of the side it butts against.  So when you measure for your center line, make sure you shift it half that width (or 3/8") to one side. 

I wrote a note on my template regarding where to orient the black mark I'd made earlier.  If one side got put in upside down it wouldn't be the end of the world, but the handhold on the resulting side would be slightly off center, and since I'm anal retentive it would cheese me off. 

I knew I would be cutting the rounded portions out of the template with my hole saw so I worked out where I wanted the centers and marked them both.  I used my drill press to cut them both, then removed the bulk of the waste with my jigsaw.

Next I found a wood scrap with as straight an edge as I could and aligned it with the edges of the circles, securing it with spring clamps.  I flipped the board over so the underside was facing up, and then grabbed my router.  I used a flush cut bit with a top-mounted bearing and cleaned up one side of the handhold.  The bearing rides against the straight piece of scrap and makes a clean, straight line on the template.  Even using a jigsaw riding on a straight edge isn't quite as good as doing it this way.

I got another piece of scrap and did the same thing for the other edge, leaving me with a nice, smooth handhold cutout.

I added a couple more things.  I screwed a piece of scrap along the top edge just to help keep the side pieces in place.  (Notice that piece of scrap? I salvaged it from the stop block!)  Based on my earlier experiences, I spaced it with a couple small washers to make sure the pieces didn't get stuck.

Lastly, I had this face mounted toggle clamp sitting around so I threw it on for good measure.