Our old plastic napkin holder from the 60's is nearing the end of it's life. DIY time!
I had already setup my routing jig for 1/4" box joints for another project, so I was already part way done with this one. I like to make things with no nails or screws so a BOX with box joints is ideal. Most napkin holders hold the napkins semi tight as they are used, so I thought about various systems to do that, springs, etc. I decided that I would use the oldest system, gravity. A simple 1/4" board with the bottom edge mitered would do the trick, minimum force, and minimum friction when removing a napkin. Since my dining table was a darker wood than what I usually work with, I also decided to add a walnut top edge for accent.
Step 1: Cutting & Routing
Napkins come in all sizes so take into account what you normally use. The ones we use are 6 1/2" square more or less. Since I was using 1/2" solid oak material(7/16 actual) I cut the front and back pieces 5" high and 7 5/8" long. That gives me 6 3/4" inside. I cut the sides 5" high and 3" wide, but that was arbitary, as was the height somewhat as log as you stay to the nearest 1/4".
Since all four pieces for the box were the same shape, they could all be routed with the same jig setup, just flipped front to back.
After the box joints were routed, I used the same 1/4" bit in my shaper to cut a 3/16" deep dado in all four pieces to hold the bottom of the box. I setup blocks with clamps on each end of my shaper fence to eliminate the possiblity of going to far since the dado never gets to the end any of the pieces. I waited until this was done so I knew the exact size to cut the bottom.
The bottom is made of 1/4 oak, surface planed just enough thinner to fit the dado without forcing it. Also rounding the corners of the bottom slightly makes the fit easier since the dado ends are rounded.
I also cut some 1/4" x 7/16" walnut pieces for the top accent, aligning them to mirror the box joints.
Step 2: Assembly
When I assemble anything with a finished interior, I finish the inside surfaces before assembly. This is especially true with small projects using box and dovetail joints. I actually use the finishes as my box joint "glue" so I don't have the problem of interior corners seeping glue and having to redo the insides. Box joints fit together so tightly if you run your router correctly, it will never come apart. I apply finish with a brush to all of the inside joint surfaces and immediately assemble using a rubber hammer, making sure all corners stay square.
After the joints have set overnight, I sanded the top edge and glued and clamped the walnut strips, lining the inside edges up in case they were marginally bigger than the box.
Now it was time to sand the outside surfaces and round the box joint edges(wife's preference) and finish. By the way, I'm lazy and use the OneStep finishes.
Step 3: Push Board
As a napkin holder gets near empty there is always a problem with them falling over. I thought the simplest solution was a single unattached board standing on a point that will always fall against the napkins. I cut a piece of 1/4" solid oak 6 1/2" x 4" and beveled one long edge. I finished it to match the box. To work it needs to have the point of the bevel against the side of the box at the botom.
I am sure there are professional woodworkers out there that will take exception to my methods, but bottom line, I'm still having fun. If this holder lasts as long as our old dime store one, it will see me through :)