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This is a very simple project that creates a quality product that works well, it makes a great school project or gift idea.

Learning Objective
By constructing a pencil box, KS3  (11 year old) students will learn how to use a selection of hand tools and machinery (Steel rule, Tenon saw, Hammer,  Plane, Disk Sander, Pillar Drill) to produce a useful quality product. They will learn and apply knowledge to make wood joints (lap & butt), generate creative ideas, work as a team (peer support and tidying up), and how to sketch in 3D. By creating the box students are able to learn in a visual and practical context, this is significant as these are classed as high order thinking skills in Blooms taxonomy


Please see the attached file for work sheets.

If you have any questions please add them to the comments section at the end.....Jonny :)

Step 1: Materials

You need to prepare the materials needed

Pine: 590 x 45 x 9mm (the channel is 5mm from the top x 3mm wide x 3mm deep, cut with router)

Plywood Base: 218 x 87 x 3mm

Plywood Lid: 210 x 75 x 3mm

You can substitute any of these materials or sizes to make your own box ideas. The dimensions above are what I use and I ask our technician to pre cut a class set + 1 for the teacher ;) 

Step 2: Measuring and Marking Out

Resources; Pre-cut pine strips, dimensions worksheet
Tools; Pencil / Steel Rule / Try Square

Remember H&S is super important in the school workshop, please ensure your students are adequately briefed on tools, machinery and workshop behaviour. As we use this for year 7 (11 year old kids) we have to carefully explain how to use a steel rule and millimetres, if you don’t, many students will get the measurements wrong. Use a steel rule to mark the measurements according to the dimensions worksheet (see attached), they must be marked on the side with the channel cut out. Then use the try square to create the right angle lines across the work piece.

Its worth having a pre-marked out length of pine so the students can check theirs and self assess their accuracy.

Step 3: Cutting Out

Tools; Bench hook / Tenon saw
Machines; Disk Sander

Use a bench hook to support the work piece and a tenon saw to cut out the two short sections, do not cut out the larger pieces, ensure the blade is in between the two parallel lines you have marked out. You should end up with what you can see in the images. Tell the students to cut slowly, fast cutting just jams the blade into the wood.

Use a disc sander to neaten up the ends of the two small pieces you just cut out, remove material up to the line you marked on the wood. Remember H&S goggles, hair tied, extractor, and proper instruction before use.

Step 4: Marking Out the Lap Joint

Tools: Steel Rule / Try Square 

Photo 1 & 2:Use a steel rule and try square on the uncut sections to measure and mark out a line in between the remaining lines, see the photo

Photo 3 & 4: Cut the line you have just drawn, leaving the two lines you measured and marked at the beginning as per the photo below.

Step 5: Cutting the Lap Joint

Tools; Bench Hook / Tenon Saw

This is a tricky section, you need to cut the two remaining lines but only half way through the wood. Its important to keep the saw horizontal or the lap joint will have gaps.

Step 6: Cutting the Lap Joint

Tools; Chisel / Mallet / Plane / Flat File / Wood Vice

This introduces two new tools and requires the students to use them accurately. Put one of the sides in a wood vice and draw a line centred across the top of the work piece. Carefully position the chisel on the line with the bevelled edge facing you. Now tap lightly with a mallet, then move the chisel across and remove the next bit until the rebate is totally exposed.

Repeat the process so the other side is also chiselled out, use a flat file to remove any small bumps left on the wood....remember to keep it level!

Step 7:

Materials;  Smallest part (68mm length)
Tools; Plane
Machines; Disc Sander

On the smallest of the two ends, pencil a  line on the bottom edge of the channel, this show where to remove material up to. Put the work piece in a wood vice, use a plane to shave the wood down to the line. The images show that if you plane from one side only you get a wonky cut.....alternate your cut from one side and the other, this keeps the cutting level. When you get close to the line, stop and finish the last 1mm on a disc sander.

Step 8: Assembling the Frame

Materials;  Ply wood base, all four sides
Tools; Pin hammer / Pins / PVA glue / Woodwork vice / Abrasive Paper

This is a great challenge and aims to increase the students hand eye co-ordination and dexterity.  Sand what will become the inside surfaces (all surfaces with a channel cut in), this is done now as its almost impossible to do this properly when assembled. Then pre-nail one of the long sides with two 15mm pins, the nails need to go over the rebate you cut earlier (note: you must ensure the nails are not going to emerge in the channel! This will block the lid)

Now use the 76mm end and ensure the channels are aligned, the end sits inside the rebate you cut and pre-nailed.

Step 9: Assembling the Frame

Keeping the channels aligned put the smaller of the two pieces into a wood vice and use PVA wood glue on the joint. Fit the pieces together ensuring there are no gaps in the joint then hammer the nails in.

Step 10: Assembling the Frame

Remove the newly joined pieces from the vice an put them to one side, now take the remaining two pieces and align the ‘plained’ component and align it on the end with no rebate. You must ensure the top edge of the small side is aligned with the bottom of the channel (note: if the channel is blocked the lid will not fit)

Step 11: Assembling the Frame

As before pre-nail the larger section,  secure the smaller piece in the wood vice, add PVA glue then hammer together.

Step 12: Assembling the Frame

You will have two ‘L’ shapes, add PVA to both joints then nail both corners together one at a time.

Step 13: Fitting the Base

Materials;  Ply wood lid
Tools; Plane / Sanding board

Position the frame on top of the base then draw around the inside edge with a pencil. This shows the thickness of the frame edges and helps avoid misalignment of the pins. Equally space six pins around the base (see photo) I measure 60mm in from the ends on the long side and centre the one on the short side.

Step 14: Fitting the Base

Pre-nail the base and position it on the bottom of the frame (side without the channels) when the base is covering all of the frame pin it in place. There is no need to use PVA on the base but you can if you wish.

Step 15: Fitting the Lid

Materials;  Plywood lid
Tools; Plane / Sanding board 

Take the lid and see if it will slide into the runners, if not you have one of two problems. Either the access to the runners is blocked by wood, solve this with a very small file. If the lid is too wide then it not fit, you must not force the lid into place or you will split the joints and get the lid stuck in the box!  If the lid requires more than 1mm to be removed i would recommend using a plane if 1mm or less use a sanding board.

Step 16: Drilling a Hole in the Lid

Tools; Forster bit
Machines; Pillar Drill

The lid needs a hole for opening, using a pillar drill and a forstner bit (you can also use a hole saw or flat bit) Measure and mark the hole position, I go for the centre and 30mm in from the edge. You must have a solid piece of wood underneath the lid to prevent splitting and of course drilling the machine table. H&S rules say that all work on a pillar drill must be secured in a clamp, vice of hand vice...please follow these rules.

Step 17: Sanding the Sides

Tools; Plane / Sanding board / Plane
Machine Disk sander or belt sander

The base, lid and joints will stick out, this can be made flush.

Sand the long sides on a sanding board

The ends will be very untidy, use a disk sander to level and make flush, ensure the lid is fitted when doing this so it is also flush with the end.

Step 18: Varnishing

Tools; Polyurethane Varnish / Paint Brush

The wood work is now finished, after sanding varnish the sides to protect the pencil box from grubby hands. Polyurethane varnish is ideal for the classroom as it has no fumes and the brushes can be cleaned in warm water. You must remove the lid and prevent varnish from getting into the channels. Its worth explaining to the students about using a brush properly to avoid streaks and drips.

Step 19: Creative Designing

Resources; Inspiration sheets / inspiration page / colour pencils

The students can use a selection of sources for inspiration e.g. flowers, architecture, nature, patterns etc... Using the design inspiration page, they start by focusing on one specific image or part of an image, then sketch the basic lines that make up that image. By using the phrase “Rearrange, Repeat, Rotate” create a design idea as per the example shown then repeat the process 3 more times. They use these shapes to create four lid designs, the designs need to be annotated to explain what inspired the idea, why they like or dislike the idea, and what could be done to improve the design. You will notice that the colours are blended, this adds a quality and depth of colour to design work.

I get the students to present their work in 3D, you have to structure this by breaking down the activity into small chunks e.g. draw a few lines of the 3D sketch up on the whiteboard, get the students to copy then add a few more. After they have finished their sketch i get the kids to annotate their work with info on the wood joints, materials and tools.

Step 20: Machining the Lid

Resources: 2D Design CAD software
Machines: CNC Router

Using your schools 2D design software, set the work area to the size of the lid. Using the various design tools create the lid design. Once finished transfer it to the CNC router and cut  the design into the lid. It is coloured in the same way as the designs on paper.

Step 21: Colouring the Lid

Resources; Colour Pencils

You can use ordinary colouring pencils on the wood, use the same blending techniques as used on the design ideas. Once you have added the colour use a black colouring pencil to follow the channels cut by the CNC router.

Step 22: Enjoy

Put the lid back on the box and enjoy :) 

Step 23: Students Work

<p>What a great project! <br>May I ask how long / over how many lessons (hours) such a project takes usually?<br>Thanks very much for all the love and effort that must have gone into these instructions. </p>
This looks like a great project for the classroom and it is very well planned out. I'm inspired to get some of my own classwork projects posted now!<br>
Thanks. I look foreward to seeing your projects :)
These are awesome. Great instructions, too.
Hay, thanks again :) out of all the year groups and all the projects I teach, including my beloved engineering gcse...... This simple box is by far my favourite to teach. Simple, acheivable by all (including students with severe special needs or disabilities), and the end result is something to take home and be proud of.

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Bio: I love making stuff, I love Instructables, I love tools, I love machines, and I love materials. But most of all I love Arnie.
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