Mom's Box

Introduction: Mom's Box

My mother passed last year and I wanted to do something special in remembrance of her. I made this box from AAAA figure curly maple and used a veneer of waterfall bubinga on the top and around the base. There are also fake splines of ebony to tie the black stain on the lid and the side of the base.

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Step 1: Front View

This is a little better view of the front. The finish on this is a golden pecan stain with a satin urethane over the top. The pecan stain added a little warmth and helped to bring out the figure in the maple as well as even out the ebony. The ebony was a little inconsistent so I wanted to make it work a little better.


Step 2: Google Sketchup of the Box

I did the planning in Sketchup so I could try out the different options in structure and size. Most of the sizing is based on the Golden Ratio and I wanted to keep this close, but not exactly since the precision I would look for would be darn near impossible. The other file is the cutting diagram that i used to break up the piece of wood for the box. I used AAAA figure curly maple for the box and you may have to look for a wood distributor for musical instruments for similar quality. Also, be ready to spend a penny for the wood, it won't be cheap. The waterfall bubinga on the top is amazing. It is even more iridescent in real life than in the picture.

Step 3: How to Use the Jig

To use the jig, attach the work piece to the jig with either double-sided tape or a clamp, whichever will keep your fingers out of harms way. The dimensions of the arch at the bottom of the bridge should be adjusted to fit your rip fence. For the base pieces, I used double-stick tape to attach the pieces to jig before I did the cut. The blade is tilted at a 45% angle and since the jig indexes on the rip fence, the angles are exact. I wish I had step by steps on how this looked in progress, but originally, I had not planned to do this Instructable.

Step 4: The Top

I cut the top to rough size (about .25 of an inch over in both length and width) and set up to laminate the bubinga on the top. One thing to note, bubinga is relatively porous so take extra precautions when trying to laminate with it or you may end up with a very thick piece of expensive plywood. I don't have veneering press, but since the maple was thick and I had some plywood and a 2x4 and some parchment paper. I matched the grain on 2 pieces of the veneer and secured it together with veneering tape. Little note on that. The stuff is fragile and sticky so before you start securing the veneer with it, use some blue tape to keep the veneer aligned while you put the tape on the other side. Most people will use the veneer tape on the front and after the laminate drys, they sand off the tape. I left the tape on the bottom because I was concerned about sanding through the thin veneer.

Once you have applied an even coat of glue (I used cold hide glue for the extra positioning time), I put the parchment paper over the veneer and the plywood over the parchment. Then I turned the whole thing upside down and using the 2x4 and 2 "C" clamps, I applied pressure to the laminate and let it sit over night. I used parchment paper, by the way, instead of wax paper because it is stronger and I didn't want to introduce any wax into this process.

Step 5: The Sides

I made a mistake when I was doing this which made me have to redo it this. I cut the pieces to size and before I did the mitering for the corners, I used my Dremel mototool in a router stand with a 1/8 inch carbide bit to carve the slots for the false splines. When I chucked up the bit, I had it too far out in the chuck and so when I put the bit into the wood, the shaft flexed and I ended up with little divots in the sides of the slots. I was able to fix it with a chisel and some improvised wood putty (glue and sawdust). If I were going to do it again, I would simply have made the splines real and foregone the whole issue.

After fixing the pseudo-splines, I cut the miters on the corners using the jig and I glued the sides of the box together with the hide glue and a band clamp. To make sure the corners were square, I measured the diagonals and poked it until they were equal.

If I were to do this again, I would probably splurge and buy one of the locking miter router bits to do this. I have seen the corners those bits make and, while mine are as good, it would have been easier to use engineering rather than finesse to get the corners right.

Step 6: The Base- Part One

I had strips of the original board left over that I used for the base. I laminated the bubinga on the strips the same way as I did with the top, but I used 2 2x4's as the cauls.

After the veneer had dried, I set my table saw fence to a little less than half the width of the strip. Using my general purpose blade (it has a flat bottom to the kerf) I ran 2 cuts 1/4 of an inch, plus the thickness of the plywood that I used for the bottom of the box (3 mm) deep in the veneer side of the strip. After I finished the first cut, I flipped the board end for end and made a second cut. Then I moved my blade the kerf width away and did the same thing again. This gave me a groove about 1/4 of an inch wide in the middle of the strip. I flipped the strip over, found the exact center and split the board in half. to get the pieces I would be using for the base.

If I were to do this again, I would have cut the bevel before splitting the strip in half to have more area to hold onto the boards while cutting the bevel.

I used double-stick tape to hold the strips to the jig to cut the bevels, making sure with text cuts on scrap that the bevel would leave 1/4" vertical on the side for the black stain.

Using the glued up box sides for exact dimensions rather than measuring, I cut the miters in the ends of the base by clamping the strips to the jig with the veneer facing the fence on the back of the jig.

Step 7: The Base- Part Two

I cut the thin plywood that is the base to exact dimensions (I used the glued up sides and a marking knife to make sure it was exact) and made sure that the rabbet that I had cut in the base pieces was properly sized (it wasn't). I used a plane and sand paper to adjust the bottom to make it fit exactly and to make sure the miters on the base were closed and the sides of the box, when put into the base, were tight to the base. With much wailing and gnashing of teeth and sand paper, I got all the pieces fit properly and I glued the base together with the plywood bottom of the box in place to make sure everything wouldn't move while it dried (and it didn't).

Step 8: The Top

I measured the top from the center (where the seam of the veneer was) to the left and right to make sure that the seam of the veneer was in the exact center and cut the top to width. Then I made a choice based on the figure and cut it to length. Using the jig again, I cut the bevels in the top, making sure that the 1/4 inch reveal was the same as on the bottom. Once i had the top cut to size, I taped the top to the sides and uses sand paper to make sure the top and the sides were exactly the same size. While the top was taped down, I traced the inside of the walls of the box on the lid with a pencil. I then took the lid off and cut a piece of the original board a 1/32 of an inch oversize and then I cut it to the proper size with a 2 degree bevel all around the perimeter. The taper made a force fit for the top after I had attached this board to the top and kept the top aligned properly.

While I like this method of securing the top, if I did this again, I would have attached the top with rare earth magnets with the poles set so the top could only be put on the right way.

Step 9: Sanding and Assembly

I was concerned that, if I assembled the box and then sanded it, I would have some areas that would be challenging to sand, so I sanded the parts before I assembled the box into it's final shape. Another thing I learned was that, when sanding veneer, it is really easy to sand through it when you are sanding pieces that are not very wide. On one corner of the base, I sanded through the veneer and made the corner not as sharp as I wanted. I should have sanded everything smooth right after I had finished with the veneer work for the base.

I started with 150 grit and sanded all the way down to 320 before I took a paper towel and wiped down all the surfaces with water. I wanted to raise the grain and this was very effective as well as inspiring me to go back to Rocklers to pick up more sand paper. I re-sanded all the way back to 320 and then used Micro-mesh pads usually used for sanding acrylic (like in pen making) all the way to 20,000 grit. Before I had put any finish on the piece, it was shiny enough to see in the reflection.

I attached the base to the sides using 8 ring shank nails, driven up through the bottom and a little of the hide glue for some extra insurance. Ring shank nails are the best way to hold things together when the nails are hidden and you want the part to stay together forever.

Step 10: The Finish and Finish

I used Minwax Golden Pecan stain on a paper towel to pop the grain on the sides. The slight red/pink in the stain really warmed the tone of the maple. After putting on the first coat, I let it sit over night and used 8000 grit paper to knock down any rough areas and applied some spray lacquer to fix the color. With another overnight wait, I hit the whole box with a semi-gloss polyurethane for 3 more coats. If I had used a grain filler, I could have made the surface like glass, but when I tried it, it looked like plastic and I didn't want that sort of impression.

Once it was dry, I turned the box over and, after masking the whole thing, I used some spray glue to attach some green felt to the bottom to close it up and then applied the small plaque to the top.

I am proud that I had the chance to make this for my family to act as a reminder of the wonderful lady that was my mom. May Angels sing her to her rest.

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    3 years ago

    It's a beautiful box. :)