This instructable aims to show a quick method for making boxes from sheets of wood using a Tablesaw and Miter Sled. There's no complicated measuring or adding, we will just use the wood itself and a pen or pencil to rule distances directly onto our material. We are however going to use some simple geometry, but the distances shall remain, unmeasured
*Caution parenthesis ahead.
Measuring is (often) a complicated way to spend alot of time messing up your project. (this is not universally true, but anywhere it can be avoided you are paradoxically Adding accuracy instead of subtracting it). Measuring is a tool (I might even call it a meta tool because you use tools to use measuring). It is a very useful tool. Certainly one of the most commonly used tools. But tradition measuring is a tool we are not going to use. To those used to making things using measured drawings, this may feel like drowning without a life jacket. Everything will be fine however and you will get your footing back, I promise.
This is a good project for getting started with basic woodworking, and specifically with making something useful with your tablesaw.
This project was made at Mobile Makerspace , the aim is to turn this project into a beginner woodworking class, which we will hold in the near future. I can make a box in about 30 minutes, if you ganged them up I bet you could make 6 of the same size inside of an hour
Step 1: Gather Up Materials and Tools
For this project you will need:
- Tablesaw with miter/crosscut sled accessory (such as this one )
- Clamps. we need a couple for rigging our miter sled with distances.
- Grrripper or push sticks. The blade of the table saw is very dangerous, best to keep your precious digits as far away from it as possible.
- Wood Sheets. Could be plywood, mdf, or fancy glued up panels of hardwoods. Whatever you prefer or have on hand will do.
- Wood Scraps. Small pieces of wood to use for rigging.
- The tape is there because I was making a particular size (magazine) box in this picture, that is also why the magazine is there.
Step 2: Turn on and Setup the Tablesaw
Starting up the Sawstop:
If you do not have a sawstop, your saw probably just has a simple switch to turn on.
Our saw is the typical (for a makerspace) Sawstop.
This sawstop saw has a particular power up procedure.
The saw uses electronics to sense if you touch the blade (and retract/brake the blade), I think you can see why it would need to calibrate that system before allowing cuts.
So with the paddle switch depressed (off) we need to plug in the saw and then turn on the toggle switch.
Then things start happening.
Red and green lights flash.
When the green light is solid and the red light is off the saw is ready for use.
Setting the Saw Height:
The large wheel underneath the front edge of the saw, to the right of the paddle switch, sets the height of the blade over the table.
You can do lots of complicated things to come up with where to set the height and measure the height. Luckily, this project doesn't need any of these actions. We are going to use the materials and our eyes to "eyeball" the measurement.
To make a rip cut or cross cut we will need to pierce the wood. There is some debate over how high over the material to bring the blade, my opinion is to bring the teeth to just a bit (1/8th") over the material.
For the rabbet cuts we will need the blade to be around half the height of the material.
Step 3: The First Cuts
First, we need to cut strips from our materials. These strips will be lined up parallel with the grain of the material.
We call these Rip Cuts.
We need to set the distance between the fence and blade to the distance we want the width of our box to be.
Once the distance is set we will cut enough length for 4 pieces, 1 for each side of the box.
Next we make the Cross Cuts. These are cuts perpendicular to the grain.
We need to grab the Miter Sled and slide it into the slots on the table saw.
Then we need to raise the blade height so that it pierces the material sitting on top of the sled.
Next we figure out the height we want our box to be. This will be the distance we cut.
Mark this distance on your piece, then position the mark to the right * of the blade cutout on the mitersled.
Now Look at the right side of your piece, we are going mark the position at the end of this piece so we can repeat this cut 4 times.
Grab your clamp and scrap of wood. with one hand hold the workpiece, with the other hand position the scrap in a vertical position against the back wall of the mitersled. Without moving anything clamp the piece in place.
With this position locked we can now repeatably rip all 4 box sides to exactly the same height.
* In my pictures I put the stop on the left side, using the left or the right side is not important, the same principles work with either direction.
Step 4: Marking the Rabbets
Now we've got four identical size pieces.
I labeled the sides of my box so you could see their relation. Since all 4 pieces are identical, it's not strictly necessary.
We need to line up any of the two pieces perpendicular, with the cut edge of the first piece touching the face of second piece. Push the first piece to so its face is lined up with the cut edge of the second. (this is alot of words to describe the 3rd picture above)
Then we need to mark for cutting our rabbets. The width is the important part, place a mark EXACTLY where the inside face of the first piece meets the inside face of the second piece.
This is the most important step for the entire project, but we only have to do it once. I marked all four in my photos to illustrate what all we will cut.
We also need to draw a line for the depth of the cut (as illustrated). The depth has to be the same for all 4 cuts, but it is set by the saw not our marks.
Now we need to use a square to transfer the width marking to the opposite side of the wood, because when we lay the pieces face down to cut rabbets we won't be able to see these two sides. Just lay the square across the edge as show in the 5th or 6th photo. Then once the line goes all the way across the edge, move the square to the opposite face so you can see the mark.
Step 5: Aligning Guides
Before we can make nice accurate repeatable cuts we need to line up some helpers.
Get the two clamps and the two scraps.
Place the piece marked for rabbets on the miter sled. Align left side to the right of the blade slot the blade slot, it should be aligned to just cover the blade slot (first photo).
Place the scrap of wood snug against the right side of the piece, this scrap helps us line up the left most cut. Clamp it to the miter sled fence.
Move you piece over so that the other extreme of the rabbet we marked earlier lines up with the left side of the blade slot.(second photo)
Holding the piece in place, snug the other piece of scrap against the left side of the piece. Clamp the scrap to the miter sled fence.
Now, if everything is correct moving the piece to one side will put the blade just inside the edge of the material, moving it to the other side will put the blade's opposite edge exactly on the cut mark.
We need to make one more adjustment before cutting.
Set the blade height, again using the large knob under the table front. We need to bring the blade to the mark we made on our piece earlier (half way through is a good place to be). The precision is not crucial, the only crucial thing is once you set it and make a cut, don't touch it again.
Step 6: Cutting Rabbets
Now we begin cutting, hold the piece against the bottom of the sled and the fence of the sled. Starting with the piece snug against the right stop. Push the sled through the cut.
Then move to the left, we need to move the width of the blade. Once the workpiece is in place make a second cut. We keep doing this until we reach the left stop. This will result in a nice precise rabbet.
When we reach the leftmost position, pull the sled back clear of the blade. Without turning off the saw. Take the piece and flip it 180degrees, then snug it against the right stop.
Then we begin the second rabbet.
When that is done we grab the other workpiece to be rabbeted.
This time there are no marks to be made, no measurements, everything is setup. Just repeat all the cutting steps above.
When done you should have two identical rabbeted pieces, and two identical non-rabbeted pieces.
It's possible some wood is left in the rabbet joint. These pieces are generally easy to break with your hands, if not a chisel, or plane, or just a good old razor knife will clean up your joint.
Go ahead and stand up two rabbet pieces opposite of each other, and snug the two other sides between them. You've made a basic box!
If you don't need a bottom or top, you can go on to glueing or screwing your box together. You probably do want a top or bottom though.
Step 7: Bottom, and Other Issues
Now we need to make a bottom piece (or not perhaps?)
For this step we need a separate piece of wood. It could be something thinner or it could be cut off from the piece we cut the rest of the box from. Whichever material it comes from doesn't really matter.
Do we need to measure it? Only if you want to waste time..
Being careful about which side should be inside and which should be out. Lay your bottom piece perpendicular to one of your box sides. Move it near where you want the bottom to be. 1/8 to 1/4 from the bottom edge is generally pretty good. Take the square and line the piece up square. Now we need to make a bottom and top mark, this will show us where to cut. Now use the square to move these marks to the other side.
We only need to mark one piece though. Guess what we're going to do next.
Line up the stops:
This procedure works just like the aligning guides step above.
Except the wood is aligned 90degrees to the rabbet cuts.
We need the stops to line up so the edges of the blade just touch the inside of the two marks.
Cut the slot:
We need to set the height. The height is preferably the same as for the rabbets. So hopefully you haven't moved it yet.
If you have moved the blade just place a rabbet cut over the blade and raise it till it kisses the inside of the rabbet.
Now turn on the saw and cut same as before for the rabbets. Run all 4 pieces through this process until you have a slot that is wide enough for your material (and preferably snug on either side of it.)
Cut the bottom to size:
Sizing up the bottom can be challenging and may take two tries. But it only has to be less than the slot width and more than the inside box measurement. So there is a little wiggle room.
A good start point is to place two sides of the box on the table, a rabbet side and a regular side. Take the bottom piece of material and place it snug into the slot on these two pieces. Now look at where the edges of your sides, where these meet the bottom material is smaller than you want to cut it. Basically the perfect size would be that distance, plus the slot depth. Mark that distance. Place the piece on the miter sled and cut on your mark. Then try it out, it may take a second try.
I expect at this point you can start to make marks and cuts without me spelling out everything you have to do.
The other side will need to be determined in a similar manner.
You've now spent more time reading than your first box should take!
Making the box square:
If you do not want a square skip this part.
I wanted my box to be square so I trimmed the two sides without rabbets. I figured the depth of the rabbets combined, would amount to the length I need to take off.
So I put the rabbets back to back, marked that distance on my sides and cut it off.
Top slide lids can be made in exactly the same way as the bottom. Then we need to cut one side shorter. Best to cut the slot, then chop off the top of one of the sides (depending where you want it to slide).
I think you get the idea.
Step 8: Glue or Screw
Once all the pieces are cut for the box. We can use clamps to glue it together.
Apply glue to all mating inside surfaces.
Then assemble the box and clamp it down.
We could also use screws and glue (or omit the glue).
Step 9: Conclusion
I hope that you have a pretty good idea how to make boxes using mainly a table saw and just a few other tools.
They can help you with access to tools that are ready to use. They can also instruct and educate you on how to use them.
If you are near Mobile, AL definitely check our hours and stop by for a visit.
Thanks so much for viewing. If you have any questions, or if you manage to make a box, please leave a comment.