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 Post subject: Something New (for me)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 3:44 pm 
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Hey Folks,

I’m taking a break from furniture to try something that I’ve always wanted to make, Shaker bentwood boxes. These are lightweight oval boxes with telescopic lids, like a hat box. They are made from thin bands of hardwood, with softwood tops and bottoms as plugs. The whole thing is held together with copper tacks and wooden pegs, no glue.

These boxes were originally made by Shaker woodworkers in a variety of sizes that have since been standardized. Today, they are often sold as a nesting collection, although there is no indication that the Shakers used them that way. Usually, they were found in cupboards much like kitchen canisters.

Traditionally, they were painted with milk paint, then oiled or waxed. Today, they are often finished with clear finishes to show off the wood. In the photo above, two (made of maple with pine top and bottom) are painted with Barn Red, Old Fashioned Milk Paint, then scuffed with a ScotchBrite™ pad and buffed with dark wax. The other two are made of black walnut with Douglas Fir top and bottom, and finished with oil and wax.

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The boxes are traditionally bent by first heating in boiling water to make them pliable. Since I don’t have a large boiling tray, I’ve been using my over large steam box to heat the bands. It’s a bit of overkill, but it works well enough. When the bands are sufficiently pliable, they are bent around solid softwood forms. When cooled, they are removed from the form and fastened with copper tacks, clenched on a pipe anvil. Tapered oval cores are inserted in each end to re establish the proper shape as the oval dries overnight. The band for the lid is bent around the outside of the larger, box band, and also allowed to dry overnight.

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Next day, the top and bottom pieces are scribed, cut and fitted to the bands. They have a slight taper to them so they fit like plugs. A boring table with a 5/64″ drill bit, precisely bores a number of holes 1/16″ up from the bottom (or top) edge and around the perimeter. Tapered wooden plugs (toothpicks) are driven in to secure the tops and bottoms.

The boxes are traditionally left unfinished on the inside, although sometimes they were lined with fabric, and given hoop type handles to turn them into carriers for sewing notions etc.

So far, I’ve only made the #3 size. I've discovered that ring porous woods like walnut and oak don't hold clenched tacks very well when you get down to the very thin stuff. Diffuse porous woods like maple and cherry work much better. I have forms and cores for sizes #0 through #5 and will be trying to complete a set soon.

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 4:19 pm 
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Tom,
Are you slicing the wood? How thin are the bands?
How thick are the tops and bottoms?
Zulu

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 6:30 pm 
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Hey Zulu,

I'm using a bandsaw to resaw the bands, then a drum sander to finish them. They range from 0.060" to about 0.085". The tops and bottoms from 0.195" to 5/16". It's the least fun part of making them.

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:56 pm 
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Well TMS, I am impressed by the variety of your pieces.................very nice!

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:19 pm 
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Nice break from your other work. Shaker boxes have been on my list for years and I've never gotten to them. Maybe this is enough to push me over the edge.
I'm a bit confused by the picture in the upper right showing what appears to be a pipe mounted to a bracket and clamped to the bench. I've seen this sort of setup used where the pipe is heated and the wood wetted down and bent around the pipe. But you said you steamed the wood and then bent on solid wood forms. So what are we looking at? Or did I misunderstand what you wrote?

What angle did you taper the bottoms (approximately)? Did you cut these on the bandsaw, tilting the table?


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:44 pm 
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Hey drstrip,

The pipe is the anvil for clenching the tacks. I have also used it as a hot pipe in the past for bending ukulele bodies, but Shaker boxes are traditionally heated with a moist heat. The taper on the tops and bottoms is -4º and the shape is finished on the combination belt/disk sander. I happen to prefer the platen belt sander over the disk, but either works.

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:40 am 
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tms wrote:
The tops and bottoms from 0.195" to 5/16". It's the least fun part of making them.


Have you considered/tried rough cutting the bottoms on the bandsaw and then using a tapered router bit and template to make the process less painful?
Or if you're going to do these in quantity for the store, have a local shop with a CNC router whack out a ton of bottoms with a tapered bit (if it doesn't offend your sensibility).


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:52 am 
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Hey drstrip,

I'm sorry, I didn't make myself understood, it's getting out the rough stuff to thin dimension that is literally a grind. The rest is fun. I could buy thin stock already dimensioned, but my labor is always the cheapest, and I have the machines for it. I just enjoy the hand work the best.

Cheers,
Tom

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:01 am 
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those are awesome, I really like Shaker furniture.


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