Building milk crate inspired boxes -- again
Back in 2009 I built these milk crate inspired boxes, partly to show off my box joint jig, slot mortiser and tenon jig. But I have gotten much better at making videos since then, so when I wanted to build some similar boxes 11 years later, I documented the process again.
I started with some 2x6 lumber, because that's what I had on hand and didn't want to go shopping. The first step was to cut it to shorter length and straighten it on my homemade jointer.
Then cutting it down to thickness on the table saw. I did this in three passes for some of the pieces because it's best to feed the material through relatively fast, but with only a 1.75 hp motor in the saw, I can't cut at full depth and feed fast at the same time.
I cut off most of the thickness I didn't need instead of planing it down because I wanted to use the offcuts for the slats in the boxes.
Cutting the pieces to length using a table saw sled with a stop block clamped to it.
I drew a sketchup CAD model of the crates to work out the sizes. I made a 1:1 printout of some aspects of it on one sheet of paper. I cut out the part that showed where the mortises for the slats go and glued these to a piece of wood to make a sort of "story stick" for the mortise layout.
With the stop block clamped to the table, I cut the first mortise in all 16 pieces. I'm making two of these boxes, each box has four sides, each side a top and bottom, making for 16 pieces with mortises in them.
I removed most of the material by making a series of plunge cuts. That works best with a spiral bit on side grain. After that sweeping side-to-side to remove the remaining material. That minimizes the up and down forces on the router bit, which reduces bit deflection and makes for more precise cuts.
After that I planed the scraps from earlier to the right thickness for the slats, ripped them to the right width, and cut the pieces to length on the table saw using my small table saw sled. With so many short pieces to be cut, it was easy to avoid using some of the parts with knots in them.
I need to cut tenons on the ends of the slats. I cut out a tenon template roughly on the bandsaw and table saw, then used my strip sander to precisely round the ends of the templates.
I'm using my metal pantorouter to cut these tenons. Normally, I use the router bit as a "front stop" when placing the workpieces, but that requires that the router is turned off while placing a work piece. With 44 slats to be tenoned on both ends, I didn't want to stop the router between pieces, so I added this stop for the back end of the workpieces.
The last time I built crates like this, I hadn't invented the pantorouter yet, so I used my quick-set tenon jig to cut the tenons, then cut them to width and rounded the edges. Cutting the tenons on the pantorouter makes this all one step, so it's faster.
I wanted to make sure the shoulder to shoulder length of the slats were all consistent, so after I routed all the tenons on one end of the slats, I changed the stop to go against the shoulder of the tenons I already cut.
That way, any length variation in the workpieces or positioning errors when I clamped them for the first tenon would not contribute to errors in the shoulder to shoulder length of the workpieces.
A lot of dust after cutting all the tenons. I could have used the dust collection shroud on the pantorouter, which works quite well. But instead I just ran the router at relatively low speed, and stood in the wind blowing out of my air cleaner. With the router set to a slow speed, it didn't throw the chips too far.
Last time I made boxes like that I glued the top and bottom frames together first, then glued in the 25 slats into one frame, then mated them together. But lining up 25 mortises and getting them together before the glue sets is stressful, so I figured this time I'd glue the slats in first, then join the frames together.
I still needed to cut handle holes in the short sides. Previously I did this by drilling two large holes and using my slot mortiser to route between them, but that was before I invented the pantorouter. This time I made a template for the handles holes...
... then used my wooden pantorouter to route the handle holes, going round and around the shape while increasing the depth of cut until I cut all the way through.
Next I needed to cut box joints into the ends of the sides of the box for joining the corners together. I stacked two saw blades in the saw to make for a wider kerf, then worked out what combination of gears would make the right increment to move the workpiece between cuts to make well fitting box joints.
The closest I could get was to put the 25 tooth gear against the 12 tooth gear on my screw advance box joint jig and turn it three turns to advance to the next cut.
A 37 tooth gear turned twice would have made a better fit, but of all the gears I made for my box joint jig, I haven't made a 37 tooth gear yet.
After gluing three sides together, I added the bottom. The bottom is glued into all the slots for extra strength. Being made out of plywood, I don't need to worry about giving it room to shrink and expand with humidity changes.
I rubbed sawdust against the excess glue, then scraped the rest off with a chisel. The idea of the sawdust is not so much to remove the glue but to make it less gooey. That way I don't end up getting glue all over the place.
At this point I decided that the 5 mm thick plywood bottoms might not be thick enough for how the kids might play with the boxes, so I glued another 5 mm layer onto the bottom of the boxes, using scraps I had left over from other projects. I clamped it down near the edges and used heavy things to push the layers together near the middle.
I wanted to round the corners of the box. I didn't want to do this with a router because I was afraid it could chew up the end grain. So instead, I tilted the saw to 25 degrees and made two cuts on each corner to approximate a round over.
Then fully rounding that on my edge belt sander with the table removed.
I'm just tracing along the middle of the letters lines free hand to carve out the lines. With the 2:1 reduction of the pantograph, my squiggly hand movements don't make too much of a mess of the carving.
And it was quick.
These are way too much work for just "boxes", but they are very nice boxes suitable as presents. In fact, last time I built such boxes, I gave away two of the three as presents, and these will be presents too.
So many mistakes...After I finished, I checked on my timelapse camera, and I had spent nearly 16 hours in the workshop making these boxes, but that's including filming and tidying up, but not including applying varnish.
I also made about 20 minor mistakes while building these boxes. Too many to include in an already long video about making them, but I decided to make a separate video just about all the screw ups. Most of these screw-ups don't show on the final product, so these mostly just cost me extra time. Plus, I didn't want to look like a bumbling idiot in the main video.
More box builds:
Milk crate boxes (2009)
Small box joined boxes (2015)
Knapp jointed box (2019)
Homemade jigs and machines used (in order of appearance):
Homemade jointer (2011)
Table saw sled (2008)
slot mortiser (2009)
Small table saw sled (2012)
Strip sander XL (2020)
Metal pantorouter (2018)
Router lift (2009)
Box joint jig (2009)
Edge belt sander (2016)
Wooden pantorouter (2010)
3D router pantograph (2011)