Oak Box from Log

Here’s a box I made for the cost of about £1 of materials. It’s from some oak, hewn in Wales by someone I regularly buy from.

I wanted to make something out of a roughcut log from eBay. It was 50p for two bits of wood with a live edge, about as 70 mm thick and the size of an A5 sheet of paper. No side was square or smooth but it was well seasoned (moisture content in the region of 12%) all the way through. I made this on 13th June 2015, though I had cut the pieces a couple of weeks beforehand to see how much warp there would be.

The box would be made from slices of one of these blocks (essentially firewood) and assembled as a hollow obloid. The intention being to then use the table saw to cut the lid out such that it is guaranteed to fit. I don’t seem to have taken any photos of the preparation from the log but I think I will rebuild this box since I managed to sell it at my stall in 2015.

I used the table saw to cut the sides of the boxes to 45 degrees and then a sash clamp to glue it together.

The edges rarely come together (especially using a table saw) and so I glued some sawdust into the cracks too. I wish I’d known about another trick which is to rub the shaft of a screwdriver (or similar) against this open edge as that usually compresses the fibres enough to close the joint seamlessly. Next time…

I wanted the box to have some nice features so I attached the top and bottom pieces (base and lid) using some dowels and glue. When I cut these pieces about a fortnight before, I was expecting some warp due to the moisture loss. Only a small bit happened on the top and bottom pieces and the dowels pulled this back into line immediately.

Then, I used the router to round over the edges and sanded the worst of the marks out.

The next day (14th I think!) I raised the table saw blade slightly and set the fence to a distance where I would be happy with a lid to base ratio and cut around it on all four sides. This keeps the grain consistent and ensures a perfect match.

I had managed to cut it at the bottom of the dowels by chance, which rather spoilt the look on the inside of the box… anyway, next, I cut out some hinge slots in one part of the lid using the table saw.

The small hinges fitted perfectly.

More by luck than judgement, the hinges were the same width as the walls of the box. In future, I will ensure these match intentionally, or that the walls are wider and then use a chisel to make a recess for the hinges.

Then it was time to take it outside to sand and oil both parts.

The table saw cuts were made slightly less obvious here (and the brad point of the drill bit used to insert the dowels) but I didn’t want to sand too much away as it would lead to an uneven gap when closed and spoil the grain continuity.

I finished this with some teak oil in a spray bottle.

Some of the sanding marks were still on the lid but I decided it gave it an age and rustic appearance so left them.