This time I try something entirely different: Design a bread box for our daughter. It will be a Christmas present.Edit to add (November 13, 2007): Sorry, but I forgot the following:
1. The wood is quarter-sawn sycamore
2. The finish is 1 coat Waterlox sealer, followed by 4 coats of Waterlox Original, rubbed out with 0000 steel wool.
This will be different because I explain how I arrived at the design, and follows with the “building of the box” in the program I use, eCabinet Systems (eCabs for short).The first video sequence, only 33 seconds, shows the features of the bread box design, including a Nakashima-type flaw (a knot) in the door frame. Note: George Nakashima was an American woodworker who created exquisite furniture pieces, in many cases preserving the natural edge of the tree.
The bottom video, Episode 4a, contains the entire “build” process. It is not a tutorial, but rather a display of how I went about “cutting” the side panels and making adjustments to the top, until the box looked right and the dimensions were as I wanted them.
The design process
For me, design has never been easy, although it seems to be getting easier. Maybe it has to do with less fear factor? I am not a trained designer, which seems to be a hurdle (either real or imagined) for so many of us. But many things at our disposal are made to help us overcome those hurdles; two that come to mind are paper napkins, and computer programs. How is THAT for extremes?
Step 1: Listen to your client, and make notes – for this box, my wife was the client, as she did not want our daughter to know this was in the works as a Christmas present. Quarter-sawn sycamore was selected as the wood of choice for this box. Step 2: Draw a simple sketch. I use a bound business diary I got somewhere. If I don’t have this with me, I will use a napkin, the back of a credit card receipt, anything that will help me draw a concept.Step 3: Transfer the design to eCabs; this program provides the cut list, if needed, and the dimensions of each component, i.e., sides, bottom, and top panels. For something this small, the main information I needed was the angle of the cuts on the side panels, and the overhang (“negative insets”) of the top panel on the two sides and the front.Step 4: Select the lumber, mill the boards, and glue up the panels.
Step 5: Cut panels to final dimensions, as provided by eCabs.
Step 6: Machine the joinery. In the original design I used blind dados in the computer program to simulate the tongue & groove joints. In real life I make all my cabinets using tongue & groove joinery, as that is what I have in the shop.
Step 7: Make the door to fit the box opening when you can do a dry fit. It is always best to wait until you can get to the dry fitting stage, as you may have to make some adjustments to the construction for many reasons. In my case, this would include making unplanned cuts, for example, if I make a mistake and have to remove a little more from a panel’s edge.
Step 8: Choose the joinery to fit the purpose. I did not want to use plywood for the back of this box. As a result, I struggled for at least one day about how to do the back. In a flash of lucid thinking I remembered shiplap joints – that is how I made the back. It is made of overlapping boards that allow wood movement, while providing a departure from ho-hum appearance. I beveled the edges of each board 45°.
Step 9: Make the door, reversing the location of the rails and stiles. For this box I placed the stiles horizontally, to feature the knot in the corner of the stile. Would you call this a modified Nakashima feature? These days I find myself trying to incorporate more such features (see the note below). By reversing the location of the rails and the stiles, the user sees only solid stile, not the rail-to-stile joint; the latter will be visible only from the sides of the door.
Notes on the making of the box using the computer program:
If you are following the “build” using eCabs, the following notes will help you, absent audio.1. I selected a Standard Upper cabinet box
2. Changed the dimensions of the Standard Cabinet, to those I needed for the bread box
3. “Cut” the side panels, using the program’s Part Editor
4. Adjusted the insets for the top panel, until it “looked right”
5. Rounded over the front edge of the bottom panel using the Part Editor
6. Globally changed the joinery from butt joints, to blind dados
7. Beveled the bottom edge of the top panel, to provide an uplift look to the topThis is the point at which I finished the design of the box in the computer program. Later, as I handled the box in the shop, I felt compelled to round over the outer edges of the side panels. I was then much happier with the look-and-feel of the box! I applied five coats of Waterlox as the finish (one coat sealer, four coats Original), and rubbed it with 0000 steel wool to a satin finish 3 days after the last thin coat. I left the inside as bare wood.Edit: To add the finish on the inside of the box.I welcome your feedback. HOW do you design the things you make? I would like to hear from you. Please leave me a comment using the Comments link below.