I wanted to build a mini showcase to hold a carved figurine. The figurine is small about 5 inches tall and the showcase needs to be small as well. Although this is a small project it has everything that takes to make a much larger project. It is going to be a learning process for me and I hope you too will pick up a few ideas as we go along.
Stage 1: Designing
Stage 1: Designing
A rough preliminary design, no matter how trivial the project, gives me some idea of what I want to do and some measurements for the pieces that I need to cut. Everything can change as I go along. As a matter of fact, the dimensions of the showcase will change somewhat as I go along.
Stage 2: Cutting
I have cut my pieces the best I could but there is a problem with them. As you can see, the pieces are not identical. This is because I could not joint them before cutting and the cuts were not perfectly perpendicular. I took the pieces to my local carpenter but he would not cut such small pieces on his table saw, which is a horrendous machine he operates without any guards or push sticks. It is extremely dangerous for him to size relatively small pieces. He then decided to size them by passing them through a thicknesser. The results were poor and I decided to make the best of a bad deal.
This is when I wish I had a decent table saw which would make sizing each piece a breeze because once the table saw fence is set for a particular cut, pieces can repeatedly be cut with the exact same width.
Stage 3: Milling. Ideally I should have milled or sized the pieces perfectly square on all sides and edges with a planer but my skills are poor and I did not do a very good job. But I have to make sure the edges at least are square and perfectly sized. I fix this by running my circular saw off the edge of two pieces of the board held together by a clamp. I wish I could do the same with the long edges but cannot clamp the boards in any manner to achieve a cut.
Stage 4: Joinery
The four pieces of wood can be held together in a variety of ways to form a rudimentary box. The easiest is to glue the four sides together and then reinforce the joints with screws or nails. I decided to practice my pretty awful dovetailing skills. I use a very basic dovetailing jig and it’s difficult to get the depths and fits precisely. I don’t mind as I am not aiming for perfection. Anyway, I cut out all the dovetails and put together the sides with glue and a bunch of very useful clamps that I have acquired over the years.
These corner clamps are pretty useful if the joinery is not perfect. The pieces can be held together and glued, and then repaired and sanded later for a better appearance.
This is the piece with the clamps taken off- not perfectly clean but tolerable.
I make dovetails using a simple jig which does not always give repeatable results and is somewhat difficult to set up. I would prefer to have a jig where both the pins and the tails can be cut in a single pass but alas I must make do with what I have. After some sanding, the dovetail joint does not look too bad.
The other point I must make here is that dovetail joints are not necessary for such projects and I have used it just to practice my dovetail joining skills. For a small project like this a simple butt joint is good enough.
Rabbeting bit set: This router bit set comes with a set of ball bearings and a small Allen key. The bearings are changeable: the larger the bearing, the shallower the cut. I change bearings to gradually cut the rabbet deeper. This way, the cuts are controllable, the router motor is not strained, bit will last longer and the cut if made in small increments will generally be cleaner.
The round edges of the cut will have to be squared with a sharp chisel or the edges of the piece to be inserted in the rabbet will have to be rounded. For the back, normally a quarter inch piece of plywood cut out to fit the dimensions of the rabbeted back is used. For special projects, the back could be of quarter inch or half inch sawn lumber. But that is expensive and more work.
Here is the box with the quarter inch plywood piece tacked inside the rabbet. Notice the splintered edge of the plywood back. This is because I did not used a fine toothed (100 or 120 teeth) blade, which cuts plywood, melamine and particle board far more cleanly than do the regular 20 teeth blades. I have applied a wash of wood conditioner prior to staining and this is why the dovetails stand out better.
And here is the frame I made from a bit of scrap pieces of old moulding. I cut 45 degree mitres on each end and glued the pieces together. I then cut a rabbet in the insides to hold a piece of glass and used my Dremel tool to rout a nice subtle round over in the inner edge. Now the pieces are ready to be fitted with appropriate hinges, stained and polished.
Here is the box with hinges, magnet and mounting strips attached. The finish is shellac on a gel stain which I applied to give a kind of aged look. My only regret is the poor quality hinges I used. I searched for but could not get good quality 1 inch hinges; the ones I got are crooked and of different sizes. As long as we cannot produce standardised, high quality parts, we will never become a truly industrialised nation. This is one reason why we cannot build good military systems.
Finally done with a Ganesha statuette inside! I will mount it on a wall and hope our guests will suitably admire it!
10 April 2012
10 April 2012