Sunday, July 15, 2012

[Schoolbox] So Here's "The Deal"

After going on in this kind of way for a long time Thomas has a very much nicer job than ever he has yet given him to do one day for Master John ... Master John is now going to school at some distance from home; and he wants a box to take with him to keep his books and playthings in. It must be strong, as it has to travel; but it must also be neat as it will stand in the school-room, and smooth, that the things put into it may not be injured.                                                                        'The Joiner and Cabinet Maker'

An exerpt from "Joiner and Cabinet Maker", from which the inspiration for this project comes. In the early to mid-1800's, a well-to-do boy would carry a Schoolbox such as this to keep his things while attending school. In "The Joiner and Cabinet Maker", it is Master John who requests that young apprentice Thomas build his box.This is the perfect project for Thomas, as it is a fairly simple thing to build, but more  finely finished than Thomas has attempted to this point in his apprenticeship.

So like Thomas, I think the Schoolbox is an excellent project for me to attempt at this point given my current skill level. It will put my skills to the test. The project requires a fair amount of dovetailing, and it's a bit larger scale than the typical box project. In addition the installation of a half-mortise lock and hinges will also be worth the experience.

Also, like Thomas, I will be building the Schoolbox out of "Deal", which is basically any common, inexpensive, wood species that is readily available. In my case, White Pine is the "Deal" of choice for me because it's cheap in the Northeast. I was surprised to learn that Pine is not so abundant in other part of the country. I've followed other woodworking blogs where the deal of choice is Alder, or Douglas Fir. So I guess I'm lucky? I've always looked down on Pine as not a species worthy of a 'real' woodworking effort. It'll be interesting to see if this project changes my mind about it. 

I will be making 2 Schoolboxes. One for each of my girls. I hope they like them and can get some use out of them. 

So here is the board I selected for the project. It's 12" wide so there was no need to glue up smaller width boards. But I quickly found out, wider boards aren't always better. This board had some time to acclimate to my garage. And after cross cutting the boards to rough length, it was severely cupped.

I spent a fair amount of time flattening the concave side of each board, then ran it through the thickness planer to save some time. I don't think Thomas had this option, but use it if you have it. I went over to John T's, a skilled craftsman and friend who will also be building boxes along with me for his brood as well. We spent some time getting the boards to final dimension.

I was supposed to mill the boards by hand, as  Thomas would have,  I know. But it would have been a lot of work to get these flat. Strike number one for Pine, it moves a lot!  So "Let the games begin". It's off to dovetailing!


  1. Hi dad!
    Your blog is great.i learned a lot like your "deal"is pine because it was cheap here.Good luck with the boxes!


  2. Dear Dad
    I love your blog!I can not wait to see the school box.I know that they are going to be great!