Making boxes is one of the fundamental techniques of woodworking, and it’s also kind of a pain in the ass.
Recently I completed a project that came out really well. So well, in fact, that I thought “this needs a presentation box” – whereupon I embarked on a quest that took way more time than it had any right to. But, now that I’ve geared up and practiced the technique, I can whip up boxes like nobody’s business.
To cut the wood, I used a little sled that I bolted to the top of my router table, and calibrated with a gauge block against a 1/4″ upward cut end mill. The upward cut mill gently pulls the stock down against the router sled, helping make the cut nice and clean. Also, I used a carbide end-mill that is ridiculously sharp – it’s designed for steel and it peels oak like it’s a potato. The only downside of the end-mill is that the end of that instrument is terrifying. Getting a finger into a router bit is bad, but getting a finger into an end-mill is unthinkable. A table-saw is objectively more terrifying than a router, but there’s something about the hyper-manic scream of the router that makes my body try to retract into itself.
There is still some work to do. Boxes need bottoms and sometimes tops. The way to make those is a gigantic pain in the patoot until you gear up properly to do it, then it’s like falling off a log. What you need is a router bit with a ball bearing standoff, that can cut a groove around the bottom/top of the box (enclosed in the wood, or basically rabbeted into the bottom) When you’ve got that, you frame the box up, slap it down on the router table, and run the slot cutting router bit along the bottom to make a slot that will hold the bottom. The corners that are cut will be round (but will not be visible from the outside) so when the bottom is cut, you need to sand the corners round so that they fit.
When that’s all done, you take it apart and glue it all together.
I made this clamping rig:
It’s 4 scraps of delrin that I cut on the table-saw, then drilled through with a forstner bit to make a region where the box joint can exist without pressure on it or the glue. I table-sawed the blocks to meet the holes through them, then drilled 3/8″ holes and holes that were slightly under 1/4″ that I could thread the rods into. The sides of the box frame shown above are about 3″ tall, and the clamping blocks are about the same size; they provide a nice, even, strong pressure.