Learning some more fine woodworking - the Box Making course

bobnewboy

Settler
Jul 2, 2014
970
396
North West Somerset
Hi All,

I've done another one :) A weekend course in Box Making at Williams & Cleal Furniture School. They are only a few miles up the road from me in Lydeard St Lawrence, in Somerset. For those who aren’t that keen to read all the text, here are a few pictures of my part-done/finished three wood box, with the Osmo oil drying on it:

Three quarters done:


That was with the maple veneer keys inserted and drying, the main box and liner made, and the top started. Then the final product:



Three wood box done : designed by Jane Cleal, made by me :)





Something odd about the picture, maybe it is the walnut grain, but the top keys are inserted at the same, but opposite angle to those at the bottom. Oh well...



In the previous course the emphasis was on very accurate marking out and cutting, and then making perfect tenon joints. In this course the main learning aspect was the preparation and cutting of perfect (or near perfect :) ) mitred joints. Again, all the work was done with hand tools, and many tips and tricks were passed on in the use of the various tools, and the following of drawings. Accuracy and square-ness was key! Speaking of keys, I was introduced to the use of veneer keys, an item of woodwork I had not seen before. They are added to mitred joints to improve the strength of the joint, and to give some decoration. I chose to use pale maple veneer keys on the exterior of my English walnut box. My box was walnut, with a cherry lining, and the base and top of rippled maple.

As before, we were supplied with all the materials, in my case English Walnut, English Cherry, and imported rippled maple, sandpaper, Osmo oil etc. Oh, and a little piece of leather to act as a lid handle. All of the chisels and planes were perfectly sharpened for us in advance. We were taught how to set them up and use them all to their best effect.

We were taught by Sophie Moraveg, who was assisted by Jane Cleal herself. There was a seemingly bottomless supply of tea or coffee throughout both days, for which we students (6 of us) were very glad.

So, the course was two days in length, all materials, tools, ear defenders, masks and tea/coffee were supplied, and the necessary Covid precautions were observed. All done in a lovely workshop in the Somerset countryside. You have to bring your own lunch and wear sensible shoes. Cost? £310 including VAT. Worth it? In my case, definitely, yes. I also now have a lovely handmade Christmas present for that important someone (the wife) :)

I am now awaiting my third weekend course, the ‘Total Precision Handtool Techniques’ course. It takes place next month, and I'm looking forward to it. It will hopefully fill in some further gaps in my woodworking knowledge - there are plenty more to go I'm sure.

I suppose I should add that I have no connection with Williams & Cleal, other than as a satisfied customer.

Cheers, Bob
 
Last edited:

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
3,933
3,116
Mid Wales
Fantastic! I'm sure you're very proud of that lovely box; I know I would be. What is it about wooden boxes that makes them so desirable?
 
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bobnewboy

Settler
Jul 2, 2014
970
396
North West Somerset
I am proud of it, but it certainly takes some work! It does help of course when someone is reminding you that accuracy is the main thing when hoping for a good outcome. I've never made such accurate joints before (usually just very solid garden furniture), but I'm hoping that this training means that my other works are improved in future as a result of seeing what I can do when pushed :)

As far as boxes go, it isn't huge, but it feels nice to pick up and explore. Nice woods too meant that I was being very careful not to mess it up....
 
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Tiley

Full Member
Oct 19, 2006
2,066
168
56
Gloucestershire
That's a beautiful box. It's great to hear about these courses which place the emphasis on the use of hand tools. I might have a look online and see if I can't find a place on one of them. Many thanks for posting.
 

Davey569

Full Member
Jun 18, 2008
1,097
5
Off the beaten track
That looks great! And the tips you’ve learned in the short space of time may have taken years for the teacher to gain. Can you put a price on that? I don’t think so!
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
5,912
985
Bedfordshire
Hey Bob,
Have you seen any of Rob Cosman's box making and dovetailing videos on Youtube? If not, have a look, they are very clear, very informative.

Nice box!
 

bobnewboy

Settler
Jul 2, 2014
970
396
North West Somerset
Thanks for the comments All. While working for my old (Swedish) company, there was a strong culture of continuing personal improvement, summarised within the company as “Life Long Learning”. Though I am retired now, I hope to keep to that ethos. I think it’s good for my brain...I haven’t been doing fine woodwork/carpentry very long, and until the first course I have always worked in non-dimensional timber, so this is all very new to me :)

Chris, yes I am subbed to Rob Cosman (some looooong videos in there!) among many others in the area of carpentry. It’s always good to see people using the same/similar tools in differing ways, and with that comes further tips and hints to getting better results. I’m now keeping my eyes open for some nice timbers, buying a few tools, and then I shall set off on my own tangent.
 

bobnewboy

Settler
Jul 2, 2014
970
396
North West Somerset
Looks pretty durn good to me :). The cherry has a nice smoky look to it, so a good choice, and doubly so if it’s saved from being firewood. I have a very hard time when we buy firewood - I look through it as we stack it, just in case there are any nice bits in it. I’ve never seen anything like your wood though....

Tight dovetails are a skill I still need to get sorted, so kudos to you. What’s the finish on your box?
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
5,912
985
Bedfordshire
Cheers :) The wood was stuff I bought last year from a local farm that cuts locally and air dries. What one gets is a bit of a lottery. In the past it has been mostly birch, but sometimes there is ash and some beech and oak. Last year's load was almost entirely cherry with quite a few pieces showing rippled grain. Earlier this year I finally bought myself a bandsaw, after wanting one for about 20 years, and was able to resaw some of the split logs. Since getting the saw I have been picking through the firewood looking for good bits. Some have looked promising, but not been worth anything on cutting, mostly due to terrible drying checks. There have been quite a few hunks like this. Shame it was turned into firewood!

The finish is just Danish oil. I didn't pre-finish, which in retrospect was a mistake. I thought about a shellac finish, but a wipe on oil seemed a better idea.

I have heard of Osmo oil finish, but never tried it. How does it compare and differ to Danish oil?

Full transparency, for the dovetails I used a David Barron guide in conjunction with Rob Cosman's method. I have had the guide for many years, but not got round to using it. There are enough ways to screw up that I am not ashamed of using a guide while I learn.
 

bobnewboy

Settler
Jul 2, 2014
970
396
North West Somerset
I will definitely use a guide when I try to do some dovetails. I don’t have any problems with anyone using tools available to them to get a good result. On the course we used a simple dovetail guide for the correct angle when marking out the veneer keys’ cuts.

On the course we used Osmo Polyx-Oil 3032 clear satin. You wipe it on with a clean cloth and rub it in a bit. Then a few minutes (10?) later, you rub it off again with a new clean cloth. It gives good results without huge work, and dries hard into a finish which can be built up if necessary. At home I’ve used hot walnut oil with good results, but that needs sunlight - or more specifically the UV in it - to harden it properly. The few times I’ve used Danish oil it’s taken a long time to dry off but gets there eventually. I’m starting to like Osmo oil for it’s time saving and good results, but I’ve not done a side-by-side comparison on a sister piece of wood yet.