THE BETTER TO SEE YOU WITHWalnut and basswood box puts seashells on display.
SHOP OWNER: Jim Piaszynski
LOCATION: Girard, PA
An order came in from my mother-in-law to make a display case for her seashells. The requirements were simple: she wanted a flat display case of a certain dimension to set on a coffee table. I made the box with walnut sides and a plywood bottom. I decided on dovetails for the joinery, since this would be highly visible. I chose this even though I hadn't really gotten the hang of dovetails quite yet. I do this sort of thing too often.
Not having any jigs for dovetails, I finally forced myself to learn how to cut them by hand. I had tried on several occasions to cut them in relatively cheap "practice wood" like pine or cedar, and they were terrible. Though I had sharp tools, the wood still wanted to tear rather than cut. When I tried cutting in walnut, the results were far superior, but I still had a ways to go before they were good enough to display. Tage Frid's book really helped me, particularly in methods needed to mark the cuts.
My final method, far from inspiring, goes something like this: mark the pins; cut the pins and chop out the waste; true up the pins to vertical because my cuts weren't perfect; use the pins to mark the tails; cut conservatively and remove the waste; and carefully pare the wood back to make as close of a fit as I can. Yeah, that takes a long time, but it works for me. The dovetails are cut to be slightly proud of the surface. I think that hides the imperfections a little.
The lid is a piece of 1/4-in. glass fit into a basswood frame. The lid is rabbeted and grooved to fit over the box. The frame is mitered and reinforced with twin splines. For the splines I simply assembled the top and used a handsaw to cut grooves into the miter joint. Then I slipped pieces of walnut veneer into the grooves to complement the walnut sides. I chose basswood for two reasons; first, I wanted to carve the top; and, second, I liked the idea of a contrasting color.
I ran out of time to chip carve the top before delivery, so that will have to wait for another trip home. After the top is oiled it will turn amber and lessen the sharp contrast seen in the pictures.. . . Jim Piaszynski
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