bookmark_borderPrototype Scribal Box

When I was getting the Debatable Lands Woodworking Guild started, I polled the people who were attending planning meetings to see what projects we could work on as a group to produce things for the Barony. One of the ideas was to produce “portable desk” type scribal boxes that the Baron and Baroness could gift to scribes. It’s taken me some time to get around to it, but I was finally able to plan out what such a thing might look like, and use up some surplus wood from the garage to make a prototype.

Closed Scribal Box

This simple, hinged-lid box is made entirely from pine, and finished with amber shellac. The walls of the box are half-inch thick, and the larger surfaces are 3/8″ thick. both thicknesses are the result of planing down some 3/4″ lumber to remove severe cupping warpage. The top and bottom were made from some 1×12 shelving, so I was able to make the full width of the box from a single piece without resorting to plywood.

The work surface is 11 inches wide and about 12.75″ tall, a fine size to accommodate 8.5″x11″ or 9″x12″ paper with some room to spare. A slight slope should make work a little easier on the wrists.

I have no historical examples for this kind of box, I am merely imitating other scribal boxes I have seen in use around the SCA.

Open Scribal Box

The interior of the box is about 10 inches by 14 inches, able to hold supplies slightly larger than average to a depth of about 1 inch at the front and 3 inches at the back. It’s slightly less than that because I decided to add the two battens underneath the lid to support the thin wood during use and keep it from warping.

The box is assembled using modern wood glue and wire nails, and finished with three coats of amber shellac. I’m not sure why my shellac came out so streaky this time. It could be that the shellac needs more alcohol in the mix, or that it was very hot in the shop yesterday causing the finish to dry more quickly than it could even out.

Because I had suitable material on hand, shaping and assembly of the box took less than a day. I did some hand sawing, but a lot of the sawing was done on the band saw. Assembly was entirely by hand, even to the level of hammering in the nails by hand to avoid blowing out the thin wood sides with the nail gun.

bookmark_borderKanmuri-bako

About two years ago, when I was preparing to be elevated to the Order of the Laurel, I was searching everywhere to try to buy a Kanmuri. The Kanmuri (which translates as “crown”) is the correct piece of headgear to wear with the Bunkan Sokutai that was to be my elevation garb. I eventually found an antique store in Japan that was willing to sell me one, however, theirs was in Thailand and would need to ship directly from there. I wound up picking it up at the post office the day before we went up to Pennsic. Since then, it has lived in a cardboard box, which was not the best place for this antique hat. Finally, I was able to make a couple of boxes to store and protect the pieces of the kanmuri.

Closed

That’s what they look like closed. They’re just simple lidded boxes made from plywood and finished with shellac. I have a stack of smallish plywood scraps from the last 20 years of larger projects, so this project was also an opportunity to use up some of that.

Open

Here they are with the lids off, so you can see the kanmuri pieces nestled cozily inside. On the left is the “pillbox” portion with its upright and pin (All three pieces are attached on this kanmuri.), and on the right is the tail. There’s a lot of empty space inside the tail’s box, but I wanted the box to help maintain the proper shape of the tail, and I wasn’t up for trying to make a proper bentwood box.

Assembled

In case you’re unfamiliar with the kanmuri as an object, here’s what it looks like when all the pieces are assembled. The cord drapes over the pin and ties under your chin to keep the hat in place. You can see that this kanmuri is not in the best shape. I’ll embark on a restoration project eventually,

bookmark_borderEndai Stepstool

Long-time fans of my work my remember the nine endai benches (one, two, three through five, and six through nine) that I’ve made in the past. These are great, but they are 18 inches tall. As the endai is a half-step between the ground and the en of a Japanese dwelling, I wanted to make something that was a half-step between the ground and an endai. Even though there’s no Pennsic this year, I wanted to tackle this little project and get it off my list. I recently sorted through all of the surplus wood I have, so I knew I had enough lumber on hand to tackle this project without having to go and buy anything.

Endai Stepstool

It’s entirely red cedar, and much of a style with endai six through nine, but roughly half-scale. Instead of being 36″ long, 18″ deep, and 18″ tall; this one is 18″ long, 9″ deep, and 9″ tall. The legs are 2×2 instead of 4×4. It’s a mini-bench.

I’m a bit disappointed about the external fasteners on the legs. I wasn’t able to do the joinery I usually do on the legs, and there isn’t a lot of room inside the apron for screws. Even with four screws on the interior of each leg it was a still a little rickety, so I gave in and put some screws in from the outside.

I put a bit of boiled linseed oil on it, to enhance the color and keep the wood from drying out. I’m pretty happy with it.

bookmark_borderBlogrolling

A few weeks ago, Gareth Branwyn of the Cool Tools blog posted a request for suggestions to include in a “Maker Sartorial” feature. I had a couple of ideas, so I sent in some email, and my suggestions were just posted as part of the June 11th post.

https://kk.org/cooltools/quick-molding-with-sugru/

I talked about my my Shop Coat (which does not get much use these days, in the heat) and my enthusiasm for Keen safety footwear.

Always good to feel that my opinions are sometimes considered valid enough to share.

bookmark_borderTabi 2020

It’s not even half-way through the year, and I already have this year’s tabi foot coverings finished.

Tabi in blue linen

For those of my readers who are not familiar with this tradition, I started sewing my own tabi a few years ago to go with my Japanese garb. They are usually made from leftover fabric from garb projects, but it’s just regular fabric, so they tend to wear out pretty quickly. I found that if I make a pair a year, I can keep ahead of the curve and always have at least a few pairs of tabi that are not worn out and shabby looking. Usually, I wind up finishing a year’s tabi in January or February of the following year. Not this year! Free time and your wife hosting local sewing circles can do that.

These are made from the blue linen I used for the hippari top I made for the field clothing outfit from this past December. They’re sewn entirely by hand, including attaching the himo ties, which I normally do by machine. This was not a decision to be a stickler about it, just that I was sewing these to have some sewing to do while being social, so why not stretch it out a little bit?

These are apparently the eleventh or twelfth pair of tabi I have made for myself. Scary. Maybe the next pair will be impractically fancy. We still have some really nice silk brocade sitting around.

bookmark_borderArts&Crafts End Table Project

Quite often, things sit on my project “to do” list for a season or a year until I’m absolutely sure I still want to make that thing. This project entered my list just two months ago, but it was such a motivating idea that I jumped right in on it after completing the smallest karabitsu. I bought all the lumber and other materials at Home Depot, and used almost all the power tools in my shop, so this is nothing that took great talent, uncommon materials, or specialty tools. Probably the only “talent” that made this project possible is the ability to plan, and the ability to follow plans.

Anyway, here it is. It’s an end table (or side table, whatever) in the “Arts & Crafts” (or maybe “Craftsman”) style. Made from red oak, stained a slightly darker brown, and finished with amber shellac.

Arts and Crafts End Table

The exact style is important because I wanted this table to go right at the end of my desk, and match the look of the desk as closely as possible. I have a file cabinet at the other end of the desk, and it came from the same furniture collection, and I though that having two match each other and a third not match would be visually jarring. They don’t even sell this desk any more, so buying an end table from this collection was not going to happen. What the heck, I’m a woodworker, right? Let’s just make one.

Table before finishing, next to desk

The only problem with that is that I have never made real furniture like this before. Years ago, I made the stereo cabinet, but I kind of winged it. I had to make a bunch of decisions about how such a thing even should be made, because the desk itself is mostly fakery. For instance, the ends of the “through tenons” that you can see on the desk are glued on. They are not even end grain! The “tenon ends” just under the surface of the desk are taller than the horizontal members of which they are supposed to be the ends. My tenon ends are really the ends of the horizontal members. My mortises are really full through-mortises. The ends of the vertical “ribs” really are tenons that fit into blind mortises in the horizontal members. The “inset molding” beneath the surface is not just routed onto the underside of a thick piece of wood, it’s a four-piece frame of 3/8″ wood that attaches the frame to the underside of the surface.

When you do this much planning on a project, though. You start to think about the project as a bunch of parts. It becomes very important that the pieces match the specification, and that each match the quality requirements of the project. However, it’s still just a bunch of pieces.

The pieces of an end table

Then, as the project progresses, things start getting more coherent. The first swipe of the staining pad and a stick of lumber starts to look more like a table leg. The pieces start getting assembled, and suddenly there is a piece of actual furniture. It’s almost magical. Suddenly it’s furniture!

The unfinished table after dry-fit assembly.

Then you add two coats of shellac (three on the top surface) and write a blog post, and suddenly the project is complete!

bookmark_border“Smallest” Cypress Karabitsu Project

Way back in 2012, I made a regular size karabitsu entirely by hand from cypress 1×12. I developed a set of ratios that enabled me to design a karabitsu based on the width of the wood. The length of the lid is twice the width of the wood, and so on down. Later, I made a small karabitsu out of cypress 1×10, using the same ratios. I decided to make a pair of even smaller karabitsu out of cypress 1×8, planing the wood down to half-inch thickness because I had purchased a planer. I cut all the pieces to length, and started cutting the joinery, but then life intervened. The pieces sat in a box next to my workbench for at least a year. Then we moved. Then the peces sat in a box on my workbench for four years. It was time to complete this project and get these dang things off my workbench.

I cut all the joinery by hand, but I quickly gave up on doing everything by hand. I used a band saw to cut the legs, a router to shape the legs, a sander to smooth out the boxes, and a drill to make holes for the pegs that secure everything. I did decide to use rice paste to assemble the boxes instead of using modern wood glue. I used more hand-mixed blonde shellac for the finish, and now finally these are done.

Two Small Cypress Karabitsu

Here’s an image showing all four karabitsu stacked up, so you can compare sizes:

Four Cypress Karabitsu

I don’t know quite what use I had in mind for these when I started them. They might be useful for carrying one person’s worth of fest gear or something. I’ll have to make some braids for them. At least with two of them, they can balance at either ends of a carrying pole.

bookmark_borderPine Boxes with Rabbet Joinery

A “rabbet” or “rebate” is a slot cut right at the edge of a piece of wood, as opposed to a “dado” which is a slot cut somewhere in the middle. Last Spring, when I was trying to get the BMDL woodworking guild going, one of the workshops I put together was about how to make these simple wooden boxes. The rabbet joinery is much stronger than butt joinery. Glue along two axes is stronger than glue along one, the rabbet around the bottom keep the whole thing square if you do it right, and the rabbet around the lid lets the lid fit snugly. I wound up making three boxes myself. Two were prototypes to test my process, and one was the “follow along” version made during the workshop. These sat around for about a year, but then I decided to practice finishing with shellac. I declared them “done” just recently.

Three pine boxes with rabbet joinery

I used some ancient Zinser-brand amber shalleac on two of them, in a futile attempt to get rid of the last of that stuff. On the third, I used a blonde shellac that I mixed myself from flake shellac and denatured alcohol. Some people don’t like the the color of the amber shellac. I think it’s OK. The blonde shellac looks a lot more natural,though. Here they are with the lids off:

The thickness of the walls i kind of overkill for a box this size, but planing the wood down just wastes it. If things ever get back to near normal, I should run a finishing workshop. A lot of people hate finishing, because nobody ever taught them how to do it well. I’ve learned so much through trial and error that I don’t mind it, even though it takes up a lot of time and delays the completion of projects.

bookmark_borderKarabitsu Lid Repair

Going on 13 years ago, I made five white karabitsu to replace the plastic “tucker totes” we had been camping with up until then. They have held up pretty well, all things considered. I sold one of them as surplus, but the remaining four have been camping with us at Pennsic and other events ever since. I did fail to anticipate how often they would get used as seating, however, and the constant flexing of the lids had led to some deteriorations. One of the lids was damaged a few years ago, and repaired, so it was time to extend those repairs to the remaining chests. Here are the lids with their final coat of paint drying.

Paint drying on karabitsu lids

How to fix karabitsu lids: First, sand all the paint off the top of the lid. Then, cut a rectangle of plywood slightly larger than the top of the lid. Coat the lid with exterior wood glue, and clamp down the rectangle. Once the glue is dry, trim the edges of the wood with a router. Then, round off the corners using a different router bit. Now, it is time for finishing. I did two coats of primer (with Insuladd), three coats of flat white enamel, and two coats of gloss white enamel. That should be enough.

Next year, I’ll repaint the exteriors of the bodies. Some of the corners are looking a little beat-up.

bookmark_borderCherry Surplus Box Project

Just in case you are under the impression that everything I do is always perfect, here’s a little project I had to make because I messed up my first try on the Sake Cup Box project. Sometimes I kind of “wing it” on projects, making decisions based on dimensions that are are penciled on cardboard boxes or post-it notes instead of sitting down to draw up formal plans and doing calculations. As you might expect, sometimes this bites me in the butt.

I made this box bottom, then when I tried it out with the dividers to check for size, I realized it was too small. I set it aside while I started over on a new box bottom, kept it aside while I made a lid for the Sake Cup Box, then I made a lid to fit this “surplus” box bottom instead of smashing it to bits in frustration.

Surplus Box Bottom

This time, the top of the lid is made from more strips of cherry, edge-glued together. I am getting tired of seeing this big stack of cherry scants in the shop, so this was a good way to use up a handful of them. The walls are also cherry strips, but I was able to get better glue joints this time, so there is no metal hardware. Hopefully, the whole thing doesn’t wind up smashed to pieces at some point.

Cherry Surplus Box

The floor is maple, resawn and bookmatched, but as this was my first try it is much more uneven than the floor of the Sake Cup Box. In a way, it’s a good thing this one was unusably small because the bottom it’s definitely not as nice.

The whole thing got the same walnut oil finish as the Sake Cup Box, because why not, so it also spent the last month in the drying closet. I’m no entirely sure what I’ll use this box for, but I am sure that I will use it for something. It’s big enough to hold 16 tama and some braiding supplies, and since it obviously matches the Cherry Marudai, maybe that’s what I will use it for.