This section is from the book "How To Make Common Things. For Boys", by John A. Bower. Also available from Amazon: How to Make Common Things.
We have an idea that when you are able to make a box, it will help you to make several other things that are made much in the same way; such as cupboards, cabinets, and articles that can be fitted up with shelves, partitions, and such like.
The first thing, you must make up your mind as to what you want the box for, because if it be to keep your tools or any such heavy things in, it must be of a "much stouter make than one required to keep light articles in.
We will suppose you want to make a serviceable tool-box for yourself. In this case you do not want one large enough to keep your saws and tools of such length, unless you go in for a complete tool-chest, which is outside our instructions altogether.
Suppose you arrange that your box shall have outside dimensions of 18 inches by 14 inches and 12 inches deep, including a hollow lid of 2 inches, and a tray to fit inside the box, to be made into divisions in which you can keep a stock of nails, screws, and other items for your work This must be a strong box, and well made. To put the sides and ends together well, and to give it the greatest strength, carpenters generally dove-tail their edges; i.e. the edges are cut so that projections of wedgelike form fit into hollows reversed in shape. This method we will fully describe in a later chapter: in our present stage of work it is a little too difficult.
Unless you have some good wood by you, we should advise you to get some new ¾ inch stuff for it. We have now such a tool-box that was made some twenty-five years ago, and it seems to be as strong and not at all aged by the number of years it has been in constant use.
First cut off the lengths for sides and ends, which must be 9 inches wide. Smooth them with the plane, then put the two sides together; test them with a square, and see that they are in every way the same size. In planing up the ends be careful how you do it, for if you are too rough with this operation the wood may split, for you will be planing across the grain; for this work the plane must be very sharp. The next thing to be taken in hand is the bottom of the box. As your wood is only 9 inches wide, this is evidently not wide enough; you must therefore cut off two pieces the length of your box, and one piece must be cut down so that when one piece is joined to the other, you get a board 14 inches wide, after planing and trimming. The second piece must therefore be rather more than 5 inches wide. The pieces for ends and sides should be 10 inches wide when trimmed. To join these pieces securely, their edges must be planed so that they perfectly fit, which can be seen when they are made to slide one over the other, and leave no space whatever between them. Having done this, you must make some glue ready for joining them. If you have no glue-pot, you must get half a pound of glue; break it up and put it into a jar; put a little cold water in it; then stand it in an outer vessel nearly full of water; and the water in the outer vessel must be made to boil and kept boiling for some time till all the glue is melted, and it comes to a nice even consistency somewhere about that of thin treacle.
Then take a small, flat, stiff-haired brush, which you can buy for a penny, and put some glue along the edge of one of the pieces to be glued. Be careful and spread the glue evenly, and do not smear it beyond the part that needs it. Now slide the edge of the other piece along it, and take care that it is flush with it; put it away to dry, and see that nothing shifts it during the time - it requires to get perfectly dry. When dry you will find the whole slab of wood as strong as if it had originally been in one piece. Now square it up and it will be ready for the sides, and its size should now be 18 inches by 14 inches. Get some good 1¼ inch nails; tack the sides lightly together; see that they are square by putting the "square" into each corner; sec also that the sides stand perpendicularly to the bottom, to which they are to be tacked lightly. Having satisfied yourself on this point, take a brad-awl of suitable size; keep it upright when boring the holes, so that there is no fear of the nail coining through the wood. Next nail the whole together, and you will have the shell of a box. The next thing is the lid. The pieces for the ends and sides must be of the same thickness as that of the box itself. The top may be ½ inch stuff. Proceed in the same way as with box itself, first joining the pieces together for the top, then putting them together with sides and ends. To be economical with time, the pieces for the top and bottom can be glued at the same time, and they can be glued so that the joint comes across instead of lengthwise of the box, if it suits your purpose and material better. When the lid is made it should exactly fit the box; this must be tested before going further.
Fig. 7 - Supports for the tray.
Fig. 8. - Plan of tray, with divisions.
Having succeeded thus far, the next thing will be to get a pair of strong, 1 ½ inch brass or iron hinges, and at the same time get a suitable lock and key. For the hinges, portions of wood must be removed, so that the plate which is fixed to the box is flush with the edge. Fix on the place in which it is to be sunk; then mark it round with a brad-awl; then cut it carefully out with a sharp chisel. Do not cut down deeper than the thickness of the plate, and so fix the hinge that lid and box are flush with each other when the lid is closed. This will require a little neat fixing, but it is not difficult; it only aquires care. Similar portions must be removed from the edge of the lid as from the box. Before finally fixing on the lid it will be better to make the tray. Cut and smooth up four pieces 4 inches long, which shall be the same height, and fit into each corner of the box, that these may bo a support for the tray. Having ascertained that they fit well, glue them into their places. Do not leave them as square blocks, but triangular pieces, as in Fig. 7, and fit a piece of ½ inch board so that it can be made into the bottom of the tray. Then cut and plane up pieces for the sides and end of the tray. Make it deep enough to come flush with the edge of the box. Nail it together carefully with 1 inch brads. Then make any divisions in the tray to suit your taste or convenience; of course they need not all be the same size, and § inch stuff will be thick enough for the inside partitions of this tray. We found our tray conveniently divided, as shown in Fig. 8. Now cut two notches inside each end of the tray in which the fingers can be placed; these will be convenient for lifting it out. These notches will require another tool called a gouge, to do them neatly. The gouge is a curved chisel, as shown in Fig. 9; this is made of various sizes like the ordinary chisel. See now that your tray can be easily taken out and put into the box.