Re: Turning blanks for boxes

John K Jordan
I process wood exactly like Sir Lucas except I use anchor seal on the ends instead of dipping in wax. The rule of thumb for drying lumber (1"/year+1 year) is shaky at best, but squares may dry faster since the moisture can exit on four sides instead of two. I process so much wood I have an excess so I generally let them dry a long time - some I'm using now have been air drying for over 10 years, some maybe 3-4 years. I use a pinless moisture meter to check the drying progress.

My squares are as long as the log section. When "good and dry" and ready to use I slice of a thing sliver from the end with the bandsaw and bend it - if it breaks easily there is a crack there so I keep removing slices until the crack is gone. Then cut my box blank a little longer then needed. I check the other end just in case.

Round and cut tenons and part off for the lid as usual, and rough out the inside as others mentioned. If using wood I know is wet I leave a lot of wall thickness when roughing then loosely tape the two haves with tenon ends together and let dry for some months. (I keep a roughed out lid from Dogwood to show people how much that wood can move - it is egg shaped, warped far to much to complete a box!)

If the blank is already quite dry (or when mounting a roughed out blank) I turn the outside nearly to final shape first and shape the inside to close to the final thickness and put them aside for at least overnight or a few days. I usually leave both pieces in chuck jaws for this to avoid having to deal with re-registration when remounting. (an advantage to having lots of chucks!) This not only lets any traces of residual moisture escape but it also lets any stresses in the wood relax. Then final turn.

I find that the last step of letting the blank "relax" for at least overnight generally results in lids that fit perfectly. Turned thin enough, even seasonal wood movement is minimized. BTW, I don't do suction fit lids to demonstrate skill - people like lids that are loose (but not sloppy.)

My recent experiments with boxes with threaded lids were done like this - nearly finish turned then let sit for several days before final turning and threading. So far the fit seems stable even after having them in several environments with and without conditioning. Time will tell how they hold up! Non-threaded boxes I've made have not had a problem as far as I know. I've kept some and they still fit the same 8-10 years later.


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