Patterned Plywood Practice Box

So if you read part 2 of the Shop Transformation articles on the site, you will know that when I got the SawStop connected to power, I immediately started ripping down some spruce 2x3s to see how thin and consistent I could make them. Once I got tired of that, my mind turned to patterned plywood. Specifically hexagons. I had never tried them before, in part because I found the angled cuts to be a challenge on the old saw.

I found a small scrap of veneer plywood. Nothing fancy, maybe 10″ by 6″ or so. Something like that. Truly a scrap. I got the saw set to 60 degrees while I wrapped my head around the fact that the blade tilts in the opposite direction than what I am used to from the old saw. On the plus side, now it looks like all the YouTube videos I have seen, which is definitely a bonus when I am trying to follow along. After getting the angle set, I made some test cuts to work out how big a piece to cut, and then ran some strips. Each of them was glued on the freshly cut side to the others to make a hexagon shape, and I secured them with rubber bands to act like a clamp. Finally I set them aside to wait for the glue to dry.

The next day, I removed the rubber bands and lightly sanded off the glue squeeze out. Since my cross cut sled doesn’t fit the new saw, and I haven’t made a replacement yet, I added a backer board to the miter gauge and simply used that to slice the plywood in to hexagon shaped discs. Using the jigs I made for the patterned plywood on my tea boxes, I glued up the hexagons to each other to make a small panel, that was reminiscent of a rectangle. Now at this stage, I sanded it smooth and then decided I wasn’t ready to make anything with it, and simply put it in a drawer to move on to other things.

Roll the clock forward a month or two, and now that the outfeed table 2.0 had been built (not needed for this project, but much more comfortable with the new tools now), it was time for something more intricate. I decided to make a box with the plywood hexagon top. It would be good practice, a way to try some new things. The box sides I had started to make with some scrap red oak that I had in the shop, back when the saw was new, and had abandoned. Now I dug them out and decided to see it through. In order to try something different, I decided to fit the bottom in to the box using a rabbet, rather than a dado. In the past I have done them with a dado (a groove the bottom is trapped inside when the box is assembled) so doing it with a rabbet was simply something different. I also glued up a very small, very thin panel to make the bottom, which worked out well. A very clean joint. I cut the rabbet on the table saw with the regular blade and a sacrificial fence (just to be sure I didn’t mar the new fence) and it worked out great.

The hold up previously was figuring out the miters for the corners, so I actually had to take a step back and make a sled for this. About the most basic of sleds I have made. It has one runner on the bottom to fit in the miter slot on the saw. It is mounted to the bottom of a small, flat piece of plywood, that has a fence at the back. The sled runs on the right side of the blade, and the blade gets tilted 45 degrees to the left. I cut the end of the sled off, and now I have a zero clearance edge that perfectly matches the blade. It gives me a flat surface to work on, an easy way to hold the boards square, and a visual reference as to where the cut will be.

Ready for the glue up

I cut the oak to length on the miter saw – two long sides and two short sides. Now to add the angles, but keep the length so that everything fits together. I had a little trouble getting the miters as clean as I wanted them, eventually using a playing card as a spacer, which squared everything up. Need to revisit the jig to sort that later. Due to how I was going to assemble this, and the size of the box, I applied finish to the hexagon panel and the insides of the box top before assembly. I used Odie’s Oil, another first on this little project, and was pleased with the results. It was certainly easy to apply, and I liked the look, and feel of the finish. With the parts cut and some of the finish applied, I could try another new (for me) method. I mixed a bit of wood glue 50/50 with water and painted it over the miter joints that I was going to glue up. This acts as sizing and fills the pores that are exposed on the end grain, and makes for a stronger joint when you later glue it up normally. I got this from Matt Kenney’s “Build Better Boxes” book and liked the idea. Then when that had some time to set up, I used the blue tape trick to lay them out, apply the regular wood glue, and then fold the box all together using the tape as the clamps. I did apply some traditional clamps once everything was in the right spot.

In the interest of trying something else that was new, I decided to make a fabric bottom to the box. I had seen it in the same book from Matt Kenney. I found some scrap fabric my daughters had left over from sewing projects, and glued that to the oak bottom panel I had made. Then I installed it in the box. Now I could separate the lid from the rest of the box – which I did on the table saw. I used a small scrap that was the same thickness as the blade, to keep the box from pinching on the blade while I did this. It worked out well, only needing a small amount of sanding to get all the cuts flush with each other. I sanded the newly cut edges and made sure there were no sharp edges. Then I made the liner for the bottom part of the box. I used some leftover maple I had – I thought the contrast with the oak might be fun. These four pieces are cut individually, and pieced in place, through trial and error. They are simply held in by pressure, no glue. I sanded the top edges in place to round them over a bit, and then the top would fit on just right.

There you have it. A patterned plywood box. The red oak is not my favorite, and I am not sure how well it goes with the plywood or the maple, but it was fun to make and good practice. I used a fabric bottom, I used the glue/water sizing on the miters. I made a bottom panel, and used a rabbet to install it. I made patterned plywood with hexagons. I used Odie’s Oil as the finish. Plus the new sled to make the miter cuts. So many new things in one simply box.

Thanks so much for reading along.

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