Japanese Toolbox-Progress 3

The next steps in the toolbox build was to prep the bottom board and assemble the basic box.  The bottom board starts as at 3/4″ thick and needs to be thicknessed down to 1/2″.  If you’ve not tackled this operation because you think its “hard”, get over it.  Actually, this would be a perfect project to make your inaugural run at thickenessing.  I , for one, enjoy the process.  I find the initial destructive nature quite cathartic.  Anyway, most sources will tell you that you need to take a very thick shaving.  Several of those sources go further and call out how thick the shaving should be.  While not wrong, I think this kind of instruction leads many to find this operation to be drudgery.  They work really hard trying to produce as thick a shaving as was suggested.  In my humble opinion, the instructions should be to take as heavy a shaving as you can that will also allow you to sustain the operation for an extended period of time.  Thickenessing a board with a hand plane can be tiring, but should not be made so difficult that you avoid the operation all together.  Adjust the plane until you find a cut that is comfortable for you.  Endurance and power will develop of their own accord.  Anyway, on with the show.

To begin work on my bottom board I first surface planed one face and checked it for any cupping or twist.  I had a little twist but quickly remedied that with a few swipes of the jack plane.  There is no reason to anal about how flat this board is.  What you want is for the two faces of the board to be parallel with each other.  The screws and glue will easily pull it into shape and hold it flat.  Satisfied with the first face, I then set a gauge for 12mm and ran it all around the perimeter of my board referencing from my freshly planed face.


Next I added a heavy bevel on the out-run edge of the board.  Thickenessing is a cross-grain operation for the most part and the bevel will help to prevent any spelching.  The bevel also acts as a visual aid so that I can monitor my progress as I reduce the thickness of the board.


I started by first planing directly across the grain and continued with that approach working the entire board until I had removed about half the waste.


Then I switched to traversing at 45 degrees.  Working along the length and then back again.  Changing to the opposite 45 degree angle on the return trip.  I continued in this manner until I had about a 1/16″ of an inch or less left to remove.  It was then that I changed over to planing with the grain to reduce the board to its final thickness.  The whole operation took less than fifteen minutes and that includes taking photos.


With the bottom board ready to go, I turned my attention to assembling the sides to the ends.  I had already predrilled the sides, so all I needed was to add a little glue to the housing dados and install the ends into same.  No need for clamps.  The screws will take care of pulling everything up tight.

I then drilled pilot holes for the screws into the end pieces.


Next, I installed the screws.  I used a phillips bit chucked into my brace for this operation.  If you’ve not installed screws this way, your missing out.  The brace makes installing screws almost effortless.  Be careful though with the last turn.  You can generate a fair amount of torque with the brace and there is a danger of snapping the screw head off.  Thankfully none of these screws met with that fate.


The bottom board was then marked for screw holes, dividers again, and predrilled.  Just as with the sides.  Next, I ran the jack plane around the bottom of the assembled frame to ensure that the bottom board would meet with a level surface.  I then added glue to the bottom of the assembled box frame.


Damn! I’m going to have to put the unskilled laborer on a diet.

Then another round of pilot holes and screws.


Once again the jack plane is pressed into service and used to bring the bottom edges flush with the sides.


Look Ma’, I made a box.




Handles and end caps are up next.

I use a fair amount of 2x construction lumber for my projects so I usually have the odd piece laying around.  I actually had a straight-grained piece long enough from which to make the handles.  I cut a couple of pieces to rough length, planed an edge and marked them for width.  Then I sawed off the waste and planed the remaining edge and faces.


A little work on the shooting board to square up the first end.  Then I marked the exact length directly from the box.


I then added a little glue and clamped them in place.  Then installed screws following the usual procedure.


The offcut from the bottom board will provide more than enough material for the end caps.


Same as with the handles, I cut the pieces to rough length, then width.


Then fit them for the exact width with the help of the shooting board.



Up to this point I wasn’t to fussy about leveling the tops of either the end pieces of the box or the handles with the sides.


I ran the jack around entire upper perimeter to create a level and flush surface on which to install the end caps


Once again the glue and screw dance was performed to install the end caps.


What I need now is a lid.


How about a sneak peak at the uzukuri finish on one of the sides.


Part 2 Gregory Merritt Part 4


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14 Responses to Japanese Toolbox-Progress 3

  1. bloksav says:

    That Uzukuri surface looks great.
    I am always impressed with how quickly it is to work with a scrub plane across the grain. I think that I should do it more at home too, since I believe it is a great way of doing some exercising.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks Jonas. I’m having a lot of fun with the uzukuri. I’ve not used an actual scrub plane. Just a cambered iron in my jack plane. Thicknessing is something that everyone should be able to tackle and it’s no more difficult that any other planing operation.

      Hey, your chisel handles look great!

  2. davidos says:

    love the new way you are posting. A picture tells a thousand words as they say .just wondering did you use a scrub for the entire thickness and at what radius does it have? I cant tell for sure but it looks like a number 5 .this looks an interesting project. looking forward to the process. Thanks

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I’m starting to get a handle on this blogging thing.
      I’m using a #5 and the blade has a slight camber. No idea what the actual radius is. I just worked it on the stones until it had a shallow even curve to it.

  3. These boxes are great. I made one after seeing them on Giant Cypress and use it to store my moulding planes. I can turn the box forward on a shelf and all the planes are there.

  4. Keith Peters says:

    Coming along nicely. I recently finished a Japanese tool box myself. All the cool kids are doing it. I went screwless – through wedged tenons joining the sides and a loose, shiplapped and rabbeted bottom fitting in a groove in the sides.

    The Uzukuri finish looks great on yours. Not sure I would have had the patience myself. 🙂

  5. Many thanks to your photographer, I’m always self-conscious about drafting someone for that.
    I built a small box this winter as an excuse to tune up some wooden bench planes, an old plow plane, rabbet plane, etc. Assembled it thinking that somehow the box would cancel out a bit of twist. It didn’t. So much of the second-growth wood has reaction.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      LOL…my “photographer” is a tripod and a timer. Glad your like the photos though.
      I learned a long time ago to stay away from boards with twist. Cupping doesn’t present that much of a problem. But twist in this marginal wood seems to keep coming back and is quite powerful. I’ve seen a twisted board pick up an entire stack of lumber at the home center. No amount of joinery is going to hold something like that back.

  6. Pingback: Japanese Toolbox-Progress 2 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  7. Pingback: Japanese Toolbox-Progress 4 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  8. rnatomagan says:

    Nice work. Looks like the lighting is excellent in your workspace.

If you don't comment this is just a fancy way for me to talk to myself.

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