My brother is getting married, and as his best man, I am responsible for planning the bachelor party. Always being a “crafty” person, my brother suggested that we all do a woodworking project together, so he challenged me to come up with a simple project that we could all accomplish in one afternoon.
I settled on a slightly simplified 17th-century “Bible Box,” which is rabbeted and nailed at the corners and which uses a very simple wooden hinge. I bought a couple 1X12s at my local lumberyard and dimensioned the stock at my own workbench at home.
It didn’t take much time to get together enough materials for five small boxes. Then I gathered the necessary tools in my new traveling tool box and set up “shop” at my parents’ house soon afterward. The original plan was to use the workbench in my parents’ garage, but it being rather cold, mom suggested we all work at the dining room table instead. I’m no stranger to dining-room woodworking, so I cobbled together a few bench hooks and got the guys started on the project.
I introduced them to the stair saw, which proved a very popular tool. They also liked the idea of splitting out the rabbet cheeks instead of having to saw them. Only a couple of the pieces had crooked enough grain to require sawing.
That’s the groom with the mallet, there.
I showed them how to do a little eastern-style woodwork, sitting on the floor and using one’s feet as clamps. I did insist they keep their shoes on, though.
It was only the first of many ways we had to get creative with work-holding. Other improvisations included using a child’s table as a sawbench, sitting on the workpiece, and taking turns holding workpieces down for each other.
After a lot of sawing and splitting…
And a lot of drilling and hammering of cut nails…
We had finished the carcases.
We chamfered the bottoms and nailed them on, and then got started on the lids. In principle, I love the way the hinges of Bible boxes are designed. In practice, they can be a bit finicky. I used red oak instead of pine, which proved to be a good choice.
Unfortunately, I had neglected to bring cut nails of the right size to attach the hinges. I rummaged around in my parents’ hardware cabinet, but all I came up with was a handful of wire nails that were just a little too long.
I instructed the guys to clip the tips off at an angle with some wire cutters, yielding a shorter nail that was still sharp.
We drilled pilot holes in the hinges, and the nails worked beautifully.
Getting the hinges placed and the pilot holes drilled, however, required some creative teamwork.
The pins in the hinges are just wire finish nails driven through pilot holes in the oak battens that double as hinges. Not exactly period-correct, but effective nonetheless, and an easy technique to teach.
I wonder if Peter Follansbee or Mary May has ever tried to do a carving demonstration with a toddler clinging to one leg?
I also brought one of my scratch stocks. I demonstrated a couple of simple motifs, but then I brought out some scraps and just let the guys start experimenting on their own.
Most of them are artistic, so they didn’t need much instruction. Work holding was again a challenge, but between elbows, knees, and some creative blocking, we managed to conclude the afternoon with no injuries.
Dad brought my infant son over for a look. He’ll be making his own boxes eventually.
I was impressed but not surprised at how quickly they took to the tools, despite the fact that soft pine can be somewhat difficult to carve neatly. It cuts easily with a sharp tool, but it doesn’t leave crisp edges when carved, so fine detail doesn’t show up well.
By the end of the afternoon, we each had a functional box, even though we weren’t all finished with the carving on the tops.
The one at the top-center is mine. The lower-left one was done by a nursing student, if that helps explain anything.
Once the carvings on each one are complete, I will post an update with more photos.