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The Magic Ref
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Hi all,

I have been looking at wood to use to make a simple box apx. 9x7 Lets say it is a mirror type box.

What I have found is that to get solid wood you have to use 1/2 inch thick. I bought some and made the box but it just seems like over kill. It is heavy to carry and seems bulky. If I want to use 1/4 thick I have to use plywood. The problem is attaching the plywood together so it is strong and will last for years. Being so thin and trying to nail it, it seems like it will split. So this question is to the wood workers out there. If I pre drill the holes do you think 1/4 plywood will it still split? Also Lowes had Oak plywood and Birch Plywood. They both had a nice smooth finish that would be good for painting. Which do you think will hold better, and not split when I nail them into the each other?

Any other material I should consider? My goal is to make a hand full of these boxes, and of course I'm not a wood worker, so the least amount of sanding, and the simpler the better.

When I look at Mak Magic and Abbott's stuff it seems they use thin wood. Thanks!!!

Mike
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Spellbinder
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There are many sources on-line for lumber from 1/16 inches thick and up. Here's just one source for a nice yellow birch wood that I used in a recent project:

http://www.woodnshop.com/Hardwood/BIRCH.htm

This is real wood, not plywood, although the same company also sells plywood and veneer wood if that's what you want.
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EsnRedshirt
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Mike,

You should always pre-drill holes, regardless of the thickness of the wood. And 1/4" plywood should be fine for a small box- but I would not recommend nails. I would use wood glue for a strong, secure bond. You will find the plywood will split before the glue does. However, you'll need a lot of clamps to hold the box while the glue dries. You could use screws in place of clamps, as long as you pre-drill the holes, but since you don't like sanding and finishing, using clamps with glue instead of other fasteners means you won't have any screw heads to cover with filler.

If you're going to paint the box, go with birch. It's cheaper, and you won't feel guilty covering the wood grain with paint, like you will with oak.

-Erik
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* = Take any advice from this person with a grain of salt.
Michael Baker
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Mike,

If you have a Michael's craft store near you, they typically stock Baltic (aircraft) Birch plywood. This is very good stuff. The typical Birch or Oak ply they carry at Home Depot or Lowes is a different type, although it can be used. If you can get to one of these Woodcraft stores in Michigan you should be able to find both Baltic and Finnish Birch. http://www.woodcraft.com/stores/default.......state=MI

The glue joints as Erik mentioned are necessary, but quite often on a box the size you mention, I also use small wire brads (3/4" x #18 or #19). This makes assembly a bit easier, and holds things in place so you can get the clamps on. I buy mine at Ace Hardware, but Lowes, or HD should have them, too.

Use a needle nose pliers to hold the brads while you tap them in with a tack hammer. Later, you can set them with a nail punch and fill the very tiny holes with wood filler.

Putting a small brad into the edge of a 1/4" piece of wood requires a steady hand and a good eye, but I do it every day, so you can, too. You can also consider using 3/8" or 1/2" stock for the pieces that will take the brad into its edge, and drive them through the broad side of the thinner wood. Nothing says every piece must be the same thickness. This is very typical of some MAK pieces, like their Dagger Livestock Vanish.

If you have a router, dado and/or rabbet joints will increase the surface area being glued and will strengthen the joints. Just be sure to re-calculate your cutting measurements to account for these types of joints. These joint cuts can also be made with a table saw instead of a router if you have patience and a good eye.

Check this resource for good information with diagrams: http://www.dixieline.com/woodjoint/woodjoints.htm

If you are wanting to use a nice hardwood with a natural finish, then your best option would be to find someone with a thickness planer, or pay a cabinet/millwork shop to plane some wood to the thickness you desire. In such a case, I would not use brads or screws at all, and go strictly with glue joints, preferably rabbeted or dadoed.

You can make, as you say, a "simple" box, and it will probably work, but a little extra effort will yield a prop that may outlive you. Smile

~michael
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ClintonMagus
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I agree with Michael on the aircraft plywood. The problem with thin plywood, however, is that it will tend to bow. I usually purchase two sheets each half the required thickness, glue the bowed sides together, and clamp or weight the assembly with heavy books until dry to get the flattest material possible.
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The Magic Ref
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Thanks to all! This is great information!

Hmmm... Now what do I do with the $30 piece of nice plywood I bought yesterday that I cut up into 12x12 pieces... Looks like a actual mirror box might just be in order Smile
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Michael Baker
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If you've already cut some wood, you might as well give it a go. You will probably end up with a nice prop. At the very least, you'll have a prototype that you will have learned a lot from.
~michael baker
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chrismorrow
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Mike,

I agree with everything said so far, but here's one more thing you can try... When working with thin wood (1/8", 1/16") I use CA glue along with a can of CA glue activator. I glue the thin edge first, then spray the receiving edge with the activating agent. You need only hold the joint for about 10 seconds before it has bonded. I love the stuff. It makes quick work of small, delicate boxes. On thicker woods, stick with wood glue and tack it with brads or staples. I hope this helps.

Chris
George Ledo
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A trick I learned many years ago, which I use all the time, is to use strips of masking tape to hold the joints while the glue dries. Just put the tape perpendicular to the joint, pulling it taut, and use as many strips as you need. For most stuff, I place them every few inches. It's amazing how well it works.

I have a quantity of clamps of all types, but I seem to keep using this technique anyway.

As far as the brads, yep, I do that too, holding them with a pair of pliers like Michael said. Saves fingers.
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Michael Baker
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Hi Chris,

Is this the Chris Morrow, I know?

Thanks for the info. I use CA and the accelerant all the time, but on smaller things, and not where much stress will be put on the joint. Larger props, like the mirror box size Mike said he wanted to build should have a good wood glue, like Titebond, on the joints. CA on rabbeted joints might last awhile, but on butt joints, it would pop at the slightest tweaking. Too much leverage against the joint on bigger boxes.

When I use CA, most often I apply the glue to one surface, marry the joint and then spray the accelerant on. For such joints, I use the gel type (20 second) CA. This allows me sufficient time to line the pieces up very well before the glue begins to set. It's still as fast as I need it to be, just not too fast. Smile

George's tip with the masking tape is also something I use also... as well as rubberbands, string tourniquets, clothespins, hemostats, and anything else I need to use to get the job done. Smile

Using pliers to hold brads not only saves fingers, it helps keep the brad lined up accurately when hammering into very thin wood.

One of my favorite woodworking books contains nothing but shop tips. Pure gold.

~michael
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The Magic Ref
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I have a Black and Decker nail gun that works well with brads, do you think I can use this or do you have to hammer them?

Good idea about the masking tape!

Michael, I did use the wood to make a proto type last night. That is when I realized that it is just to bulky and heavy for what I really need it for. I did not pound the nails in all the way so it will be easy for me to take it apart. But I did learn a few things, I learned I have a dull hand mider saw! LOL. I also learned I don't have the right power saw. I used a power miter/chop saw probablly around a 10 or 12 inch blade. It worked fine but couldn't cut the whole piece at once. I don't like table saws so I was thinking about getting a
sliding miter saw. Do you think the cheap one for around $130 will make straight cuts? I know you get what you pay for as far a quality goes, but for now just want to learn on a cheap saw as long as the cuts are good. Any thoughts?
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IDOTRIX
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Magic Ref, the less expensive saw will work O.K. for what your doing. It's all about the blade. The more teeth the better the cut. Good Luck
Rick Fisher
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We use Russian Birch plywood - which is available in many different thicknesses. Johnson Lumber in Charlotte Michigan is a magic builder's dream store. They cut the wood there in the plant and also carry all types of exotic woods. They have a nice website as well and you can see all of their products at http://www.theworkbench.com

Mikoume ply - marine plywood works well too..hope this helps.
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The Magic Ref
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Thanks to all...

Lots of good information!
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EsnRedshirt
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Magic Ref- why don't you like table saws? Is it safety issues? Provided you're careful and don't disable the guards, they're as safe as any other powertool.

If space is the issue, you can get a portable unit that folds up. Ryobi (who sells through Home Depot) makes a good model for under $250- it's the first big power tool I bought for my workshop, and it's one of my most versatile, too.

-Erik
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George Ledo
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Quote:
On 2008-12-29 19:52, Michael Baker wrote:
One of my favorite woodworking books contains nothing but shop tips. Pure gold.

I love those books! Smile
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine
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The Magic Ref
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I had a table saw once and gave it away because I never used it. The times I did use it I sucked at it! I don't remember mine having a guard so the owner before me must have taken it off. I just remember several times the boards would kick back and scare the crap out of me. The first thing I would do is look to make sure I still had all my fingers..LOL... I finally told my brother-in-law if he hauled he could keep it. I know they are good tools to have and probablly a must have for any woodworker. I'm only 46 maybe someday when I grow up.. LOL..

P.S. I did make it to Michaels today and picked up some Baltic wood. Let the fun begin...
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casibb3
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Michael has great tips re the wood. One further tip I use is to put the nails (brads) into a vise, point end up. Tap with a light hammer to blunt he point.
When tapping into the wood, the dull point will cut thru the grain, rather than opushing it aside as with the pointed nail, thus preventing splitting. Be sure, of course, not to use too large a nail for the size of wood in the project.

Frank
Michael Baker
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Interesting idea, Frank. I'll give that a try. I use fairly small guage brads... #18-#20. One idea I learned from my grandfather when I was a kid is to keep a bar of soap on hand. Stick the nail into the soap prior to hammering it in, and you'll split a lot less wood.

The brads are not what makes the joint. That's the glue's job. The main reason I use brads is to keep all sides of a box together until the glue sets, assuming I'm not using some type of clamping jig. Gluing up and clamping six sides of a box at one time can be rather like putting pantyhose on an octopus.
~michael baker
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casibb3
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Michael: Add to that soap idea......drill a 1/4 inch hole into the base of the wooden hammer handle, fill with wax (or soap). You will always have the lubricant ready when hammering.

Frank
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