We have an easy and fun project coming up in the next issue of ShopNotes that I think you’ll really like. It is sharpening stone box. I got the idea few months ago when I caught sight of a small box on Vince’s (managing editor of Woodsmith) desk. It was a sharpening stone box that Vince made patterned after one in an early 20th century book on woodworking.
What’s fun about the design of the box is that both the top and bottom are made from single pieces of wood that have been hogged out to accept the sharpening stone. The top had a routed edge and the bottom had a band-sawn profile. A simple, direct, and very appealing evening project with as many variations as you can think of.
Now, the heart of this project is creating the cavity for the sharpening stone and as simple as this might seem it took a few tries to get right. I thought about just chiseling them out. But, years ago I had made some boxes for carving tools that were carved from solid slabs and based on that experience, I knew this method was out. Next, I tried using a Forstner bit and then cleaning things up with a chisel. This worked OK but left an ugly bottom full of dimples and circles from the bit.
Then, I went to the router table and made a template with a rectangular cutout that registered off of the outside of the top and bottom of the sharpening stone box. To figure the size of the opening just take the width or length of the stone, double that number, add 1/16″ extra for play, subtract the diameter of the router bit, and add the desired wall thickness of the box, twice (confused yet?). Plunge cut this opening in some plywood to make a template, clamp it to the router table centered around the router bit with spacers to let out the sawdust, and then impale the blank on a spiral router bit and remove the waste, carefully, since you can’t see the bit. And there you go.
I can say that this method worked. But I can’t say it was simple, or easy, or felt comfortable. Later, Joel, the editor for this project diplomatically asked, “Is there a reason why you did it this way?” rather that just saying “Chris, this is a stupid way to make these boxes.” Joel and the ShopNotes staff had a project meeting and devised a much simpler approach. Their idea was to just use a template cut to the exact size of the desired opening and to use an upper bearing hinge mortising bit, it keeps everything in plain view — no critical dimensioning, easy, straightfoward, and safe. I had made the process overly complicated. I should have slowed down and taken the time to ask myself a few questions about the method of building: Is it accurate? Is it safe? Is it simple? Am I getting the results that I want? The lesson here is that you need to take the time to ask the right questions if you want to get the right answers.
I ended up making nearly a dozen boxes and really enjoyed coming up with appealing looks. These boxes are simple to build and a lot of fun. And, it’s a great project to use up some of those cutoffs and wood “treasures” that you’ve got squirreled away. If you decide to build a sharpening box, please send us a picture, we would love to see what you’ve done. (Pictures should be sent as attachments to cfitchATaugusthomeDOTcom.)