By Charlie M. Cadenhead
January 26, 2002
Turning a lidded box on your woodlathe is quite simple. It can be turned relatively fast and it makes a fine gift. The size of the lidded box is limited only by the size of wood you have, though I imagine there is a point where it could become a lidded bowl instead. The shape of your lidded box is only limited by your imagination, but you must keep in mind that the size of the lid must please the design of the box as a whole. I usually strive to make the size of the lid approximately 1/3 of the total box size. Though this "rule of thumb" can vary depending on the design and what you feel looks best.
Here are a few shape profiles to jog your imagination. I suggest you keep the design of your first few boxes simple and straightforward, much like figures "1" and "2". As you get more comfortable with the process, you can expand your creativeness.
I believe you should always use whichever turning tool, with which you are most comfortable, that will do the job. Just because one person uses a skew, doesn't mean you have to use a skew. You may do the job just as well with a gouge or scraper.
Gouge: Either a 1/2" or 3/8" gouge will do just fine. I
sometimes use a 1/4" gouge for detail work. The gouge will be used
for shaping the outside of the box, so the style of gouge is,
whichever kind works for you. Scraper: 1/2" square nosed scraper
for the endgrain hollowing. I don't use a round nosed scraper
because I like the bottom of my boxes to be flat. I find it easier
and faster to remove endgrain with a scraper than with a gouge.
Parting tool: I primarily use a 1/8" diamond shaped parting tool to cut the tenons and a 1/16" parting tool to separate the lid from the body. But you can do it all with the 1/8" parting tool.
Skew: 3/4" or 1" skew. I use the skew to cut the initial cylinder and for some peeling, scraping or cutting a finished edge. But I believe a skew is optional and the boxes can be made using only the gouge, scraper aand parting tool.
Depth Gauge: A depth gauge can be anything from your finger, a stick marked with a pencil to something more elaborate. I made a depth gauge by drilling a hole through the middle of a 1" wide by 3/4" thick stick and then slid a 1/4" dowel through the hole. I set or lock the dowel into place with a screw.
Chuck: It is much easier to turn a lidded box using a 3 or 4 jaw chuck. I have never done so, but I'm sure you could use a screw chuck also. If you use a screw chuck, be sure to either leave more wood on the bottom of your box to accommodate the screw, or glue or double stick tape a piece of scrap wood to your piece of wood.
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