Every year I make something for two dear female friends of mine, for their birthdays. This year I decided on Shaker Oval Boxes, and putting a music box movement inside. I saw the plan in a Popular Woodworking magazine and the credit is due to a fellor named John Wilson. His web site is ShakerOvalBoxes.com and has instructions and supplies.
I first studied the instructions, then ordered supplies I'd need, then started making the forms. The forms are nice, thick blue foam. I cut an oversized block of foam, then copied a full size oval and adhered it with spray adhesive. Then I sanded down to the line.
Next, I needed templates for making the bands that form the oval box sides. Mr. Wilson sells aluminum ones, but I made my own out of plastic. I figured that "see through" material would help me find pretty grain for my boxes. Here are the templates for the side strip and lid strip.
After tracing these, they are cut out and sanded to the line. Here are strips made from sycamore.
The ends of the strips have "fingers" that need drilling (for copper tacks) and a beveled cut along the length of the fingers (nice touch to make them look more elegant, I guess).
From Mr. Wilson, I purchased a water tray and got a table top range burner from WalMart. The water is heated to near boiling and the strips are soaked for about a half hour. This makes them pliable for bending.
At the hardware store I bought a flange and short length of threaded pipe, then attached these to a leg of my workbench. This will back up the wood for nailing in the copper tacks. The anvil causes the tip of the copper tack to bend on the inside of the wood, so it holds the box closed.
Since I work alone, I could not get pictures of the actual forming process, but the hot strip of wood is bent around the form, then marked, then taken off the form. Then the marks are brought together again and the oval is made permanent by hammering in the copper tacks...lightly. Then the oval is put back on the form for two days of drying. The lid bands use the box band as their form.
I didn't take pictures of making the solid top and bottom ovals. Basically you mill wood to appropriate thickness, use the finished oval band as a tracing template, cut oversized, and sand to the line.
Now, these two boxes are music boxes. The movement is "Simple Gifts" which is a pretty well known tune by Aaron Copeland, from his piece called "Appalachian Spring." A Shaker wrote the lyrics for this tune. I thought it would be nice to include the lyrics on the inside of the lid. To do this I use ink jet T-shirt transfer material. The lyrics were printed in reverse and ironed onto the wood. It took a lot of trial and error to get this right. I think I had 14 failed attempts and 2 successes. But I learned what makes success, so that will help on future projects.
Success! So this doesn't come off I covered the lyrics with 3 coats of polyurethane.
The flat oval tops are placed into the band, then drilled, then held in place with glued in toothpicks.
When the glue is cured the toothpicks are trimmed, then everything is sanded. I sand it all down, apply 3 coats of polyurethane, and attach the music box movement. There is a hole drilled in the box bottom to allow for winding the movement. Also, my finishing touch is to drill a recess and glue in a penny (for the year), and add my name.
The original intent was to use sycamore, but I found that it does not bend well without breaking. It comes close, but tends to break going around the home stretch. So for the actual boxes I found that poplar bends REALLY well. Since making the above boxes I have experimented with cherry and cedar too. Cherry does well for the skinny lid bands, but tends to break for the wider box bands. Cedar does REALLY well, just like poplar. And I have an abundance of cedar and poplar. Below is just a test box. The bottom is made from poplar and the top from cherry. It will be for myself. Since this, I have put a cedar bottom into the poplar oval. And I will put a sycamore top into the cherry oval. Just a nifty multi-wood storage box for the shop.
My friends and I have an upcoming lunch, where we celebrate our birthdays and give gifts. I know they will like their music boxes. I had successes and failures along the way, but the end result is really pleasing and it was a good experience.