Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
  Volume 11, Issue 4 - March 2017    
Veneer Storage Box

When I received the 18" X 18" x 2" cardboard box filled with veneer I had ordered, I thought this beautiful stuff deserved a place to keep it nice and flat. Afterwards, I came up with the idea of making a box to store it in. Since my basement shop is more humid than our living space, I negotiated permission to store the box under the couch in the living room. Of course such a box had to be sized accordingly and it had to be pretty! Because the headroom under the couch is 2" and the cardboard box was also 2", I had to design the box to be shallower and wider, taking into consideration the thickness of the top and bottom so all the sheets would fit. The final product is 20" x 28" x 2".

The sides of the box were made of 3/4" thick birch plywood, and the top and bottom of hard and stable 1/4" MDF to prevent bowing when filled. After ripping the sides 1-1/2" wide and cutting to length, I joined the four corners with simple yet effective rabbets.

I used my homemade crosscut sled and a single blade to precisely cut the rabbets in several passes. Such a sled is very safe to use since your fingers are always (and should be) far away from the saw blade. As shown in the first photo, for the one-time, easy set-up, temporarily stand the workpiece in line with the farthest edge of the saw kerf and secure a stop block on the opposite side with a clamp. The second photo shows the completed set-up. Note that my crosscut sled has three fences – the closer one is the handle to maneuver the sled, the middle one is the back fence that workpieces lean on and stop blocks are secured on, and the farthest fence keeps the base together.

Adding stop block to fence	  Sled with three fences

I raised the blade to 1/2", which is about 2/3 of the way up the two short sides. To be more efficient, I clamped the two sides together and, as previously mentioned, made several passes from the end of the pieces up to the stop block flat on the sled. By clamping the two pieces side by side, I had only two rabbets to mill.

Two sides clamped together   Completed rabbet
Clamping on the shop-made table   To glue and clamp such narrow pieces, I brought out my shop-made assembly table. The bottom is made of melamine (glue won't stick to it), as are the two sides that form a perfect 90° corner. The edges have numerous slots to allow for positioning and setting locking clamps. Take note that since the lid would later be cut from the box, I used glue only. The glued top and bottom will definitely lock those joints.
Adding divider   To store narrower veneer pieces and compensate for the reduced thickness of my box, I milled a dado in both longer sides to add a removable divider. I cut the dadoes on the radial arm saw, but a router and a guide would do the job just as well, albeit with a longer set-up.
Since I planned to cut the box to make a lid, I used only glue and a few 5/8" pin nails to connect the top and bottom to the sides. The pin nails were needed to prevent both pieces from shifting during the gluing process. After bonding both faces, I raised the box on makeshift risers and installed spring clamps about 6" apart. My improvised risers were 1/4" oak strips bridged over Bessey KP blocks. Since the inside is enclosed, I let it dry overnight to make sure the glue had plenty of time to cure.
Fixing the bottom in place   Clamped and left to dry
Homemade router base   To even out the perimeter of the top and bottom, I used a trim router and a flush trim bit mounted on my wider homemade Plexiglas® base, which provides stability when trimming or shaping edges. The two large dowel handles ensure good grip, safety and balanced control.
Cutting the box to make the lid   I temporarily installed a tall auxiliary fence to the table saw rip fence. Using a push pad to keep the box against the rip fence ensures straight cuts. The blade should be raised just enough to cut through the 3/4" sides. Cut the two long sides first.
Using wedges to avoid pinching   To cut the first short side, insert and jam a wedge in both long sides that were previously cut (shown). Those wedges prevent the box from pinching the blade, which would be a hazard. It also prevents tooth marks on the edges. In this photo, you can see the blade is raised just enough to cut through the sides. To cut the remaining short side, repeat the process but add wedges at the opposite ends for the same reason and at least one spring clamp to prevent the two box parts from spreading apart, thereby loosening the lower edges and perhaps ruining the cut.
Sand and clean cut edges   After the box is opened up, sand all fresh cuts and relieve all sharp edges. If glue squeeze-out has occurred inside the box, use a cabinet scraper or wood chisel to remove it. Make sure you also remove the hardened glue from the dadoes so that the partition will slip in later.
Installing piano hinge   After applying the finish inside and out (I applied three coats of shellac), add a piano hinge. A long hinge such as this will help prevent the back from bowing. Later, install two latches to the front to keep the box closed and also straight. When attaching the hinge, insert a few layers of paper to create a gap and prevent hinge bond (shown).
Drilling holes for handle   To prevent splinters, add a backer block when you drill for the carrying handle. A single handle should be screwed to the lower box, but you may choose to provide a handle on both halves. If you take a closer look, you can distinguish the partition that had the top corners shaped and rounded over to clear the top sides.
There you have it a handy and good-looking box to store your precious veneer and keep it flat. Before filling it, leave the box open for a few days to allow the finish to dry completely. Pieces of veneer don't like humidity!
Finished box   Veneer storage

That is a fun project and a great way to learn new or improve old woodworking skills. Work safely.

Text and photos by Serge Duclos

Serge Duclos started woodworking 40 years ago after purchasing a house. He soon found it was a way to relax from the stress related to his job as a human resources professional. Since retiring in 2004, Serge continues to enjoy his pastime and to update his bilingual woodworking blog http://atelierdubricoleur.wordpress.com with his projects, as well as his tips and techniques.

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