Lee Valley & Veritas
Woodworking Newsletter
  Volume 8, Issue 2 - November 2013    
Flocking a Cutlery Box
My first flocked box was a cutlery box I made for my wife. She had inherited a knife set and the box was falling apart. It was made of veneered cardboard with a velvet-like fabric glued inside. The knives were held in position by little blocks of wood, which were also covered in fabric, placed on the outsides of the blades.
Original Box
The original box that was inherited by the author's wife.
I made my box using burned maple with a basswood inlay to go with the basswood cover I was to carve. I wanted the box to have inside recesses to place the knives in. To accomplish this, I had to create a bottom structure, which I chose to make out of 1/4" foam core. I could have made it out of wood, but I didn't want to add extra weight to the box.

To make the bottom structure, I first measured the inside of the box. I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the bottom and placed the knives on it to see how I would position them in the box. There is no formula here; it's a matter of finding a balance of the positive space (the knives) and the negative space (the surrounding area). You don't want the knives to sit too close to the inside edge of the box and you don't want them to be crowded together in the middle. You can choose to have the handles lined up in a row or alternate them, which is what I decided upon. I found it easier to play with the spacing by tracing and cutting out cardboard replicas of the knives and moving them around until I was satisfied.
Cardboard replicas of utensils
The cardboard replicas of the utensils that the box houses.
After I was satisfied with the layout, I cut a piece of foam core the same size as the bottom of the box, subtracting 1/8" both laterally and longitudinally to facilitate the placing of the structure once flocked. I prefer to cut the foam core using a utility knife. There is a method that must be followed. Place a metal ruler inside of the line you are cutting. I use double-sided tape to attach sandpaper on one side of my ruler so that it will grip the material I'm cutting. The key is to cut lightly and not all in one pass. First make a light pass on the surface and then make four or five passes into the foam until you've cut all the way through.
Cutting the foam coring
Cutting the foam coring takes a light hand and some patience.
I wanted to cut holes in the foam core for the handles to rest in. To do so, you must measure the handle of the utensil 1/4" from the surface the blade is resting on. In the case of the steel, it might be less than the full width of the handle. This is where the cardboard tracing of the knives plays a significant role. When you traced the knife handles, they were traced at full width; you can use these as guides to make the holes. On a spare piece of foam core, trace the handle of the knife, closing where the gap of the blade is. Remove 1/4" inside the tracing. Cut the hole and place the handle. Cut the same way as before using the ruler. Go lightly as the utility knife blade has a sharp point and can pivot easily. You can use a scroll saw to cut the holes, but be aware that cutting through foam core is like cutting through air. Be careful as you feed it, as you might cut outside the lines.

When you place the handle in the hole, the blade might not touch the surface of the foam core. That's okay, as you'll make a pad for the blade later. Adjust the fit until you are satisfied and transfer the hole measurement to the cardboard bottom you previously cut. Repeat until all of the holes are transferred. Cut the holes into the cardboard. If you should need to remake your structure, this will act as your guide. When all the holes are cut, place rectangular pieces of foam core where the blades rest. Make sure the piece is small enough to be hidden from view when the blades are in place. Glue the piece with white or carpenter glue. Do not use hot glue from a glue gun as it can warp the foam core or leave a clump you'll have to clean up.
Placing the foam core structure and tracing the holes
Placing the foam core structure inside of the box and tracing the holes.
Place the structure inside of the box and trace the holes you have made. This area will need to be flocked as well. All objects you want to flock have to be sealed. If you don't seal them, the glue will not rest on the surface properly and the flocking will be blotchy. I sealed the box bottom where I traced the holes and left the rest unsealed to facilitate the gluing of the structure later. To seal the foam core, I use acrylic paint. I painted two coats in the same color as the flocking material on the surface and the side of the structure.
Applying the flocking to the traced areas
Applying the paint to the traced areas on the bottom of the box.
  Flocking kit
  The flocking kit the author used.
Now the flocking begins. To do this properly, you must plan carefully. First designate a surface to use, keeping in mind that you'll be creating a small cloud of flocking. The excess flocking will be recovered. Paint the adhesive on the areas of the bottom of the box you want to flock. Use the same color adhesive as the flocking in case the flocking is weak in some areas. (This will not show.) Cover the area well without leaving any gaps, but do remove any excess adhesive. While the adhesive is still wet, apply the flocking. Spoon flocking into the tube that doesn't have any holes. Place the tube that has holes over the tube with the flocking and close it. Turn the tube to aim the holes toward the adhesive and shoot plenty of flocking at it. If you think you have enough, put more. Don't spray strongly or you'll create a massive flocking cloud. (Don't ask how I know this!) Let it sit for 10 hours and remove the excess by turning the box upside down and brushing it lightly with a soft paintbrush. The excess can be poured back into the bag and reused.
Completed flocked foam-core structure
The completed flocked foam-core structure ready to be placed in the box.
Paint the surface, the sides of the holes in the insert and the foam pads with adhesive. You have to work quickly on large surfaces. Shoot the flocking from every direction to ensure you have covered the sides as well as the surfaces. When dried, the foam core might curve a little, which is okay. Brush and recover the excess flocking and apply glue to the bottom of the box. Place the structure, adding rags and then a bit of weight to it. This will ensure the bottom will adhere completely. The key is not to crush the foam core.
Completed box
The completed flocked box makes a lovely keepsake.
Completed box with cutlery
The completed flocked box with the cutlery placed inside.
To flock an ordinary box, simply tape the outside corners of the box and follow the same steps. Seal, apply the adhesive and flock. When working with flocking, don't mix colors. Use one color of flocking per tube. (You don't want red residue in your green flocking.) If you're unsure of how to proceed, practice on a piece of scrap wood.

Paul Roger Richer

Paul Roger Richer works at Immigration Canada. He is a hobby woodworker who enjoyed a career in the arts for 26 years. He was the creator, host and producer of the television series "Art d'oeuvre".
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