The Organic Band Saw Box
Many people may be intimidated by the band saw box, falsely believing that this project could be too complicated or need specialized tools. This is just not the case. This organic band saw box is a very easy and enjoyable project, calling for little in the way of math, measurements or expensive tools. In fact, when I was working in an industrial arts classroom, I found it be a perfect project for beginners. The students could make no wrong cuts as long as they stuck to the basic steps. I describe it as simply quality without perfection. It uses up the end cuts and scrap from larger projects and it only requires tools found in most basic wood shops. There is little math in laying out the project, but the measurements are basic fractions.
Band saw boxes are made of any wood; from common white pine to exotic ebony, from whole logs to glued-together boards. Whichever wood you choose, these band saw boxes start as a thick, solid block. For my example, I started with a large spalted maple board. (Spalting is caused from fungi growing on trees or lumber before they dry out. When the wood dries completely, the fungus dies off, leaving behind a streaked multi colored-pattern. Spalting leaves a fantastic figure to the wood, but often softens and destroys parts of the wood. *warning* Because of fungus in the saw dust, Spalting can cause health risks. Take common sense measures to protect your lungs.)
Tools and equipment
3/4 resaw band saw blade
1/8 band saw blade for cutting curves
miter saw or any saw to cut to across grain
oscillating sander or drill press with sanding drum
sandpaper grits 60-220
finish of choice: mine will be shellac
Step One: Roughing Out the Project
Before we start cutting the wood, my safety warning. If your blades are dull, you will be forced to push harder and the harder you push the more likely you will cut yourself when you make a mistake. Not IF you make a mistake….when. Always use blades that are sharp, never dull. Not only is it dangerous, but a dull blade will twist sideways, easily messing up your cut. If you think you might be doing something dangerous, stop. Think how you might get hurt and how you might cut the wood safer. Don’t learn the hard way that time saved by skipping precautions can result in three months healing and a lost finger. Be smart. You can only make ten mistakes.
Since the wood was damaged, I removed some material, leaving me with a board 3” thick, 3 ¾” wide and 32” long.
I then cut my board across the grain approximately every 8 inches. This amount of lumber will produce four boxes. You can use any saw you want to cut across the grain. Your band saw, miter saw, hand saw or table saw would all work. I used my hand saw. *Note* if I owned a table saw I would have ripped away the damage from the entire length of the board, then cut the 8 inch lengths since it would have been faster and more accurate. A table saw would have given me a perfect straight edge, however with patience and a quality machine, I was able to rip my board straight enough on my band saw. This project does not need perfect straight lines, so in this case, straight enough is good enough.
I am now left with four blocks of wood that are 3” thick, 3 ¾” wide and 8” long. Remember, lumber cost money. Even the small pieces can be used with the project so save your scrap for later in the build.
Step 2: Cutting Off the Back.
The back of your block must be cut off in order to cut out your drawers. I decided to draw a straight line
2/8” from the back. I also label all my parts so I know which back goes to which block and the direction that it is cut off from. This way I can keep all my parts in order.
I tried to keep it as straight as possible but, like I said, with these organic band saw boxes you can mess up your cuts a little and still have it look good. Since the back you cut off will end up being glued right back on, any wavy cuts will be unnoticeable in the finished project.
Step 3: Cutting out the Drawer Heart and Gluing Your Frame Together.
Start your cut on the outside into where you have your drawer heart. This will leave a cut in the frame. I cut out the heart of the drawers in any shape I want. If you don’t want to worry about straight lines, then don’t make any straight lines. Make curvy and bent drawers.
You should now have a back, an outside frame and the heart of your drawer.
Now is a good time to glue the cut in your outside frame back together so that you can sand the inside of your frame after the glue dries.
Step 4: Cutting the Sides of Your Drawer
After the heart is cut out you must turn it into a drawer. Cut off the back and the front of the heart. These will become your drawer front and back. You now have a frame, a heart, a back, and the sides to your drawer.
Step 5: Remove the Center of Your Drawers
Now cut out the center out of the heart, nothing fancy just cut out the insides with your band saw.
Step 6: Sanding
The best way I have found to sand the inside of these curved shaped is to use a sanding drum in your drill press. This will allow you to remove any saw marks. Sand in steadily higher grits between 100-220. *note* do not skip sanding grits or else you will have to come back and sand the entire box again to remove your scratch marks.
I used the sanding drum on the inside of the frame and the inside of your cut out drawer. I then hand sanded through the grits until everything was smooth and I had no scratches.
Step 7: Glue Everything Together.
After the insides of your frame and drawer have been sanded, you can glue everything together. Glue and clamp the back onto your frame. Glue and clamp the front and back onto your drawer. I find that using an acid brush to spread the glue evenly will prevent your glue from squeezing out and give you an evenly glued surface. Use some of the scraps saved earlier to glue a drawer pull onto the front of your drawer. Sand the outside of everything again before finishing.
Step 8: Shellac Based Finish
The best way to get an even, clear surface is by spraying a finish. I like a shellac-based finish for its dry time and how each layer blends together evenly. Since many wood workers are not set up for spray gun finishes, you can buy a can of spray finish from any box store. A wipe on finish can also be used. My preferred finish mixture for hand use consists of equal parts shellac, denatured alcohol and boiled linseed oil. Mix these together in small quantizes because your alcohol will eventually evaporate leaving your shellac too thick.
This band saw box is a simple project. Thanks to its organic quality it easily forgives any less-than-perfect cuts and is therefore a great project for band saw beginners. More advanced woodworkers can uses the basic concept to create something really elegant.