The Recipe Box – Part 3: Contrast Elements; Sub-Base & Dovetail Splines

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This is Part 3 in the making of the Recipe Box, See Part 1 HEREPart 2 HERE.  I will cover two contrast items in this blog; the sub-base and 12 dovetail splines (3 on each corner), given the idea by our Woodcraft Magazine Editor-In-Chief, Jim Harrold.  Jim built a dovetail spline jig for the Aug/Sept 2012 Issue #48 to build the Tile Top Box (below).  The other idea Jim mentioned was the Hafele Maroon Felt that he had used in the same project for the box floor and inside lid area.  I was unsure at this point in using the felt on the box floor since the recipe box would be mainly used in the kitchen.  With all the handling of the recipe cards during cooking/baking, this peel-and stick material might be difficult to clean and actually attract debris.  The material does add a clean, classy finished look and I admit leaning towards using it, but not for this reason!  I’ll cover the finishing touches in part 4 of the recipe box blogs!

In planning for a sub-base floor piece, 1/4″ thick to be made from maple, I cut the sub-base perimeter to match that of the box assembly, leaving a fraction over for planing and sanding, after the dovetail splines are added for an assembly inclusive final sanding.

Time to cut the dovetail splines using a Freud 1/2″ x 14 degree dovetail bit.  I recommend cutting a test piece first to make sure of the desired depth/aesthetics and to double check all router and table adjustments are tight.  I also clamped a square fence against the fixture for making sure my travel followed along the back of the router table fence.  I masked the corners of the box assembly for possible tear out, set up my desired depth and cut the center splines in each of the 4 box corners.

After cutting the center spline, I setup the fixture and measured for an offset of 1-1/4″ from center to center of the left and right splines.  All I had to do is flip the box for a matched mirror cut for the remaining 8 dovetail slots.

Cutting the ebony was much easier.  First, using the same Freud 1/2″ x 14 degree dovetail router bit to cut the dovetail shape into the ebony,  I cut one long dovetail shape on both ends giving me more material height to work with on the router table.  Cutting the double-sided dovetail bars into 2 pieces will give me enough material for 12 small dovetail blocks.   I also cut a spare dovetail from scrap wood that fit the corner slots to test off of for each ebony block.

I cut the individual dovetail blocks on the bandsaw, leaving extra width material on the ebony, measured from the splines already cut into the box for sand-shaping using the Mirka Abranet Disc Assortment for an exact fit into the box cut dovetail splines.  The Abranet was very useful with the fine sawdust created by the ebony.  It worked right through the disc pores without clogging or binding up.  As you can see in the photo on the right, there were some gaps between the bubinga and ebony.  I used the ebony sawdust to fill these gaps with CA Glue, but we’ll just keep that secret between you and me!

Recipe Box

Glue-up was next, followed by the ebony dovetails being bandsaw cut.  It was at this point I filled the gaps with ebony sawdust and CA glue, then sanded to a smooth finish, blending in with the bubinga box sides.  Working with the ebony was easy as it is a soft, yet dense wood.

I finished the sub-base using Transtint Black Dye to match the ebony dovetail spline additions.  You can mix the dye with water for economical use or alcohol for a fast drying application.  Why not make the sub-base from Gaboon Ebony, you might ask?  Simple, COST!… based on the fact that I would only be seeing a slim exterior perimeter once assembled!  I’ll cover why I regret that decision in the final recipe box blog, part 4!

I thought I was finished with the sub-base, so I glued it with Titebond II and clamped it using Bessey Clamps to the box assembly.  Gluing it up at this point was a big inconvenience!  I’ll also cover why in…The Recipe Box – Part 4: Hinges, Assembly, Finish, Matching Pen & Final Touches!  Pictured below right is the Recipe Box to this point, placed together, unassembled.

In the Spirit of Excellence, auf Wiedersehen…Frank!

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