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Mark Wilson

Birch Plywood Box

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Couple days ago my neighbor came over and wanted me to make him a box to put hid $3000 revolver in. He said he wants it made of 1/4 inch birch plywood with inside dimensions of 12 inches long , 7 inches wide , and 2 1/2 inches deep. He also wants it to look really nice. My issue is I not sure if that's even possible with plywood. I bought some 1/2 inch birch plywood ( only 2 ft by 4 ft piece for $17) to think about it because 1/4 inch won't hold. Does anyone have any ideas on assembling to make nice? I personally think I need to find some solid birch somewhere. Any help on this project would be appreciated.

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Sounds like a great project Mark. I agree with you, 1/4" is not thick enough to build it with. You could use 3/4" solid wood and use 1/4" for the bottom but I would rather use 1/2" for the bottom.

Here is a link that will show you how to cut the pieces. I usually make two pieces which will later make the front and back and then other piece will make the two sides. You can set up the saw and make the two cuts on both boards then cut the miters on the ends and put it together. After it is dried, cut out the top and put in either the solid top or a piece of glass. Set the bottom in the rabbit and you are set to go.

 

 

 

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Mark, I think 1/2" solid stock would be the minimum. I'd prefer 5/8".

 

Here's a lock rabbet joint that I like to use.

 

 

If you use solid or even ply, cut the width first, then the dado for the bottom while you have long pieces. If it's going to be a solid ply top, cut the dado for it, also. I'd go with 1/4" for the lid and 1/2" for the bottom. If it's going to be glass, just cut a rabbet on the top edge. Also, leave enough to nail on a retainer on top of the glass. Gonna be tricky to nail into 5/8" minus the rabbet.

 

 

Sounds like you might get some use out of the inside measure on this project.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Gene
'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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you gotta talk that ol fellow into letting you make it from solid wood, ply wood does not do justice to a 3 thousand dollar revolver. And I'd like to congratulate you on getting a commission of work!!!!!!
I would not do it in plywood, tell the gent that his gun deserves better, and the price would not change hardly at all if at all, the cost difference in wood is negligible.
Now if you can get it done in Hard wood, you can break out with some of those fancy spline miters I seen you do with your picture frames, I would start with that. Mark, honestly 1/4" birch just is not going to cut it. It is too thin for anything.
Now is the time you need to establish the caliber of work you are going to do from your shop. If you want to make a living out of this, you are going to have to shoot for high quality, no holds barred, no compromising.

 

So you may have to back track with the gentleman, and explain to him, that you just simply do not work with that medium of wood, you only work with solid woods, and the only time you would use ply like this is for a backer on a cabinet or such. Of course you want to be as gentle as possible with him, I am sure he is so happy to give you work. But at the same time, you need to let folks know, that you are an artist, and your quality standards are high. So Mark, my answer is, reject the notion that it must be made from ply, and talk to him and let him know, that you could never build a box from 1/4" ply, specially not for a beautiful revolver like the one he has.

 

 

That is the way I would approach it, but to construct anything out of 1/4" ply, is asking for trouble, and it will fall apart within a year or two. Remember Mark, make items that will last generations, that is the way we do it!
I hope my ramblings have helped.

 

 

Mark Wilson in image below, performing his famous spline miters, use these in your box too Mark! Just cut them on a smaller scale.

 

 

2013112110.08.49.jpg?width=500

 

 

 

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Also Mark, that 17 bucks would have purchased a plank of Cherry or Maple to make the box with, that is what I mean by the price in lumber is virtually the same when it comes to small projects like this. The cost is entirely in the labor my friend.

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I spoke to this gentlemen this afternoon , god him what i thought but he wants plywood. Unfortunately around where I live there isn't any lumber places that sell that kind of wood.?all I have is Lowes, Menards, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and some small sawmills . But the sawmills I'd have let the wood dry first. I'm thinking using 3/4 and 1/2 inch plywood and staining outside corner trim to cover the edges to make it look nicer for him. The way I'm understanding he doesn't use the revolver but justs wants a box so he can put it in his closet.

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Mark, Menards sometimes carries Baltic Birch ply. And, I believe they carry Appleply, too. Appleply is from the US and competes well with Baltic Birch.

 

For the joints, I you use the method I linked, you'll have very little ply showing. Or, you could miter the ends.

 

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Mark, would he be ok with 1/4 round trim inside the box? I made a bunch of tool totes from 3/8" plywood this way.

other options would be to use solid wood for the base (or mitered trim around thicker plywood) and corner posts grooved to accept the thinner plywood.

with either style attaching hinges into the thin stock will be a challenge. so you may need to bolt them on with small machine screws instead of wood screws.

the final option would be to respectfully decline the job as the challenges of building a utilitarian storage box with his specified materials are neither cost effective nor in-line with your type of artistry.

John

 

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Good points John, or instead of hinging, it could just be an in place lid. If the fellow is only looking for a place to set his gun, a lid would suffice too.

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It is often best to treat your clients to a little consultation to ferret out what their expectations are and get them in harmony with reality as well as to figure out whether the thingsey think they want really are what they want. In your case the guy asked for a particular material - - but why? Did someone tell him about Baltic birch and how harps are made from it making him think it was superior material? It could be something like that. So instead of asking your input he came to you with ideas in his head that might not serve him well.

I'd open the discussion up with him and see if there is some reason in particular why he wants this less than ideal material.

 

 

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Yep! Great points Cliff, some folks hear of something that sounds cool, and they stick with it, I mean, Baltic Birch, it does have a nice ring to it, so the feller wanted something from Baltic Birch, possibly because it sounds classy?

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I remember the nut-jobs and idiots who would call me with crazy preconceived ideas when I was hanging my shingle as a custom woodworker.

 

One idiot who - I think - typified the lot of them was a woman - an angry demanding woman - who railed at me over her ridiculous belied that the lumber that I needed to build her custom furniture would be available for pennies per board-foot because she saw an ad in the paper for used lumber from construction sites.

 

 

She was that kind of person who was convinced that the whole world was ripping her off at every turn and she was NOT going to let me get one over on her.

She wouldn't take no for an answer and refused to think rationally about what this used lumber was.

There is nothing quite so crazy as Joe Q Public.

 

 

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Mark

Although it would be an hour trip, you might contact

Weaver's Saw Mil
83 Rr 2 BoxHurdland, MO 63547

(660) 423-5241

Usually you can get cheaper lumber prices from sawmills.

 

 

 

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Amen Cliff, and when you tell them the cost in mediocre lumber as compared to great lumber is virtually negligible in most projects, they think you are trying to get one over on em too.

A sheet of 3/4" cherry ply in our parts runs about 75 bucks. That's 2.34 a board foot.

I can buy 32 board ft of 4/4 Cherry for 3.75 a board foot for 120.00 total. If they are on that tight of a budget, then they are going to be difficult customers to work with, and it's wise to just walk.

If you talk to most customers who are not experienced at working with custom furniture builders, they'll tell you the cost is all in the material, little do they know labor typically is 90 percent of the cost of most projects. Generally speaking of course.

That sheet of ply has it's place, cabinets etc, it's a great sheet product at the location I shop at. But to make a small case or custom case from it is not ideal when you can have solid cherry with a ton a character at a reasonable price as well.

 

 

 

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