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Animal Box 1, Aligator Icon Animal Box 2, Horsy Icon Animal Box 3, Turtle Icon
copyright 2005

Animal Media Boxes

This series of small projects have been designed for an adult and young person to work on together. The adult woodworker cuts out all the parts using power tools. The adult and young person then work together safely to complete the parts, assemble the box, and finish it.

The larger box (Alligator, Horsy) is based on a simple Early American plank box design. It has coarse dovetail joints that are not difficult to make by hand.

The smaller box (Turtle) has simple dado joints and is very easy to construct with a radial or table saw.

All the materials for a box can be bought at your local home improvement store or from a mail order house. The cost, using all new materials, is about $110.00 for pine, with fancy brass hardware and a colorful finish. The cost can be much less if scrap wood and simple hardware is used. When completed, the Animal Box will be worth three to four times the cost of the materials.

The patterns for these boxes can serve as well a very first lesson first lesson in wood carving.

Rockler order link to first page
  1. Animal Menagerie

    You can get the sketches for all these boxes by e-mail us with this little form.

    If you like our fun Freebies, remember we can only keep this Web site open if we sell our Low-Stress Computer Furniture Plans or you follow our ad links and make purchases from our sponsors. Thank you.

  2. Construction Steps

    You can make one of these boxes by:

    1. Downloading this text.
    2. Ordering the sketches.
    3. Studying the information
    4. Talking it up with your apprentice young person.
    5. Purchasing the materials, some local, some mail order.
    6. Rough cutting wooden pieces.
    7. Making the box joints.
    8. Cutting out the shapes.
    9. Carving the lines.
    10. Sanding and finishing all pieces
    11. Installing the hardware.
  3. Discussion of Sketches

    After you order the sketches, these notes will help you understand them. The Animal Media Box sketches vary with designs but all consist of the following sketches:

    1. Top and Side View Sketch

      The animal shape shows clearly. The contents of the box are shown in dashed lines.
    2. Drawing of the Box Pieces

      The lid, bottom, sides, and end boards are shown. The lid and bottom can be either edge glued planks or plywood with wooden edge trim.
    3. Drawing of the animal cut-out boards

      This sketch shows how to lay out the animal parts.

    4. Full size pattern

      These patterns can be taped to the wood and cut out.

    Rockler order link to first page
  4. Materials

    The Animal Media Boxes is made from inexpensive wood. The parts are assembled with glue, nails, and screws. This materials list is for the largest of the Animal Boxes so the exact amount of wood may vary slightly. The mail order source for any special hardware is given below.

    1. Wood:
      • Wood, Pine with only a few knots ----- 9 board feet

      Example @ 3.50 /bf ------- Subtotal: $31.50

    2. Mail Order Hardware:
      • Hinges, Brass 2 inch x 1-3/8 (25668) -- 1 pair -- $ 4.50
      • Small Box Lock, half mortis (33783) ---- 1 ------ $19.00
      • CD/CD-ROM Holder (30536) ---------- 2 pair ------ $ 8.00

      ------- Subtotal: $31.50

      Rockler order link to first page
    3. Local Hardware:
      • Chair Leg Braces, bronze color ------ 2 sets of 4 ---- $ 4.80
      • #4 finishing nails ------------------ 1 lb ----------- $ 1.40
      • Glue -------------------------------- 1 pint --------- $ 4.00

      ------------------------ Subtotal: $10.20

    4. Finish:
      • Artist's Acrylics ---------- 2 colors ----- $ 9.00
      • Polyurethane ------------- 1 quart -------- $12.00
      • Paint for inside --------- 1 pint --------- $ 4.00

      Finish Subtotal: $25.00

    5. Omissions and Contingencies (~10%) ( Tax, sandpaper, etc.) $11.80
    6. Estimate Total Cost $110.00

    This is only an estimate (made in Winter 2000). The price may vary in your area. Getting a good price on the hardware and making use of scrap wood is critical to keeping the price down.

  5. Tools

    This box was designed so that it could be built by an adult/young person team with a modest home shop. Access to a table or radial arm saw is most helpful for making the box. The coarse dovetail joints shown can be made with simple hand tools. The animal shape can be cut out with band saw, jig saw, or a hand coping saw.

    The very simple carving needed to make the lines on the animal parts can be made with one gouge. The one I use is a 3/16 inch #6 gouge. You also need a small, rounded-edged slip for sharpening it. A simple hand mallet can easily be cut from scrap wood. This is a very easy and fun way to start learning wood carving. Please e-mail me if you would like more information.

    Rockler order link to first page

  6. Fabrication Notes

    This is not intended to be a detailed step-by-step construction guide, but rather a number of points to consider. It is your project and you can build it to suit your likes.

    1. Options

      Look over the drawing and decide what you are going to do:

      1. Choose your animal -- Talk the selection over as a team. Note also the size of the finished box.
      2. Carving -- The animal shapes show a few simple lines on the boards. These are intended to be cut with a hand gouge. This is easy to do and makes a safe, fun exercise for the two of you but does require a few special tools. It is possible to cut them other ways, such as a free hand router, but this would not make such a good team exercise.
      3. Fancy Hardware -- As the the box is based on simple Early American designs, you can use simple steel hardware. The lock is the most expensive part and can be omitted, but young people enjoy the privacy of owning their own lock box.
    2. Making the Box

      There are two types of boxes, the larger dovetailed box and the smaller dado box.

      1. Making Dovetailed Box (Alligator & Horsy)

        The larger box lid can either be planks of wood edge glued together or plywood with a wood molding around the edge.

        You can obtain 0.5 x 0.75 inch cross section molding (as used in window frames) at the local home supplier. Simply cut a piece .75 or .50-inch plywood a little small and then glue and nail the molding to the edges. Use a finishing nail with the head cut off as a bit to drill pilot holes. First put on the end trim pieces, then cut the front and back pieces to full length (don't bevel).

        If you use planks, you will need to tongue-and-grove the wood or use biscuits.

        The bottom fits in a grove cut in the bottom edge of the sides. Be careful not to make this grove come all the way out on the ends, as it will detract from the dovetails. There are also vertical groves on the outside of the end pieces.

      2. Making Dado Box (Turtle)

        The smaller box is made assembling the box and then cutting it open on a radial or table saw. This is a really easy way to make a box with a matching lid.

        The side boards have dado groves for the end boards. The side and end boards both have dado groves for the top and bottom.

        Assemble the ends and sides with glue and finishing nails. be careful to mark where you are going to saw the opening so that you do not put nails there. Fit the top and bottom. Glue and nail them in place but use only short nails for the top so that they do not extend into the cut area.

        After the box is complete and the glue dry. Adjust your say blade so that it just penetrates end and side boards. Set the fence to the distance from the top to the opening cut. Use a older carbide tipped blade if you have one as you might hit a finishing nail. Pass the box through the saw four times. You might wish to put thin wood strips in the saw cleft and tape over it for the last pass.

        You do have to make two allowances when using this technique. First the box will be 1/8 inch less in height when complete so you have to make the side and end boards that much wider. Second the carving will be cut by the saw and you will loose 1/8 inch. The carving patterns show a step in the lines for the ends and sides to accommodate the saw cut.

    3. Preparing the Kit

      The adult should rough cut all the pieces of wood and complete all actions requiring large power tools. You then will have a kit and can safely start work with your young assistant.

      You may have already have made the box joints if you are using complex power tools or you can work on them together if you are using hand tools and the young person has enough persistence.

    4. Cutting out the Animal

      Make paper copies of the full size patterns. Tape the pages together if the piece is larger than one page. Cut out each of the separate pieces. Cut small square holes (many of these are marked on the patterns) in open places and at critical points along the internal lines. Locate the pattern on the wood and tape it down with small scraps of tape (masking or magic) around the edge and over small holes in the open spaces (show as diamonds). Be sure to include the wooden extensions where the animal parts fit into groves in the box ends.

      Carefully sketch around the pattern with a #2 graphite pencil. Don't press down too hard, just sketch. Also draw in the internal lines through the holes. Carefully remove the pattern (save it) and sketch in the rest of the lines on the wood.

      Set the pencil marked wood aside for a day or two in a place where you will see it from time to time. If the pattern doesn't quite satisfy, the problems will jump out at you after a little time. Use a pencil eraser to remove lines and redraw them.

      Cut out the animal parts with belt band saw, scroll saw, jig saw, or coping saw.

    5. Carving the Animal

      Clamp the pieces of wood flat on the bench and carve the internal lines in the patterns. Practice first on scrap. The grove should be done in at least three passes to insure good control.

      Turn the parts over and retape the patterns on the back side. Draw in the internal lines. Remove the paper and sketch in the complete lines. Repeat the carving.

      If the box has lines on it, sketch them on with pencil and carve them before assembly.

    6. Assembly

      Assemble the box first. The coarse dovetails will take some custom fitting and will not be completely tight when complete but that is just fine. Let in the hinges and lock with a chisel and custom fit the lid and bottom. You can glue the bottom and sides and lock them with a few finishing nails in pilot holes.

      The animal parts are held on by screws drilled from the inside of the box. Some parts are braced with Chair Leg braces on the outside. The feet have simple blocks of wood supporting them from behind.

    Rockler order link to first page

  7. Finish

    Finish your box any way you like. I recommend: Artist Acrylics, bright oil-based enamel inside of the box, a spit coat of shellac, and two coats of satin finish polyurethane or modern tung oil.

    1. Artists Acrylics

      Artists Acrylics are widely available in any art or crafts store. They come in a wide variety of very fast colors and are easy to apply. They will easily last a hundred years deep down inside wood carving.

      Mop a thick coat of paint into the carved lines with a cheap brush. Don't worry about the color spilling out of the grove; use plenty of paint. Let the paint dry thoroughly (at least 4 hours) and then sand the flat surface of the wood. The effect is wonderful.

    2. Signature

      Be sure to have everyone on the team signs and dates the box. This is easily done by signing he outside bottom with a permanent marker before finishing.

    3. Stain

      If you are using hardwood, you can stain it. Be sure to wipe excess stain out of the carving with a cloth before it sets.

    4. Spit Coat

      A spit coat made of one part 3-pound shellac to five parts shellac thinner makes a good wood sealer.

    5. Paint

      This design of this box follows that of Early American plank boxes. These usually presented very plain outsides in dark wood colors but when the box was opened the brightly colored inside gave a surprising contrast.

      I therefore strongly recommend that you paint the inside of the box a bright color (red or blue perhaps) with an oil-based enamel. Also mask off the outside 0.75 inches all round the inside of the lid and paint that rectangle too. Two coats are best.

    6. Top Coat

      For this box I like satin finish-polyurethane or a modern tung oil finish such as:

      Formby's Tung Oil Finish

      Tung oil finishes are applied with a cloth pad rather than a brush. Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully and apply a liberal number of applications on areas that will be handled. I would apply the finish over the painted surfaces also to produce a glazed effect, but try this on scrap first.

      Do not let excess finish accumulate in the carving.

  8. Completion

    All that is left is to reassemble the box and install the hardware.

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