I have a set of chisels made in Sheffield, England, by Robert Sorby which I purchased some 30 years ago. Those who know hand tools know the reputation of "Sheffield Steel" and why these steels which are outstanding for hand tools have been disappearing, being replaced by steels more appropriate for mass production of power tools.
This set has lived for 30 years in the original cardboard box which has held up remarkably well. But the time had come for me to give the chisels a more permanent home.
The box proper is made from clear Baltic birch plywood which came with a minimal number of small voids. Any visible voids were filled with thick CA (super-glue) — a trick I learned from guitar repair experts. The inserts for holding the tools were made from cherry with a couple of walnut dowels used to register a glue joint. The glues were standard Titebond woodworking glue and CA.
The box was finished with Behlen B611-1406 Stringed Instrument Lacquer, a high quality nitrocellulose lacquer which I had to smuggle in from Arizona.
Of course, version 2 would be much different. This current box suffers from some engineering mistakes and the simple fact that a lot of it was designed on the fly, as work progressed. Like many projects, I would do a complete refactoring of the box.
- The bottom of v. 2 would be set in a groove — just like the sliding top — not a rabbet like it is now.
- The upper lip of the slide groove would be thicker. This is a weak point — especially when the lid is first inserted into the slot — and it will probably break eventually. At that time, I'll machine the top surface flush and glue on some solid cherry.
- The tool holders are overly complicated. V. 2 would have a simple grooved tray to hold the blades. The tray would end at the ferrules to keep the cutting edges from contacting anything.
- Box joints would have been nice, though this piece is more than strong enough with simple rabbets.
A lot of this design was based on what tools I had in my garage. The tools used on this project were:
- A Craftsman 12″ band saw with a rip fence made by squaring a straight length of 3/4″ plywood held in place by a pair of C-clamps.
- A Sherline miniature mill which, in all honesty, was too small for this project and so I apologize to my machinery for pushing it more-or-less past its limits.
- Japanese Shinwa Dozuki 110/7029 Hand Saw “Z”. A highly-recommended hand tool. That cut for the sliding lid in the first photo — the razor-thin cut: Dozuki “Z”.
- Course-grit sandpaper glued to a flat sanding block. Mostly used for cleaning up the long bandsaw cuts.
- 1/2″ chisel.
- My grandfather’s beech-soled Stanley patent block plane. By far my favorite plane, abused as it is.
- Micro-Mesh abrasive cloths.
- When I ran up against a brick wall near the end of fabrication, I borrowed the use of a friend’s table saw for the rabbets for the box bottom.
This quickie utilitarian project turned out pretty well (despite the engineering failures cited above) due in no small measure to the precision of the Sherline Milling Machine. The mill gets the credit for the tight joints and the smooth bores for the ferrules.