Way back in January, I said that I wanted to make something before building my workbench, and I said (here comes a direct quote), “What better project for my beginner skills than a simple dovetail box?” Yes. I said the words “simple”, “box” and “beginner” in the same sentence. How little I knew. So here are some reflections on my 6-month journey into box making, and some lessons learned:

  1. Find something you do well, and build your confidence off of that. Once I bought my ryoba saw, my sawing skills improved tremendously. I cut one of my dovetails with it to break it in, and liked it right away. I took a stab at sawing veneer by hand, and nailed it. I got more and more confident in that one area of my woodworking, and it made me more confident overall, even in other areas where I’m not yet very proficient.
  2. Start with a plan. I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but you really need something a little more concrete than “four walls, a top and a bottom.” That’s pretty much all I had. If I had actually sketched out a real plan with ideas on how I was going to join, say, the bottom to the walls, I would have been much better prepared for what was to come.
  3. Start with something big. I had wondered aloud when starting this project if doing dovetails with 1/4″ thick wood would be too tough for a beginner. Turned out that the dovetails were easy compared with all the other complexities in the project – many of which were enhanced because of the small size of the box. As some of you saw, I had to make a chisel out of an allen wrench because my 1/4″ chisel was too big for some of the things I needed to do. I felt like I was making dollhouse furniture sometimes. It’s no wonder my very next project was a step stool with really big dovetails and “regular”-sized joints.
  4. Listen to feedback. As I wrote this post, I re-read all of my entries, and the comments that followed each one. It’s really neat to see things that I ended up doing in this project because of suggestions from you all. In a way, this box was a community project!
  5. Don’t sweat it. As Russel on LumberJocks wisely commented, “Flaws are merely an expression of character; a reflection of the path to completion. They are not necessarily a bad thing, and in this case they are an example of tenacity and acquired experience.” Amen.

Thanks again, fellow woodworkers, for all of your encouragement as I brought this project through its various stages to completion. While I have no desire (at the present time) to build another box this small, I do hope to build more boxes in the future. I’m sure that many of the lessons I learned here will make it a much smoother operation.

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