Cryptic Woodworks Weekly Update 06 Jan 2019

Wow, the first update of 2019. I hope everyone had a great Christmas, New Years and all the other holidays, whether Merry or Happy. it’s all good. It was nice for me, a few rather quiet days, visit with family, see some friends and even got out to a local art museum I’d never been too. Played a bunch of Hitman 2 (yeah, I’ve been a gamer for a loooong time), drank a bunch and ate a lot of cheese.

Making Puzzle Boxes.jpg

With the break over, it was time to get back to work. Well, actually I was working just before Christmas too. I had wanted to make a set of simple puzzle boxes as gifts. I started these on the Saturday before Christmas. That gave me 3 whole days, piece of cake. Well, the initial construction was easy, small mitered box, grooves for top and bottom, no big deal. But I wanted to locking system to require rocking the box in multiple directions to open it and what seemed simple turned out very finicky. Monday morning I know I wouldn’t make it. So I had to stop that and switch to some fast CNC carved signs. I got a bit creative with pictures for nieces and a friend, did my usual mask, carve, paint and finish all before about 2 PM on Monday the 24th. Then with spray lacquer still drying, put them in the car and headed to see my family. They came out great and everyone loved them. Sometimes our plans are bigger than our available time, eh? Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry I didn’t take pictures of the signs - doh!

Finished Puzzle Boxes.jpg

I did finish the boxes several days later, opting for a more simpler mechanic to open them. Wiped on some Danish oil and set them aside to dry. Now I’m nearly done for next Christmas, I guess. Still need to wipe some poly on after the oil cures, but that can happen anytime.

Ready to make holes.jpg

Then it was time to switch back to the engagement box. I wanted to add some decorative hearts to the inside of the lid, so I hand cut a bit of stencil mask, stuck it down and painted them. After that, it was time to steady myself, meditate, calm my nerves, practice steady breathing, etc. Why? Because I had to chisel two holes into the finished box so the top would have something for the locks to latch into and then drill through the sides for the tops pivot pins. So, yeah, I was about to cut holes in a perfectly good box. The side latch areas went smoothly, I just laid them out using my prototype, then carefully chiseled the areas out, taking just a bit at a time. I’d work the chisel around the edges, then chisel a file lines across and pop out the bit. Repeat this till I hit the depth I wanted. It was nerve wracking but went perfectly. Drilling the holes for the hinge pins went well too. I put a bit of tape on the sides so I could mark out the drill point, put a little tape flag on my drill bit to control depth and then just held the hand drill as straight and level as possible (it was too tall for my drill press). Went fine as well, the top pivots smoothly and locks and unlocks nicely. The top also got it’s coats of oil so it will wait a few days for it to cure then get some poly.

The engagement box will be done soon then. I’ll do some heavy use testing, make sure everything works perfectly. Then I’ll give it a nice photo opp, shoot some video and send it on it’s way. I’ll miss the little fella, it’s been a real part of my life this last year and a half.

I’ve got a sign to make now. Plus I have an old set of partially done puzzle boxes I’d like to unearth. I’d really like to get going on some new designs too. I have stock milled up for another set of boxes which I need to figure our the puzzles and locks and mechanisms for. So I’ll be keeping busy.

Conurers Alamaq.jpg

In the puzzling world I have a copy of The Conjurer’s Almanaq which is a kickstarter puzzle book. It shipped just before Christmas. I must say, I’m apparently better at creating puzzles than I am at solving them. I’m still on the first chapter and pretty well stumped. This is a puzzle hunt book, so you first have to find the puzzle, then solve it. Pretty sure I found the puzzle but a half dozen different solution attempts didn’t turn up anything that seemed right. Guess I’ll just keep working at it. It’s fun to try and I’m under no time pressure to solve it, that’s for sure.

Until next week, stay dusty!

Putting the Hinge Mortise Jig to Work

Building a hinge mortise jig was a great idea.  I'm not that great at getting the layout, cutting and alignment done just perfect so that when you put in all the screws the top lines up with the body.  Plus, it's fiddly work that can take a long time to do even one box.  With a jig, though, wow, layout is fast, every cut is straight and even and alignment is spot on.

It's just a few steps to set up, then everything is easy

  • Scribe a line on the top of bottom marking one end of each hinge.  Yep, just one is all you need.  I like to set the top on some blocks in it's open position and mark both at once
  • Use the jig to set the width of the hinge - easily done by putting the hinge in the opening and adjusting the side sliders
  • Set the depth of the hinge - done by putting the hinge on the reference mark on the slider (you can see the scratched lines on the aluminum bar) and adjusting that stop.
  • Set the height of the hinge - I use a scrap piece of the same wood as the jig, set that on the router along with the hinge leaf and adjust the bit till it's a hair proud
  • Put the fully adjusted jig on the workpiece, align the edge with your reference marks (made early), clamp it down and rout away (It's a good idea to rout in slightly on the right hand side, then back out and rout from the left in a clockwise direction.  This helps avoid tearout on the right when you exit the cut.
  • If all your hinges are the same, plus reposition and keep routing.  They will all be the exact same and nice and square.

I did all 4 puzzles boxes in about 2 hours.  While that might still seem long, I would have been lucky to finish one box per evening if working by hand plus I would have fought alignment issues along the way.

Now, what's next?