First 100% hand tool project

Shortly after I got into woodworking, one of the things I got into building were things like shadow boxes and other military related items for when people leave or retire. For people who leave whether at retirement or receiving orders, a little gift is typical as a job well done sort of gesture. Since then, I’ve made plenty of shadow boxes for work. It was a great way to build my skills. I would make small 11×14 shadow boxes for everyone and design each one differently myself.  We had a set budget for everyone but soon some of the higher ups wanted to cut down on that budget and anything extra would have to be pitched in by everyone else. Since we pay monthly dues, rather than having everyone pitch in more, I just decided to come up with an alternative parting gift and here’s what I came up with.

Everything was milled and cut by hand but the joinery was done with a Dowelmax. Still intimidated by mortise and tenon joinery, I didn’t wan to risk it on this one. I liked the design of this piece but it was more suited for the individual because our Gunny wanted a few things added in so I had to make the space. For my next one, I wanted to change it a little bit and make it 100% hand made which meant including the M&T. Here’s how it all played out.

For the sake of saving time, I’ll skip all the milling just let you know that everything was milled to 15/16″ thick and ripped 1-1/2″ wide.

I laid out the mortise by first scribing a line down the center of the board with a marking wheel starting half an inch in. Since the width of the side pieces are 1-1/2″, I made the other mark 2″ from the edge. Lastly, I marked the 3/16″ away from the center line on each side to complete the mortise.

I used a brace and bit to hog out the majority of the waste. The auger bits I have a supposed to be 1/4″ and 3/8″ but they are both over sized somehow. So here I used a 1/4″ bit for a 3/8″ mortise.

Then I cleaned it up with a 3/8″ chisel. It wasn’t until after I began cleaning them up that I realized when I marked the outside of the mortise, my math was a little off. I should have marked them 9/32″ away from the edges but instead marked them at 1/4″ making the mortise larger than I anticipated. Oh well, chips happen.

I made the mistake of cutting the angles on top before cutting the mortises out do doing these was a pain but at least I measured these out correctly!

To compensate for the larger mortises on the base, and since I had already marked out all the tenons, I just cut a little to the outside of my marked line on one end of the side pieces. After everything was said and done, I had everything cut and chopped.

A dry fit and things were looking good.

It was time to cut the rabbet but I ran into one small problem. The depth needed to be 3/8″ to accommodate the foam board and backing but that would go into my tenon. Now I was looking at making a stopped rabbet because I didn’t want to cut into the tenon.

I established the rabbet side with a rip saw

And then went to work on cleaning it out.

To get things going on the stopped portion of the rabbet, I switched over to a chisel to start chopping things out

Once I got the majority of the waste was chiseled out, I switched back to the router plane

After everything was cleaned up with, time to see how it came out.

A final dry fit before gluing.

And the final product after a few coats of finish and everything put together, well mostly. I took this before it was completely done and didn’t take any pictures after. I added some chevrons from PFC to Sgt on the left side of the blood stripe but other than that, this is it. My first completely hand tool built project.

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Author: Dan

Husband, Father of four, active duty Marine, and amateur woodworker.

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