Samsara, or, one life of many

If it is true that matter can neither be created or destroyed but only redirected as other matter/energy, then perhaps it explains this condition I have that will not allow me to drive by a pile of scrap wood without stopping to assess whether or not that wood can be transformed into something else or if it really should be left for the garbage truck.

A few weeks ago I drove past a house that had apparently undergone some renovation that left a pile of oak hardwood flooring scraps by the side of the road. I couldn’t resist, so I loaded as much of the pile as I could (and that looked usable) into the back of my car, where it traveled with me for some weeks before finally being unloaded in my garage. In between other projects I took the nails out, cut the boards down to size a bit, and then I jointed the individual pieces to glue up as small panels.


This isn’t beautiful, air-dried oak and so the work was harder than it probably should have been at times. Plenty of energy was spent on this conversion of matter, and I spent much more time than I regularly do at the fore plane, but they came out pretty well.


From the get-go the idea was to turn these into a small box to house my router plane and its accessories, so it didn’t have to be big, but I did want it to be nice. I remembered watching Peter Follansbee on the Woodright’s Shop telling Roy about how early settlers (who never called themselves pilgrims) didn’t go in much for dovetails, so I considered a nailed rabbet constructions, but then I thought to myself “how hard could it really be to knock out some dovetails?”

The answer, in short: really freakin’ hard.

Or at least the oak was. On a simple 8″ x 8″ x 5″ box I had to stop and resharpen every plane and every chisel I used at least twice if not more. But they came out nice and straight and they look nice so I’m not complaining. I just understand why Peter sort of chuckles when Roy talks about dovetailing the box they’re making in the episode.


The bottom is a simple captured panel in pine with two small battens glued across the bottom for support. The top is a sliding panel.

I made the grooves before assembly here and then used my shoulder plane to bring in a small rabbet on either side of the lid panel to match the grooves. Easy peasy.


The whole thing came together really well. I still need to fit out internal bits to hold the router parts, but it’s a nice little box and I’m pleased that this wood gets to live this life as usefully as possible. Maybe there’s some good karma attached.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Clites says:

    That turned out awesome James. You have a sensibility for re/upcycling that is rare and refined. And lovely dovetails. (Now you know why absolutely ZERO historic english tool chests were made out of white oak!)


    1. Thanks and I do indeed understand the derth of oak chests in the wild. If the weight alone weren’t enough of a problem, the dovetails would make you give up for good.

      I would like to do a joined oak chest (a la Peter Follansbee) someday, but I’ve got Christmas presents to make at this point. 😉


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