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  The Eleven Grooved Box – Tools Set Up by Jim Harvey 1 of 23  

I am a big fan of Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop”. Last fall was the 32nd season, and he’s still wearing the same hat.

The second episode was titled “The Eleven Grooved Box”, a project Roy uses in his woodworking school.

I was attracted to this project because he uses Stanley 45 combination planes to make all eleven grooves.

I have a Stanley 45 and have been looking for an appropriate project so I am trying to duplicate what Roy does as closely as I can.

To make this project instructive and well-illustrated, I divided it into eleven parts. Here are all eleven parts:

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Tools Set Up

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 1: The First Three Grooves

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 2: Fitting the Lip Strip

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 3: Slicing and Tuning the Box Sides

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 4: Plowing The Other Eight Grooves

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 5: Making the Splines

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 6: Making the Top and Bottom Plates

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 7: Gluing Up the Box

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 8: Cutting the Box Open

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 9: Applying the Lip Strips

  • Eleven Grooved Box Step by Step – Part 10: Apply Danish Oil Finish and Family Portrait

We will start with Tools Set Up.

Finished Eleven Grooved Box. Red Oak from Home Depot.

The finished box opened up. About 6″x8″x4.5″.
Golden Oak stain and Watco natural oil.

You should watch the half hour video to see how Roy makes the box. I am going to document how I do it, and pass along some things I learned, and in particular, show how I made those #$%@! spline grooves. Each corner of the box has to have two matching grooves plowed for splines, without these the box would be very weak. You can see these in the corners of the lid in the photo.

Cutting those spline grooves with an old Stanley 45 might be easy for Roy but for everyone else it’s a pain. A millisecond of inattention and the sides of the groove are ripped up. So like any self respecting woodworker, I made a jig.

My grooving jig for the Eleven Grooved Box

After almost giving up on this project, I sat down and analyzed what is happening. When plowing the grooves, you have to hold the plane perfectly perpendicular to the 45 degree mitered surface. The fence on the Stanley plane rides on the reference surface. But the skate is captured in the plowed groove! If you let the plane roll to the right, the fence lifts off the reference surface a bit and not much happens. But if you let the plane roll to the LEFT, the fence digs into the reference surface and pulls the blade to the left.

The result is a horribly shredded edge on the left side of the groove. In the video, Roy has an Iron Arm and holds that Stanley perfectly aligned through the whole operation. My arm is made of rubber so I knew I had to make a jig to get the plane to behave.

V. 1.0 – My first jig attempt was a piece of 2×6 cut off at one end at 45 degrees, with a stop block attached. The stop block helps control tear out at the end of the cut and makes it easier to initially align the work piece with the plane. It did not help with the left side shredding problem, in fact made it worse.

First attempt at a jig for cutting spline grooves.


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