A house divided against itself…

…cannot stand.

But a box divided keeps your junk from bashing about.

Up until now, we’ve been working on making the actual box of our canning jar box.  But if we left it as-is, those glass mason jars are going to knock against themselves whenever you move the box.  Like the Fremen curse, your jars will chip and shatter.  And that’s bad, m’kay?

So we need to make some dividers for our jars.  Wood is kind of funny in this regard, though.  Somehow, removing the eighth of an inch between 3/8″ and 1/4″ makes it act all kinds of funny.  It gets all squirrelly under the plane, if you can even get it to not flex over your planning stop.  And that last eighth significantly reduces the strength of the wood, making it all too easy to split your workpiece down the middle.  But 1/4″ is fine for our dividers, if only we could find a way to fix it in place to work it.  When I first started woodworking, I was so very frustrated with trying to plane this thin stuff that I would cut it oversize and nail it to the bench, sinking the nails under the surface so I wouldn’t hit them with my plane.

There’s an easier way that doesn’t have you playing whack-a-mole instead of getting things done.

This is the easiest way I have found to work on this thin stock, and it’s dirt cheap as well (always a consideration for me).  Take a piece of scrap 2x wood (mine is a castoff chunk of 2×12).  It should be around 18″ long and 6″ wide or so.  Lay out a nice, square set of lines about 1/2″ in from the far edges.  Bore some pilot holes, then sink four screws (use a regular flat-headed screw, bonus points if they’re slotted) on your lines, a couple on the end and a couple on the sides.  Keep the ones in the corner fairly close together, then put the others about three-quarters of the way to the near edges.  STOP SHORT of flush by 3/16″.  And now you’ve made a hybrid between a planning tray and a sticking board.  The thin stock will get held securely by the screw heads, and you can drop the whole apparatus in your vise to be secured while you plane everything to size.  It’s really easy (almost takes longer to write it than do it), but it makes a world of difference.

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Now, once you have everything to thickness, we want these strips to be about 2″ wide.  Then make sure that they will fit in the box.  Measurements are not particularly useful here.  It should fit in easily, but not rattle.  It works out to something like 3/32″ of clearance.  You should have two long strips and three short strips.  Once they all fit the box, and are all consistently wide, we can cut joinery on them.

The joint we’re going to use is really a skinny halving joint.  But when you’re using thin, wide sections with the cuts going across the grain, it’s usually called an egg crate joint.  In Bernard Jones’ mammoth compilation of knowledge, there’s actually a plan for an egg box that uses this joint to separate eggs.

To start, I flush up all of the like-sized strips, and put them in the vise.  Then, using a set of dividers, I step off the divisions to mark equal-sized sections between my intersections.  You should have three prick marks on your long sections, and two on your short ones.  BE SURE you’re marking the right number of divisions.  Once you have that marked, take some dividers set to 1/8″, and mark on either side of your original mark.  That should give you 1/4″ between your outside marks, centered on the equalised divisions.

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Now, using your knife, scribe these marks across the edges.  Set a gauge to 1 1/16″, and score the from the edge with your marks.  Then connect your edge knife lines to your gauge lines.  All this scribing is important because we really do want a clean cut.  Once your knife lines are in, then saw down to from the edge to your gauge line.

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A little chisel work from here, and you should have a pretty clean slot in your workpiece.  Repeat as necessary until you’ve got them all done.  Test fit that they go together fairly easily.  This thin stuff won’t hold up to trying to bash it together, so do have a loose fit.

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Finally, put the assembly into your box, and BEFORE PROCEEDING further, check that your jars actually fit easily in their little pigeonholes.  It doesn’t take much to interfere with the fit, and if you wait until everything is painted before finding out you needed to plane it just a smidge thinner, you will be extremely perturbed.  Go ahead, ask me how I know this.

Never mind, don’t ask me.  I don’t want to talk about it.

Anyway, if your jars won’t quite fit, a few strokes with a plane should loosen it right up in a few seconds.  Tomorrow we’ll paint, and that will be that!

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