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Oil Stone Boxes


 Here's a simple and quick litte project - so simple, I normally might not have bothered posting about it, but since I haven't been posting much lately I thought it might make for a good page or two.

Some time ago, I purchased a few Lily White Washita stones from Tools for Working Wood - sadly, this was some of the last of their stash, as Norton no longer makes them.  At the same time, I bought a new medium India gouge stone and a hard arkansas slip stone, and set them aside until i had time to make some proper boxes for them.

Oil stones - good ones at least - are both fairly expensive and perform best when they are kept clean.  When you get them, they likely come in some plain cardboard box or a plastic box (like the one on the far right in the top photo) that is wholly inadequate for the task.   Some sort of protection is needed for them , so I generally build a box of some sort for each stone I have.

I've made many, many boxes for different oil stones over the years... The usual method  I use is to literally make a box using finger joints at the corners.  Dovetails at this small scale are difficult and really aren't that much more effective than finger joints.

For this set of boxes I decided to take a little different route, as a box wouldn't work for the gouge stone.  This time, I would basically carve the boxes out of solid blocks of wood rather than build a box around them. 

The process is certainly simple enough - using forstner bits, I drill out the majority of the cavity for the stone, then clean up the corners using a sharp chisel.

For the gouge stone, I traced the outline of the stone on a piece of paper, then using carbon copy paper (a must-have for any shop) I transferred the pattern onto the wood and after drilling as above to the minimum depth of the stone, I finished the pocket by carving out the gouge shape with some carvng gouges.

I fit each stone into it's new home individually, and increased the depth of the pocket using a Stanley 71 router plane when needed.  I needed to be careful not to go too deep with the forstner bits as there wasn't much material left and didn't want the point of the bit to break through.

 That left me with 4 rather plain-looking slabs of walnut, easily mistaken for scrap wood if left like this. 

Not wanting to spend a great deal of time or effort to make the boxes distinguishable from scrap, the easiest approach is to give it a little decoration.  The simplest is a small chamfer on the edges...  and the quickest way to put them there using a block plane.  I'm not too concerned about absolute uniformity, just something that tells you that they are something more than scrap.

I thought about carving something into the face of the boxes, but that would take too much time and besides the wood simply isn't very thick, and carving might weaken it too much.

After that, it's just a matter of putting some finish on the boxes.  For me, that means some boiled linseed oil followed by padding on a couple of coats of shellac.

Here's a tip, by the way - I use old jars to keep finishes like shellac and linseed oil, and I use those cheap plastic gloves from the dollar store (100 for $1.00).  Those gloves also make for a handy way to keep those jars from gluing themselves shut - I had to throw away my jar of linseed oil (left in photo) because I couldn't get the bloody jar open - I forgot to put a piece of plastic there.  The gloves work well because they are 2 layers of plastic thick, which give a good seal but allows you to open the jar..

So, I now have some fitted boxes for my oil stones and I can put them into use.

For the differences between making the boxes and using a single block of wood - I find that with the chiseling and drilling, there's no substantial difference in the amount of work it took to build them (compared to fingerjointing the sides), and that either method is just as effective as the other, unless you are faced with a particular problem such as the gouge stone.

 For reference, I've seen both.  Some have said the glue in a constructed box will fail, but that hasn't been an issue for any boxes I've owned.  Most of the vintage boxes I have are constucted boxes such as shown on the right, where alongside some of the boxes I've made there is a modern set of boxes for some slip stones, a vintage box for a Norton hard arkansas stone, and a vintage handmade box for a slipstone.

The glue has not failed on any.





I like this way of building the boxes for the stones. I use an applique on the top of the box for ID. Whenever I encounter a jar with the lid frozen so it can't be opened, I just cut the top out and pour contents into another jar.


Thanks, that's a good point - I shouldn't be so quick to toss it.  I was also thinking maybe about running it under some hot water to see it might loosen up, too...


Many thanks for this article and tips.

Oxford UK