Help Please! Over my head (long)

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Hi all,
My wife wants me to build a trunk for her to put her saddle and stuff in to keep at the stables where she rides. I agreed to make it for our anniversary, thinking I would find some really nice hardwood plywood for the main panels and build a frame out of maple or walnut. I spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to do it with the limited tools that I own right now and was planning to get started this weekend. I was even going to find some small pieces of exotic wood and incorporate that into the interior in a couple places like some of the chests in "The Toolbox Book".
My wife brought me a magazine add Sunday and said she wants the trunk to look like the one in the picture. It's entirely built from Mahogany. I said "ok, I'll see if I can find some Mahogany plywood but I don't think those dovetails are going to look right in plywood so it might not have those except on the main frame". She gave me a rather disgusted look and said "Plywood? It says here they don't use any plywood in their boxes. You mean I won't be able to have those neat little squares on the edges like this one does? That's one of the things I really like about it.". I told her how plywood is used for fine cabinetry these days and if we paid someone to come in and custom build cabinets for us they would probably be mostly plywood and yada yada yada. She just gave me that look.
I own a 12" CMS, circular saw, biscuit joiner and a Bosch 1617 router with a half completed router table and a few clamps. How in the world am I going to get Mahogany panels 30" by 20" out of that. Can I buy boards that big? Would I have to take out a loan? Can I by prebuilt panels that have already been planed and joined? I've got about $500.00 to play with to buy the wood and whatever tools I need. If I can get away with plywood and try to join with dovetails will it look like crap? Maybe box joints would give a nice look? Do they even veneer plywood with Mahogany? She mentioned one of her friends having her box lined with cedar inside. Maybe a cedar panel with some type of Mahogany veneer so I could honestly say there is no plywood?
My last resort is to lay down the $900.00 for the box in the magazine but if I can't make this happen it's going to get much harder to explain why I need an $800.00 table saw in the next couple months. Please help with ideas on the direction I should go here!
Thanks in advance, -Chris
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Where's the problem? "I can build it Sweetmeat, but we're going to have to budget just a bit more for tools."
Seriously, I'd visit the stable and look at other tac boxes to see how they are constructed. You might be able to subdivide the work between yourself and a small cabinet shop. Most towns have struggling woodworkers who will work for cheap.
If your experience is limited to the tools you presently have on hand, you may find this a difficult project. Plan well; Take it slow; Measure twice, cut once.
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Lemme get this straight ... you are looking at building a Mahogany chest to hold riding gear; said box to be housed in a barn? a fine tropical hardwood to hold leather gear used on a horse? on a budget of $500? I don't KNOW that it can't be done; I would seriously question if it SHOULD be done ... but heh, that's just me.
wrote:

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Larry Levinson spaketh...

There is nothing wrong with using mahogany for a tack box. I have not used mahogany for an outdoor project myself, but the local wood guy swears it's the next best thing to teak. Mahogany has been used in boats so I suspect it has excellent rot resistance.
--
McQualude

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wrote:

What's "mahogany" ?
If you're talking about Central American, then I'd regard this as a waste. I've no objection to using it for a tackbox (you've seen the price of horses !), but no-one should buy this timber until they have a fair bit of experience.
The stuff is rare and getting more so. If we want mahogany to be around in the future, then we have to look seriously at conserving it _now_. Some species are already CITES listed. Don't waste it on a first project - save it for something better.
If you mean the more common (certainly in Europe) African "mahogany" or SE Asian "mahogany", then these are less endangered. Although even here, the logging practices in countries like Cambodia are pretty dubious.
Round here, cheap plywood is sold as "mahogany" and is probably made from Luan. Quite strong and rot-resistant, but it looks featureless and somewhat ugly. Not bad if you're painting it or you want it bland, but as natural wood it's just boring.
Don't use birch ply. Nice stuff, but can be a bit soft on the surface. Not going to wear well at ground level in a stable. Needs a heavy finish if it's not to develop mould spots either.
Personally I like to use local timber. It fits with local styles and "looks right". Same goes for the style - if you're in colonial Virginia, just build a six-board and nail it 8-)
Lon Schleining's book "Treasure Chests" (Amazon.com product link shortened) is a beautiful read that any box-maker will appreciate. There's a tack chest in there too (not plans, just photos). It's solid cherry, dovetailed, with cherry ply top and bottom.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

No, No, NO! In his case, the "correct" style for him to build is "exactly what SWMBO asked for", especially if she has any influence on the future budget for WW machinery ;)
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Chris Merrill
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On Wed, 13 Aug 2003 18:50:00 GMT, Chris Merrill

Since my wife doesn't know what mahogany from whatever source looks like, I need only make the box look like the picture from the catalog. Use stain on a close grained wood like luan if need be. But I wouldn't use up good mahogany on a first (or nearly so) project.
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Andy Dingley spaketh...

http://www.wood-worker.com/woods/mahogany.htm this site has info on many common hardwoods

Oh I don't know Andy, I've known people with lots of experience that shouldn't buy it either. It's a lot less expensive, more common and easier to work than cherry or walnut. Pine is cheaper, but a lot harder to work with, IMO.

It's called luan and frequently used on cheap hollow core interior doors

His wife wants to show off. Personally, I think he should just buy her the box, but I guess we all start somewhere.
--
McQualude

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about in ever tightening circles, wringing his hands and muttering...

Okay, I made that up. He didn't _actually_ say that but, pretty much, that was the gist of it. :)
Hi Chris,
Welcome to woodworking. How do I do what I think is impossible? Well first, you ask here. Good work. ;>
As I see it, the main concern you have, (besides AFFORDING the raw lumber), is that you don't think you can glue up wide boards without a table saw and jointer.
Well you can, and you don't even have to use handtools!
You have one, maybe two problems. The important one is getting a square, clean edge on two adjacent boards for glue-up. The minor one is getting "good-enough" rips without a table saw. Let's solve them in reverse order-- how to rip, then how to joint.
You can rip edges close enough to joint by using your circular saw with a straight edge jig. You're going to make a board that has a fence that your saw can ride against. Here's how:
1.) Attach a straight board to any board and ride the shoe of your circular saw against the straight edge as you cut the base board along it's entire length. (You can even use a piece of hardboard with it's factory edges for both. Cut a thin strip off the long side, turn it around so the straight side is over the base, glue it to it, and use that side to ride the saw on when you cut the base.)
2.) Since your newly cut base marks the exact place your circular saw cuts, you simply clamp the base on the cut line of your project piece and rip with confidence.
Ripping problem solved, let's talk about jointing without a jointer. Two ways:
1.) Clamp the straight edge of the jig you made for your circular saw about 1/32" away from the edge of a project board you've ripped. Use a top-bearing pattern bit to route a straight edge on the board. If you did the ripping correctly, your boards are going to be pretty dead-on straight and you're just cleaning up the edges here. If for some reason they're a bit wavy, you may have to make more than one pass, moving the straight edge back a 32nd or so on each pass.
2.) This one's a bit more complicated, but guarantees not only straight edges, but edges of adjoining boards that are perfectly mated to each other. Set the adjoining boards next to each other so that they are just a bit closer to each other than the diameter of your router bit. Assuming a 1/2" bit, set them so that there is a gap of 3/8ths of an inch running the length between the boards. Clamp in place on workbench.
Measure the base of your router. Let's say for this example it's 6 inches. (It very well may not be, I pulled this out of thin air. ;> )
Assuming a six inch base, you want to clamp two straight boards, (again, cheap-o masonite is just fine for this), 6 inches apart from each other, each one exactly 3 inches from the of the gap you created between your two project boards. Once you've clamped all this to your bench, run your router between the top boards and the bit will joint the adjoining edges of your project boards and any variation in one side will be reflected in the opposing board so that they both mate perfectly.
I hope this helps. It's late, this was wordy, and if any of it didn't make sense you can get a description with drawings by looking in Taunton's "Methods of Work- Router" book. It's available at all the big chain bookstores, and I'm pretty sure that's where I first saw both of these jigs.
I can't help you with how to afford all that mahogany, I don't have a jig for printing money. ;>
Best, Michael Baglio Chapel Hill
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wrote:

Damn. That should have been 3 inches from the CENTER of the gap...
MB--
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Couldn't he make a panel type box with a solid frame and plywood panel inserts of plywood? Then he could build each side (frame and panel insert), dovetail the frame edges together and have a good looking box. I think chests and furniture with panels like this are nice looking, and dovetailed corners are great, so would they work together?
Digger
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On Wed, 13 Aug 2003 09:51:09 -0500, "Digger" <DW> wrote:

Well, everything you suggest sounds good except...
It doesn't address the OP's question. His original question was how do I _please my wife_ by building _exactly_ what she wants with the limited power tools I have?
There may be dozens of ways to construct a good looking tack box, but (apparently) only _one_ specifie box will please the S.O. (At least that's sure how I read it, especially when he told us she'd already given him "THE LOOK.")
I sure as hell don't like it when I get "the Look," so I figure all the best intentioned ideas about how to build something different from what she wants are only going to knock the guy down a few more rungs on the wife's "manly-man" ladder.
Know what I mean?
Hmm... he hasn't replied yet though, so maybe he's already dead. ;>
Michael Baglio Chapel Hill
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On 13 Aug 2003 11:13:30 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@rmci.net (Mike) wrote:

Hmmm... I won't argue with you Mike, since I wasn't there, but I'd be really suprised if I ever had a glue joint fail using the method I described in my previous post. Ply is often slightly out of _square,_ but I've never seen a factory edge (that wan't banged up by a BORG dork) that wasn't "straight" enought to use as a reference fence for jointing with a router.
The possibility exists though, I suppose, which is why I took the time to describe option #2-- using the "plow through the gap" method with the router riding between two straight edges.
Best, Michael Baglio Chapel Hill
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Great info Mike. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I've got a sawboard I made from MDF already and it does a good job of guiding my circular saw. I hadn't thought about placing two boards side by side and routing the inner edge of both at the same time. Pretty cool.
-Chris
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wrote:

"Methods of Work-- Routers" by Taunton Press and _any_thing by Pat Warner are worth their weight in Bubinga. You _can_ produce quality work with a circular saw, router, and some determination. Good luck.
Michael Baglio Chapel Hill
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cshaw spaketh...

These aren't your stables right? She wants to show off. "Look what my hubby built for me."

Without knowing the final dimensions, what is your guestimate of the board footage you will need? 30 bd/ft? 40 bd/ft? Mahogany can be had for $5.00 bd/ft around here.

You know your wife, but I don't think she is buying the plywood idea. Yes it will look like crap if you dovetail the plywood.

I built tapered leg tables with nothing more than a circular saw, hand plane and some chisels. You can build this, but it's going to be some work. Make sure you 'want' to do this, if you do, you can build it. Take your time, be determined and just go for it.
Maybe you can build the frame from mahogany and build the floating panels from veneers, maybe curly maple or burl.
--
McQualude

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pixelated:

Bog help the person who marries a yuppie S/O.
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Larry Jaques spaketh...

Do yuppies ride horses?
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pixelated:

Not around here. They just buy them and let them roam around pastures all lonely-like. But they like the "We're like British Lords and Ladies" status symbol of equine ownership. Weird, wot?
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