This quick project makes a great starter box for grown woodworkers, but it especially shines as an approachable young person skill builder. This slick box teaches three major skills: measurement, accuracy in manufacture of parts and joinery. A teacher or parent can use this simple project to differentiate between beginning, intermediate and expert woodworkers by adding complexity in the appropriate areas.
The following instructions describe how to build this project with pre-k to 2nd or 3rd graders. The adult preps the wood, while the student assembles the pieces, learning to use a hammer, nail set, hand drill and hand plane. Older students can measure and cut their own wood using appropriate tools.
- 1 x 6” x 6’ of any type of wood. Big box stores sell the proper lengths in pine & red oak. Woodworking specialty stores, like Woodcraft or Rockler, will sell more expensive hardwoods, such as maple, walnut and bloodwood.
- 1 x 2” x 6’ of any type of wood.
- Small finish nails, 1” to 1 1/2” long.
- Wood glue.
- Hand saw & miter box or power tool capable of cross-cutting a 6” board.
- Tape measure or ruler, at least 12” long.
- Nail set
- Hand drill
- Hand plane
- 12” clamps, either F-clamps or quick-trigger bar clamps
The Adult Prep
- Use a hand saw & miter saw to cut 4 parts each 14” long from the 1”x 6” board. These will become the bottom, lid and long sides of the Bread Box. It is vitally important for each side to be as equal length as possible. While you can make the bread box as long as you want, I suggest 12” to 16”.
- Use a hand saw & miter saw to cut 2 parts each 14” long, from the 1” x 2” board. These will become the bottom trim along the length of the Bread Box.
- Use a hand saw & miter saw to cut 2 parts, each 4” long, from the 1” x 6” board. These will become the short sides. Before cutting this step, double check your measurements. Dry assemble your bottom and sides, and measure the distance between them. Use that measurement to cut the short sides.
- Use a hand saw & miter box to cut 2 parts, each 7” long, from the 1” x 2” board. These will become the bottom trim along the width of the Bread Box. Before cutting this step, double check your measurements. Dry assemble your bottom and bottom trim, and measure the distance from outside edge to outside edge. Use that measurement to cut the short sides.
- Using hand saw & miter box, cut 2 parts each 13 3/4” long from the 1” x 2” board. These will become the battens which set the lid in place.
The Kid Assembly
Arrange the long sides and bottom at edge of the table as shown in the illustration. The side view of the assembly should look like a upside-down U.
Glue the long sides’ edges, then carefully arrange the bottom. Clamp the assembly to the table as shown.
Using a hand drill with a finish nail secured in the chuck as a bit, pre-drill nail holes. Nail the bottom to the sides.
Unclamp the assembly.
Dry fit short sides to appropriate spots. Use hand saw & miter box to trim appropriately if needed. Glue, pre-drill and nail short sides into place.
Dry fit the long bottom trim to long edge first. The long trim should be flush with the length of the box. Trim if necessary. Then glue, pre-drill and nail trim into place.
Dry fit the short bottom trim to short edge. The short bottom trim should be flush with the width of the box plus trim. Trim if necessary. Glue, pre-drill and nail trim into place.
Mark your lid 3/4” of an inch from each side. Young kids, from pre-k to 2nd grade, should have this step done by an adult. Fractions are introduced between 2nd and 4th grade, depending on location. Students who have been exposed to fractions should be able to do this step.
Pre-drill holes in the battens, one on each end.
Arrange the battens so they sit inside the box marked out on the lid.
Glue and nail the battens down.
Use a hand plane to break all sharp edges, such as the top of the lid and tops of the trim using a hand plane. Secure the box, if needed, with the clamp. If you don’t have a hand plane, use sandpaper wrapped around a flat stick (the rest of the 1” x 2” would be perfect!) to break the edges. This makes the entire box look more welcoming.
Check out my tips on finishing to complete your work.
While power tools save time, they don’t empower young kids. Kids as young as first or second grade can complete small boxes like this with minimal adult intervention if given a Japanese-style saw and taught the proper way to use a hand saw & miter box. Check out next week’s #woodworking and #makerED article to figure out how to do just that!
Intermediate Young Woodworkers:
Have students choose their own proportions, either by providing differing sizes of lumber (such as 1”x8” or 1”x12”) or shortening the length. Students in 3rd/4th grade and above should learn to measure, mark and cut to a square line.
Expert Young Woodworkers:
These students can begin to use the power tools appropriate for this project, such as the power drill. Young woodworkers can also use simple joinery methods, such as rabbets, large dovetails or finger joints, or cutting rabbets.
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