A box using the 45-degree lock miter bit

Lately, I’ve been doing a great deal more woodworking. I came across this very interesting bit that you can use to make 90° angles in boxes. It is called a 45° lock miter bit. You use a router to cut the joint into the boards to make a very tight connection.

Domino box

Unfortunately, the router that I normally use isn’t precise (or maybe strong) enough to do the joint reliably. The bit keeps shifting, so the joint is not as clean as it should be.

I thought I’d share the instructions here anyway though, since relatively few folks know how to use this bit. The design creates a box that is just large enough to hold a double 12 set of dominoes.

Box explosion

Tools used:

Table saw 3/8” router bit Planer
Router table Drill press Chop saw
¾” lock miter bit ½” drill bit Band saw
½” router bit Set-up blocks Digital height gauge
1/8” round over bit Various router featherboards  
Lock miter bit
  1. To start off, prepare a finished board that is 6 ½ -7” wide ¾” thick and 40 inches long at the start of class.
  2. Using the chop saw cut from the finished board, a 12” board (the front and back) and one 13” board (the two sides). Note: Originally, I cut the boards into their final length before using the lock miter bit but found that anything less than about 5 inches long was very difficult to add the lock miter cut and likely dangerous. This plan doesn’t cut the side boards until after the lock miter joints are in place.
  3. Trim the 12” board width to 5 5/8” on the table saw and the 13” board width to 6”. Note: Keep the scrap wood, since we will use these during the router setup.
  4. There are several ways to set up the lock miter bit on the router table. If your board is EXACTLY ¾”, you can use the setup guide (white plastic) that came with the bit. I prefer to use the digital height gauge to measure and adjust the height of the bit to the same as the board thickness. Set the height of the bit to ¾”. Note: Lock the router height when you have adjusted the height appropriately.
  5. Set the guide up against the bit and adjust the fence horizontally until it just touches the guide. Once you have the fence set, you can lock down all the fence knobs. Note: You can lock down the main adjustment knobs and use the micro adjustment to move the fence in or out. Once you have the fence in place, lock down all the knobs.
  6. If your board is not exactly ¾ of an inch, it still needs to be less than ¾ of in inch validate the setting of the depth of the bit by aligning the board horizontally and ensuring a straight edge laid along the board would almost touch the cutting edge of the bit. To orient the board vertically and do the same with a straight edge, checking that it almost touches the front cutting edge of the bit.
  7. Make a test cut on a board or boards that are the same thickness (hopefully the scrap boards from earlier). Note: This is a very aggressive bit, so be sure to use feather boards to hold the board up against the bit when you run it through.
  8. Test to make sure they fit together appropriately. If you have it set up right, make sure the bit height is locked in place. If the boards don’t line up, go back to step 5 and make sure the bit hasn’t moved during the testing process. Note: If you do the alignment check on a single board, you will need to cut it in two and then connect the boards together. When the bit is setup properly, the edges of the two boards should be flush.
  9. Run the longer dimension of the 13” board (these will be the two side pieces once cut) through the lock miter bit in the router while laying the board horizontally on the router. Be sure to do both sides of the board and that the cuts are aligned in the same direction. Note: Be sure to use a feather board to help keep the board up against the router. Holding the board consistently against the deck and the fence is important.
  10. Run the longer dimension of the 12” board (the two end pieces once cut) through the router oriented vertically. Be sure to do both sides of the board. Note: Use the tall featherboard and ensure as you press down and run the board through that your hands hang over the fence, in case the board shifts unexpectedly. Be careful not to press down too hard, since your routing to a fine edge. If your board is bowed make sure you place the bow away from the bit (on the outside).
  11. Using the chop saw cut the 12” board into two 5 5/8” pieces. Cut the 11” board into one of 4 7/8” and one of 5 5/8”. You can now check the box to ensure that it fits together. Mark the left, right, front, back boards, as well as their top and bottom. Note: If you suffer any tear out, you may be able to address it when you trim the boards. Cut so the lock miter joint is facing up. Use a sacrificial board if the board you’re cutting doesn’t touch both sides of the fence.
  12. From the remaining large board, cut a 5 5/8” board, using the chop saw. This will be the bottom of the box.
  13. Using the band saw cut the bottom board width to 6”.
  14. Now we need to cut the grooves into the sides, so the top can slide into it. Install the 3/8” router bit and adjust it vertically until it will cut 3/8” into the board. Lock the height once you have the correct setting. Note: When pulling out any bit from the router DO NOT raise the router all the way, since this can warp the deck or damage the router.
  15. Adjust the fence so it will cut into the side boards, 3/8” from the top of the board. Note: A more accurate and repeatable approach would be to use the 3/8” set-up blocks located in the tool room (on the right-hand side as you enter the door – see the attached photo). Place the set-up block between the bit and the fence and adjust accordingly.
  16. Now we shift our attention to the side boards, using a 3/8” router bit, cut the groves into the sides and the larger end piece, 3/8” down from the top and 3/8” into the board.  The top board will slide into this groove when the box is assembled. Note: You should be able to lay the board flat on the router for greater control when making the cut.
  17. Now install the ½” router bit and adjust the router height to cut 3/8” into the board, similar to what was done in step 17.  Lock the router height once you have it set. Adjust the router fence so that the bit will cut 3/8” into the edge of the board. Lock down the fence. Note: We moved to the ½” router bit, so the bit extends beyond the edge of the board. We wouldn’t want any slivers of uncut wood if our adjustment is further than 3/8”.
  18. Cut a 3/8” deep rabbet around the entire bottom of the box, so it can fit inside the box sides when assembled. Note: After you make your first cut, be sure to check the width of the rabbet. It is OK to be a tiny bit wider than 3/8” but you cannot be less than 3/8”, since then the box will not fit together.
  19. Use the same settings to cut a groove (rabbet) along the bottom of all 4 sides, on the inside of the box. Now the bottom should fit within the assembled box.
  20. Run the remainder of the original board through the planer until it is 5/16” thick. This will give us a sixteenth inch clearance to slide. Note: The board should be of sufficient length to meet the length limit listed on the planer storyboard.
  21. Measure the size of the opening at the top of the box. We’d like it to fit fairly tightly within the sliding rails at the top of the box and extend out to the edges of the box.
  22. Measure the top board so it has a T shape to cover the front joints of the box.
  23. From this thin board, cut it down to the measurements identified, using the chop saw and the band saw.
  24. Optionally, you can use the drill press to make a ½” diameter hole ¾” from the edge of the board at the center of the top board.
  25. Use the band saw to trim off the unused lock miter on the sides boards above where the top slides in.
  26. Fit, sand and glue the box together. Note: Once glued, this joint is not coming apart. In fact, sometimes I have trouble getting it apart even when it is not glued.
  27. Optionally, install a 1/8” round-over bit into the router and shape the edges of the assembled box, on the sides and the top.
The finished box

Joggling board

Since I’ve been doing more woodworking lately and there is one piece of furniture that is unique to South Carolina — I thought I’d make one.

It’s a Joggling board. As you can see it rocks from side to side. 

I’d seen them around at some of the historical sites, so I thought I’d made one for our front porch for my wife’s Christmas. Mine (6 feet long) is not as large as an official board, since those are 10-16 feet long. My porch just couldn’t pull a real one off.

It is also not painted the ‘official’ Charleston Green (which is really closer to black than green). I added some large cup holders on the end — after all it is the 21st century.

There are a variety of stories about its origin, such as:

Also from a flexibility perspective, if I put some chocks under it, it could also be used as an outdoor buffet. 

Crafting a Cantilevered Wine Holder

You’ve likely seen these around:IMG_20180822_070319596

Cantilevered wine holders are a decorative way to display a bottle. We were doing a fund-raising activity, so I made a number of these and decided to document in detail the process to build the wine holder. Only a few bottles were killed during the creation of this document

If you make one, let me know. If you see anything you’d do differently, I’d like to hear about that too.

Laser scribing for Woodworking

Recently, I’ve started a new area of experimentation – laser scribing inserts for woodworkers. Below are a few examples of my initial efforts:

IMG_20180810_051946406These are one inch wooden slugs that have been laser scribed with an image and some text.  My neighbor and I invested in this device together and in order to get our investment back, we’re planning to charge $1.50 per wooden coin for those using an existing design. If someone wants their own graphic, they can send it to me. It will be an additional $15 (one time) for me to set it up. If they want exclusive use of that graphic, it will be $20.

Embedding a wooden coin like this into the back of a project can really set it off and show the pride in your work.

It has been a crazy month

Since the last time I blogged, I have become a board member and performing the role of Advanced Training Director of the Sun City Hilton Head Woodworking and Modelmakers Guild. These are volunteer positions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t keep me busy.

There are over 800 members of the guild. We are in the process of rolling out Eventbrite to manage the scheduling of our training classes. By my best estimate (just for Advanced Training), there are approximately 140 training sessions, across 45 classes and 25 unique topics, before the end of the year. It’s a pretty active group.

A simple, collapsible, decorative wood bowl

Since I’ve moved to Sun City Hilton Head, I’ve done a great deal more woodworking than I have every done before. I’ve modeled most of these efforts in SketchUp or Microsoft 3D Builder before tackling anything too difficult.

The following are a couple of simple designs I’ve created for those getting started in woodworking. They look interesting, without being too complicated.

One is a Pineapple shaped bowl and the other is a bowl shaped like a Pumpkin. Both use the same technique to use a single piece of wood (about an inch thick) to form the handle and a spiral cut piece that can be expanded to form a bowl. When made properly, the piece can me laid flat or expanded into a bowl. Pegs can be used to attach the handle to the bowl.

Here is the Pineapple:

pineapple bowl

I’ve found it works best to print the design on an 11×17 piece of paper. Tape it to the board. Cut out the design with a scroll saw or sabre saw. Then align the parts and determine where the holes need to be cut for the pegs, so the handle can fully extend and expand the bowl. You may need to cut the handle down to fit.

Here is the Pumpkin (I am going to try this one on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper):

pumpkin bowl

Here is what an Apple bowl looks like fully extended – my wife got that when she was teaching and it inspired me to create the other designs.

Apple bowl

Woodworking and Yard Dice

diceAn interesting game my daughter recently showed me was Lawn Farkle or Lawn Yahtzee. For these games, you’ll need 5-6 lawn size dice. When I looked on-line, these dice ranged from about $30 up to $100 for a set of 6. Naturally, I thought I should be able to make these with stuff I had lying around. It did turn out to be a bit more work than I expected.

This post is a summary to make these (not so little) gems. I have a more detailed version (with pictures) if anyone is interested.

1)      First, you start with a 24” 4×4 or two glued together 2x4s to make about 24 inches that are 3 ½ inches on a side, since we’re going to turn them into 3 ½ inch wooden cubes. Be aware of where the knots in the wood are located, since you may need a longer piece of wood to work around these flaws.

2)      If you are using 2x4s.

  1. If you have a joiner, join the two faces of the 2×4 that you plan to glue together. This will enable an almost seamless connection.
  2. Glue both faces of the 2x4s you plan to glue together to ensure a strong seam. Make sure there is smooth even coat of water proof glue, since the dice will be used outside.
  3. Clamp them together and wait about 24 hours for the glue to set. You may need to clamp in two dimensions to ensure that boards are aligned. You may want to look at the grain of the wood and how they come together before you glue, to make the desired grain pattern. The end grain of the glued together board formed a pattern like this: )( Essentially, forming an X.

3)      If you have a joiner, clean up the side of the wood to make it smooth, square and ready to rip. The joined face is the one that will be placed against the fence of the table saw.

4)      You’ll need to rip the board (based on their shortest dimension) to form the square cross-section. Measure the smallest dimension and use that to rip the other dimension to the same size. If you made this out of 2x4s glued together, you’ll end up with a 3×3 (approximately) board after ripping. You may be tempted to use a ¼ inch roundover router bit right now to round off the edges, while the board is still large, but wait — since you’ll likely need to resurface the edges later.

5)      Measure the board’s width and use the smallest dimension to cut the board into cubes, using a chop saw. I found it best to measure again after each cut, don’t try to make all the cuts at once, since the saw will take out some of the wood each cut.

7)      Next, find a set of dice and use one as a reference and mark the wooden cubes with a pencil, where the faces should be. Use an awl and mark the cubes, where the spots should be located. The following illustration should useful.



8)      There are several ways to tackle placing the spots on the dice. You could use a ½” Forstner bit, wood burning, paint, epoxy… This description, will use the Forstner bit to make the hole and then put in a contrasting colored plug.  Keep in mind, you’re going to need a large number of these plugs since each dice has 21 spots.

9) Drill the holes in the cube where the awl marks are located. I used a drill press to make the holes and made them about 1/8” in depth.

10) Next you’ll need to use a ½” plug cutter to make the plugs for dots. In my case, I used some scrap walnut strips. The wood will need to be a bit longer than the hole depth cut in the previous step. Keep in mind, you’re going to need quite a bit of whatever material you choose. Go slow when cutting the holes, since it is easy to tear out.

The other choice is to use an appropriately sized dowel and cut plugs to the correct length using a scroll saw. This was much faster than making the plugs.

11) Place some glue in the holes of the cube and insert the plugs you’ve cut. You may need a hammer at this point. I recommend using a waterproof glue since these are going to be used outside.

12) Next, you’ll likely need to trim off the excess wood from the plugs (with a band saw) and sand the face until smooth

13)  Finally, you can route the edges with a ¼ inch roundover router bit.

14)  You can stain the cubes and use polyurethane or Danish oil… to protect them from the elements. Since two of the faces will be end cut, you may want to use some glue size on these surfaces to minimize the amount of stain that’s absorbed. If you don’t, these faces will be significantly darker. You can either buy glue size or just make it by diluting your wood glue by 90% and painting it on the ends, to fill up the end grain.

15) To roll a set of dice, you’ll need some kind of bucket, large enough to hold them all.

Tools required:

  1. Pencil
  2. Table saw to rip the boards into square boards
  3. Chop saw to make the cubes
  4. Band saw to trim the spots on the cubes
  5. Drill Press
  6. Drill ½” bit or equivalent for the spots (and dowels or a plug cutter if you’re going to fill them in with wood)
  7. Sander
  8. Sand paper
  9. Tape measure
  10. Rubber Mallet
  11. Waterproof glue
  12. Joiner


And pretty much any other dice game you can think of.