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Subject: Advice on building a folding wooden box/board? rss

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Todd Pytel
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Since the recent news confirming that the upcoming Ogre reprint will be a super-deluxe, humongous, collectible edition, I've decided to finally go ahead and create the edition of OGRE that I want - something portable, simple, and true to the game's microgame roots. To do that, I need a little advice from the more experienced DIY'ers around here.

For those unfamiliar with OGRE, it's basically a very small hex-and-counter sci-fi wargame where a panoply of infantry and vehicles try to take down a single monstrous cybernetic tank. To play it, you need a few dozen 1/2" counters, dice, paper/pencil, and the roughly 9"x12" board. There's never been a modern, quality printing of these components - only either super-cheap versions printed on thin card and paper or various "deluxe" versions using minis or stand-ups that are inappropriate for an on-the-go portable game. I can handle making the counters and miscellaneous printed materials - it's the board I need some help with, along with some kind of container for carting everything around.

My thinking is that the easiest way to accomplish both of these things is by constructing a hinged box with identical top and bottom halves, the flat surface of which doubles as the game board. This makes for a nice, stable, portable gaming platform. Since the board is only about 9"x12", cutting it in half cross-wise would create a roughly 6"x9" case, which sounds perfect. The various counters, rules, dice, etc. are pretty minimal, so if I can make a box with about an inch of interior depth then everything should fit nicely. To get the map on top, I'm planning on mounting a copy of the original on the outside of the box (would spray laminate work on wood?) and covering it with a thin layer of Lexan (or plexiglass, or whatever's most scratch-resistant) which is screwed into the underlying box.

Now, the only problem with all this is that I don't know jack about box-making. While it seems like an interesting hobby in itself, I really don't need yet another new hobby at the moment. So I'm hoping, especially since this will be a very shallow box that shouldn't demand immaculate construction, that I can get some tips on "Constructing a 6"x9"x1.5" Box for Dummies". I'm generally pretty handy with wood and have a decent selection of drills, dremel attachments, clamps, etc. available. I'm not averse to buying a couple of specialized tools for the job, but don't want to go crazy buying expensive stuff that won't ever get used again. What's going to be the easiest route to get joins that are reasonably stable? I'm sure I could just grab some wood off the shelf at the Lowes, cut it to size, and glue it all up, but that's going to look like junk. I'm hoping to create a set that's going to last - it doesn't have to be heirloom quality, but I'd rather not have it look like a hack job. Any suggestions as to what kind of wood I should be looking for? Most of my woodworking experience is with larger scale carpentry and not finish work, so I don't know much about what sands well, stains well, glues well, resists warping, etc. If I want the two halves of the board to sit flush with one another when unfolded, what will I need to do when mounting the hinges to make that happen?

Finally, I'm not tied to this particular solution to the problem. Alternate suggestions are welcome, including ones which cannabalize existing games, containers, and/or office supplies. As long as the result is portable, durable, self-contained, and reasonably clean looking, I'm cool with it.

Thanks for any suggestions you have.
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Brian
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Making a simple box is actually pretty basic skill wood working. I have been meaning to make a box making tutorial ever since people have been buying that $200 dominion box. Except for the overkill finish, is in every way basic and the same as the the $14 hobby lobby thread one. But simple means having a tablesaw.


-Simple problem with your idea: A box with hinges won't lie truly flat when open, the hinges have that knuckle part. Extra step, maybe some drilling and a couple 'bumps' inside lid, etc.

-Materials: Lexan(polycarbonate) or Plexiglass(acrylic) will both get scratched pretty quickly without a good amount of care. Possibly just some kind of clear coat would work better.

Pine and popular are cheap and easy. Cherry and walnut are the premier 'common' USA cabinet woods. Oak just a touch below. Latter 3 are a bit harder, take a little more work all around but will be a higher grade end product. This size project you could also go exotic for not much extra $ (Rosewood, babinga, etc ) but, well, bit more to go into.

- common simple box: 1/4 (or less) plywood top and bottom, wood strips edges form box. Get nicer hardware than box mentioned above.

Common simple procedure: Cut strips, form rectangle, glue plywood top and bottom. Trim plywood with flush trim router bit. Cut box open on tablesaw. Mortise indent for hinges. Screw on hardware.

-Butt joint, rabbit butt joint, or miter joint where the boards meet. From super simple to not hard.

-Cutting the the box halves even would be toughest part. Tricks for this and setting the hinges.

-A higher grade box hides the plywood edge. Couple extra steps that require more accuracy. (You don't get to do the flush trim thing, which is a super easy.)



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Todd Pytel
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Thanks Brian! That's very helpful in at least pointing me in a useful direction...

ionizedbrian wrote:
But simple means having a tablesaw.

Funny what "simple" means when it comes to woodworking, isn't it? A table saw would at least be a great tool to have around, but it looks like they'll run anywhere from $125 (probably junk) to $500+. Doesn't look like Home Depot rents them either. Hrrm... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, if necessary.

Quote:
Simple problem with your idea: A box with hinges won't lie truly flat when open, the hinges have that knuckle part. Extra step, maybe some drilling and a couple 'bumps' inside lid, etc.

Right, I forgot about the knuckle part. If I understand you correctly, you would add some feet at least as high as the knuckle along the box edge, hollowing out the opposing edge slightly to allow everything to close. Is that the idea? Seems pretty easy.

Quote:
Lexan(polycarbonate) or Plexiglass(acrylic) will both get scratched pretty quickly without a good amount of care. Possibly just some kind of clear coat would work better.

I was going back and forth on that too. One concern I had was that a clear coat would tend to yellow over time and wouldn't look or feel all that great to play on. But maybe more importantly, a clear coat is going to be really, really permanent. If it does scratch, flake, or yellow, there's no way to undo it. I was thinking that a polycarb sheet could be replaced occasionally with little trouble. Also, in my experience, light scratches on a sheet really aren't that bad provided the sheet is thin and there's a bright, colorful map behind it. I know the sheet idea isn't perfect, but I'm not sure a clear-coat doesn't have its own set of issues.

Quote:
Pine and popular are cheap and easy. Cherry and walnut are the premier 'common' USA cabinet woods. Oak just a touch below. Latter 3 are a bit harder, take a little more work all around but will be a higher grade end product. This size project you could also go exotic for not much extra $ (Rosewood, babinga, etc ) but, well, bit more to go into.

OK. I still haven't thought much about what I want the final finish to look like. Since the flat surface will be covered by the map, you won't really see much of the wood in the first place, so I'm not inclined to do anything fancy.

Quote:
common simple box: 1/4 (or less) plywood top and bottom, wood strips edges form box. Get nicer hardware than box mentioned above.

Probably a stupid question... are you talking plywood made of the woods mentioned above? "Plywood" to me means the basic stuff you get at Home Depot. But I see Lowes stocks some other plywoods as well. Or would you be using boards for the better woods?

Quote:
Common simple procedure: Cut strips, form rectangle, glue plywood top and bottom. Trim plywood with flush trim router bit.

Makes sense, though of course that would mean I'd need a router table. But I suppose I could hack around that with copious use of sandpaper and/or my disc/belt sander.

Quote:
Cut box open on table saw.

Right. This is where that table saw comes in. I was already vaguely aware that the standard box-making technique is to built the whole box as a single piece and then to cut it open. I get that that creates a nicer finish as well as a perfectly square box. But I'm wondering, given that I'm only looking at about 0.75" depth on each half, whether I could get away with building the two halves separately and whether that could alleviate the need for the table saw in the first place. I'm sure I wouldn't be able to get the box to mate absolutely perfectly, but would it be passable on casual inspection?

Quote:
Butt joint, rabbit butt joint, or miter joint where the boards meet. From super simple to not hard.

I've never done anything more than a butt joint, but I know there are numerous alternatives. I'll look into these, but a butt joint is probably good enough.

Thanks again.
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Just to clarify: you are considering a clamshell box, correct? If so, why not have the map on the outside of the box, and invert the box for play? This is common with chess-sets, and I'm sure you could find a set that would be easy to convert.

This is the sort of thing:

Image courtesy of Vormwald1

You could simply print the map to size, then trim it into two equal halves and glue one to each side. The hinges lay flat on the table.

Good luck, however you approach it.
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Todd Pytel
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Ozludo wrote:
If so, why not have the map on the outside of the box, and invert the box for play?

That's exactly what I was trying to describe. I probably should've put "like a folding chess set" in there somewhere.

Quote:
This is common with chess-sets, and I'm sure you could find a set that would be easy to convert.

That idea came up in another thread. I'm sure I can find something to convert. The question is whether it will be the right size, of halfway decent quality, and available at a reasonable price. I'm sure there's a perfect wooden folding set out there somewhere in the probably hundreds of different variations available from different manufacturers. If I can find a good one, I'm happy to take that as the easy route.

Quote:
The hinges lay flat on the table.

Brian's point was that they won't lie quite flat. But it will be either close enough to flat or else easy enough to compensate for if I want to be picky.
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How badly do you want to make it yourself? Have you considered buying a small folding chess set and converting it? Might even be cheaper than the supplies to build one.
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Brian
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Quote:
Funny what "simple" means when it comes to woodworking, isn't it? A table saw would at least be a great tool to have around, but it looks like they'll run anywhere from $125 (probably junk) to $500+. Doesn't look like Home Depot rents them either. Hrrm... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, if necessary.

-The $125 type ‘portable’ tablesaws actually can do agood job. I used one for a long time. Still have that same type of thing because I have a small space. They have a limit to the scale of project that they can do/do well. Also not as heavy duty and not as fine-tunable.

For this simple design, the only 'accurate' part is that the 1.5” boards are all the same exact width. This is easy on a tablesaw. But you can just find a width of precut board that works.

Quote:
Right, I forgot about the knuckle part. If I understand you correctly, you would add some feet at least as high as the knuckle along the box edge, hollowing out the opposing edge slightly to allow everything to close. Is that the idea? Seems pretty easy.

-Yes, you understood exactly (and explained better).

-I’ll agree with your assessment of the plexiglass issue. Would add that clear coats can be touched up also. Additional points: With plexi, could skip glueing the map down; Could always change to the clear coat later.

-Because the top/bottom will be covered with the map, there is no need for ‘cabinet grade’, wood veneer/ fancy plywood. For this small project I would probably go to the hobby story and get what ever the thinnest is that would work. Trying to show minimum plywood edge. I know Micheals has some display with, I think, Baltic birch plywood.

But the 1.5" of wood between the top and bottom will show. This is where you could use something nice. But with out even a tablesaw to cut the wood to width, your options narrow. Likely a pine, poplar, oak from Lowes/HD type place is your best bet. Oak for look, pine for ease. Shipping cost is a problem for a project this small, but an online store like Woodcraft does have dimensioned special wood.

More as an aside:
For a wood worker there isn’t necessarily much of a $ reason not to use something good here. Biggest cost will be my time, not the material. There is only 1/3 of a square foot needed. For me, oak coast $3 sf, cherry $5 sf, curly maple $7 sf, unsurfaced. But add some shop time to surface the boards. Thats the price at my pricey convenient cabinet shop wood place also. So oak is a $1-ish, curly maple $2.50-ish. I only have a friend price currently, but its unlikely a couple dollars will matter. And if I was paying some one a large amount of money, say $200, for a box I would wonder why I'm getting blah plywood and not at least oak.

Quote:
Makes sense, though of course that would mean I'd need a router table. But I suppose I could hack around that with copious use of sandpaper and/or my disc/belt sander.

- Yes, power sanding will do same thing, but you will want to trim and glue plywood more precisely. And if you make your top and bottom separately you may want to ‘major’ sand them to flush the whole thing up anyways.
No, need router, not necessarily a router table.

Quote:
Right. This is where that table saw comes in. I was....

- Cutting the box in two with tablesaw doesn’t make it any squarer, but it does mean the halves will match.. Also, especially when working with longer boards, you will find that boards aren’t perfectly straight. Getting boards to line up and be flat to each other isn’t always easy. So yes, use your half high wood (this case .75”) and line your top and bottom boards up. Use tape or double stick tape to make them connect as much as possible. Glue and clamp together with plywood. Sand with low grit paper to flush it all up if it isn’t to your standards. You will need to be careful to be square and flat with your sander.
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