Every time Emma and Hudson, my niece (age 7) and nephew (age 4), come to visit they see all of the lumber, tools, and machines in my garage. “Can we build something, Uncle Mark?” they asked once. I put them off saying that we would build a box or something sometime. The problem was they never forgot what I said. So, over the next few visits, “Can we build a box this time, Uncle Mark?” I continued to put them off for one reason or another, amazed that they remembered each time to ask.
I finally got my act together and we were able to make the boxes I’d been promising.
My goal was to introduce them to actual woodworking skills rather than just glue a bunch of Popsicle sticks together – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Keeping in mind their ages, meant I had to do any power tool or machine work, but I wanted to keep them involved with the actual construction of the boxes. To that purpose, I cut parts ahead of time and used hand tools.
Some 1/4″ thick yellow pine roughly 5″ wide, leftover from a previous project, served as our material. While the kids finished their game of Mario Galaxy, I cut parts by eyeballing four longer pieces and four shorter pieces (sides and ends). The measurements didn’t really mean that much because all Emma and Hudson cared about was building a box.
I used my combination square to transfer the board thickness to the ends of the sides so we could line up the drill for the brad pilot holes. The pilot holes served two purposes: 1) to help keep the lumber from splitting and 2) to keep the nails lined up while the kids pounded away with hammers. They came into the garage while I was drawing the lines and were ready to work.
Admittedly, I initially grabbed my cordless drill for the pilot holes. After setting it down in front of them I had second thoughts; the weight, the power, and the little hands just didn’t seem a good combination. I brought out my grandpa’s ol’ crank powered hand drill, an item they had never seen. While I held the drill steady, they turned the crank; therefore, they drilled the holes – three on each end of each of the sides.
We tightly clamped one box end for each kid into the Workmate, raised just above the level of the table top. From there, I showed them how to line up the sides flush with the ends, place a nail in one of the holes, then hold it steady while they pound. Emma was pretty good on her own. I had to help Hudson hold his still while he hit the brads. Then we flipped the assembly around, clamped the other end in the Workmate, and nailed the side to it. Then we nailed the other side to the ends and had a four sided box without a bottom.
I measured the bottom of the box (the first actual measuring during this project) so I could make parts for the bottom. The sides ended up about 6 1/2″ long and ends about 4 1/2″ long. I used a piece of scrap 1/8th inch plywood and cut the parts. We drilled some more pilot holes then nailed the bottoms onto the boxes. Now that we had an actual box, I drilled holes in the ends to add a rope handle, and the boxes were complete.
We left all the scribe lines, had some splits along the edges while nailing, not everything was flush, and there were some slight gaps in the joints. But you know what? We had fun, and they have something that they made. Success here is defined by completing a project and practicing new skills.