At the end of my first year of vocational school, my instructor Werner Duerr had a small project planned for each student – a nail box. But this wasn’t just a place to store your nails and screws, it was a precision woodworking tour-de-force project.
The dovetailed box with fitted tray had to be made using a combination of hand and power tools. And it had to be completed in 30 hours or less. That seems like a lifetime today, but caused nearly every sophomore to worry from the first minute.
Not only was there a tight deadline, but every aspect of the box had to fall within strict guidelines. We were judged on how tightly the dovetails fit, both in the case and the fitted tray. The quality of the half-lap joints on the tray dividers was scrutinized. Were there any gaps? Did the dividers cause the tray sides to bow and were the dividers themselves all straight? How level was the top of the tray with the top of the case? Was there an even gap between the tray and the case? Were all the corners broken uniformly, and was the hand-shaped dowel handle perfectly round?
Werner’s purpose for this useful little project was not only to teach us to work to a deadline, but to work to a high standard. We had to working quickly, efficiently and precisely. And while you may not have to work to a specific deadline, this is the perfect shop project to up your precision game. (Who am I kidding? We all work to our spouse’s deadline, which is always tight.)