Precision assembly of a laser cut plywood box

At the moment, my work is focusing on making boxes from 4mm laser cut birch ply. Plywood less than about 11mm thick isn’t flat and so some way of holding the shape is needed if the box is to be precise. I have designed my boxes with this in mind: the lids are shallow boxes forming a “monocoque” which holds the shape once the glue is dry. To pull the parts into shape while the glue dries, I have made a series of jigs and tools. The jig is a scary looking thing. It has a series of levers to apply pressure to the joints. Opposite levers will have a rubber band stretched between them to apply the pressure.

The jig is made from 4mm MDF which takes advantage of MDF being flat. Cross pieces are dual purpose — they hold the flat shape and carry the oak dowel shafts for the levers. The levers are made from ply which is much stronger than MDF.

The corners of the box are pulled into shape with clamps. These have a rubber band stretching all the way around. I’ll use three or more bands for most boxes. For this larger box, I will glue the front, back and dividers first, clamp for 30 minutes and then glue & clamp the sides. This gives me time to carefully apply glue without getting stressed about taking too long and allowing the glue to go off. When glueing the front, back & dividers, I’ll clamp the unglued sides as well to help hold the whole thing in shape

The sides are pulled down to the base with friction clamps. I have eight of these which means I can only make one box at a time. That’s about £30 worth of clamps, a purchase I’m reluctant to repeat.

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