Day Four: Good news for people who can’t saw accurately

Today we built another iconic project of Roy’s; the patch box. This delightful grease box is cut from a single piece of stock and has a cunning catch arrangement to keep your mutton tallow safe. As with all the projects we have done this week, what at first seems like quite a simple project has deployed a number of core skills in unusual ways.

Roy demonstrates use of the passer drill

Roy demonstrates use of the passer drill

Having laid out our patch boxes in mahogany (salvaged during yesterday’s skip dive), we got to use Roy’s passer drill to route out the recess for the brass inlay we cut yesterday. The passer drill is truly a remarkable device, and entirely different to any routing method I’ve encountered previously – this tool has the possibility of providing endless fun.

With the brass inlay fitted we ripped the two sliding lids from the stock. The surface left by my 16” Bad Axe tenon saw was so good that not much clean up was needed, and a few passes with my 212 scraper plane did the job nicely. The end of the top lid is cut at an angle across the width of the box, and also with a healthy amount of undercut to achieve a solid closing action. Which is great news for people who find it difficult to cut square across and down at the same time…

An ebony butterfly was inset into the opening end of the box, with the bottom half in the main section of the box and the top half in the lower sliding layer. The catch mechanism was completed with a single brass screw at the opposite end of the box, and the screw hole of the middle layer was elongated to allow the layer to slide back and forth as well as pivoting. This ingenious arrangement means that the box can only be opened if the two lid layers are moved in the correct direction and sequence. Brilliant.


A box with no interior compartment is not much of a box, however. To create a compartment we drilled out the interior of the main box section using an antique spoon bit and brace. To my eternal shame I’ve not used a brace and bit before, although I hope to remedy this as soon as possible (and I’m keeping my eye out for a good condition 10” brace).

Drilling out the cavity with a spoon bit

Drilling out the cavity with a spoon bit

Tomorrow I’m hoping to give the box a coat of shellac and wax, and then fill it with my mutton tallow substitute of choice. This has been another super fun project, and one which I may well build again as gifts.


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