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Trout box: laboriously carved? No! You can make it completely on the band saw.

I wish you could hold this little box. The photograph, no matter how we tried, just doesn't convey the charm of it. This is a box that cries out: "Pick me up! Open me! Play with me!"

Even if you're not a fish fancier, check out how this box is made. Since it's done on the band saw, you can cut the outside of the box in a free-form shape. It doesn't have to be a fish; it could be a flower, leaf, animal, ellipse, heart, or anything else you can imagine. The construction method we show for this trout box would work for any of them. Plus, the band saw method is so quick, it won't take you more than a weekend to build.

The basic idea is that a thick piece of wood is cut to the shape you want, and then sliced ("resawn") into four pieces: top, bottom, midsection and a base for the midsection (see Fig. A). The midsection is hollowed out, and then the pieces are reassembled so it looks like a solid piece of wood again. The top swivels on a dowel, which is the eye of the trout. We also came up with a slick way to make the lines on the gill and fins (see Photo 5). Here are the details.


You need a band saw and two sharp blades: one that's 1/8 in. wide with about 14 teeth per inch for cutting the shape of the fish, and one 1/4 in. wide with about 6 teeth per inch for resawing. Even a fairly small band saw win work if your blades are nice and sharp. You'll also need a scratch awl, six 2-in. spring clamps, two 6-in. long bar clamps, a can of spray adhesive, and a roll of double-faced carpet tape.

You need a short piece of dark-colored dowel for the eye of the trout. We used a 3/8-in. dia. plug cutter to cut it out of walnut, but you could use ordinary birch dowel, stained very dark.

You'll also need an unusually thick piece of wood. We suggest a minimum thickness of 2-1/4 in. planed, or 2-1/2 in. rough. A hardwood dealer may have what you need, or you can order through the mail from the source given in the Shopping List (p. 81). You could also glue together several thinner boards to get the thickness you need. We bought the lumber for our fish from a hardwood lumber dealer for $20.


1. Cut the body (A) and the eye (B) to the dimensions given in the Cutting list on p. 81.

2. Enlarge and transfer die grid lines, the outside shape of the fish, and the location of the eye from the drawing in Fig. A to the top of the body (A).

3. Drill the hole for the eye in the body. The dowel must fit tightly in the hole, so test the fit on scrap wood first. If the dowel is too loose, you can buy a drill bit that's slightly less than 3/8 in., like 23/64 in. or 11/32 in. A more economical way is to grind the sides of a 3/8-in. spade bit slightly.

4. Mount the 1/8-in. wide blade in the band saw and cut out the shape of the fish (Photo 1).

5. Cut two resawing support pieces out of scrap wood, making them 3/4 in. x 4 in. x 14 in. long. These pieces will hold the irregularly shaped fish as you resaw it on the band saw. Put long pieces of carpet tape on the inside faces of the resawing supports. Set the fish's body upright on your work table, and sandwich it between the resawing supports (see Photo 2). This ensures that the bottoms of the resawing supports are in the same plane, and that the pieces you'll resaw off the body will be even in thickness.

6. Mount the 1/4-in. wide blade in the band saw, and clamp a 4-1/2 in. tall rip fence to the band saw's table. Adjust the fence so the blade will cut the top and bottom pieces off the fish's body a hair thicker than 1/4 inch. Try cutting a piece of scrap wood using your rip fence, and adjust the angle of the fence to get a straight cut. Band saws often have a slight "drift" to them, so the rip fence usually must be slightly angled to the front of the table. Use your scrap to check that the cut is perpendicular, and adjust the angle of your table as necessary.

7. When your band saw and fence are set up accurately, resaw the bottom off the body (Photo 2). Using a putty knife, gently pry the bottom piece off the carpet tape. Reattach that support to the body and cut off the fish's top. Separate the top and body from the supports.

8. Use a sanding block and 120-grit sandpaper to remove the band saw cut marks on the top and bottom and both sides of the body. Sand carefully to avoid rounding over the edges, since these pieces need to fit well. You can use carpet tape to hold the pieces to your work table to make the sanding easier. When you're done, the pieces should be flat and even in thickness.

9. Draw the shape of the inside cutout on the top of the middle body piece. Mount the 1/8-in. wide blade in the band saw and cut out the shape. Start your cut by entering under the small fin on the top (Photo 3), cut on the line and don't cut into the center.

10. Mount the 1/4-in. wide blade in the band saw. Using the same resawing technique that you used to cut off the top and bottom, cut a 1/4-in. thick piece off the waste from the inside of the fish to make the inside bottom.

11. Glue together the saw kerf you made when you entered the body to cut out the inside. Clamp the joint with two spring clamps. When the glue is dry, sand the rough, band-sawn edges on the inside smooth with 120-grit sandpaper. Finish sanding with 180-grit sandpaper, then apply two coats of Danish oil to the inside only.

12. Set the 1/4-in. thick inside bottom into the body and mark the top side. Remove the inside bottom and apply spray adhesive to its top and to one side of a piece of felt. Let the adhesive dry for one minute, then join the pieces. Trim the edges of the felt with a pair of scissors so there's a 1/8-in. overhang around the wood.

13. Press the inner bottom into the bottom of the fish's body so the edges of the felt are tucked neatly in the joint. Glue the fish's bottom to the body, and clamp it with spring clamps (Photo 4).

14. Draw the bottom edges of the fins on the 1/4-in. thick top, then cut the fins off using a band saw. Set the top in place and draw around it to mark the edges of the fins on the fish's body.

15. Draw straight lines to mark the "rays" in each fin. Hold a straightedge on each line, and dig them out with a sharp scratch awl (Photo 5). Start with very light scratches to score the fines, then make heavier scratches. It's safest to practice this technique on scrap wood before you do it on your fish.

16. Using 180-grit sandpaper, lightly sand the top of the fish's body to remove any pencil fines and smooth the edges of the fin line cuts. Glue the eye in its hole in the body, being careful to remove any excess glue. Place the top in position and hold it there with a piece of carpet tape in front of the back fin. Sand the edges smooth and flush around the fish starting with 80-grit sandpaper, then 120-grit, and finally 180-grit, sanding with the grain as much as possible. Wrap a thin stick with sandpaper to sand inside the mouth.

17. Remove the top and round over its top edges with a rasp and sandpaper. Draw and dig out the gill fine on the top of the fish, just as you did the fins. Go carefully, starting with a thin scratch.

18. Sand any unsanded areas with 180-grit sandpaper. Smooth the sharp edges on the back and the edges of the fins on the front. Apply three coats of Danish oil, and you're done.


ITEM                                  QUANTITY

2-1/2" thick x 5" x 12" mahogany(*)      1
3/8" dia. x 1" walnut dowel              1
Spray adhesive                           1 can
3" x 9" dark green felt                  1
Danish oil finish                        1/4 pint

(*) Blanks 4" x 6" x 12" are available by mail from
Constantine's, Dept. TFH, 2050 Eastchester
Rd., Bronx, NY 10461; (800) 223-8087. Item
No. CB72. Cost is $31, which includes shipping.



A      1     2" x 4" x 11" mahogany (body)
B      1     3/8" dia. x 1" walnut (eye)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:includes supplies and cutting sizes; decorative storage box for jewelry
Publication:The Family Handyman
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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