Reader John Griffin-Wiesner writes: Just got the new Popular Woodworking issue yesterday (February 2008). Another fine issue!
I am confounded by the Shaker wood box. How are the front and back panels supposed to move being nailed to the sides which have the grain running vertically?
Answer: Great question. The answer is: nails.
Lots of earlier furniture appears to be nailed without regard for wood movement, yet it survives to this day intact. In fact, when I visited Pleasant Hill to find a good design for a wood box (I saw about 10 of them), all of them were:
1. Still in good shape without signs of repair or restoration.
2. Nailed together without regard to cross-grain.
Unlike screws, nails will bend a bit as the wood expands and contracts with the seasons. There are limits, of course. And I always prefer to create constructions that accommodate wood movement rather than rely on nails. (By the way, just about any kind of nail will do. I like cut nails, but the wire nails bend easily, too.)
But they work. I’ve seen it too many times in too many pieces of antique furniture to dismiss it. You can download the entire article on building the Shaker Firewood Box using the link below. You also can read more about my visit to Pleasant Hill on the Woodworking Magazine blog here.