Oof, this was a long one! I originally uploaded my blueprint for this thing at the beginning of January, then reported some progress two weeks ago, after which it stayed idle. The second delay was mostly due to a shortage of raw materials – something that took longer to rectify than expected.
I am glad that I decided to build this box since it, more than any other thing I’ve made so far, really made me stop rushing forward with a “close enough is good enough” attitude. I wrote about that lesson in the post On the Importance of Precision – that title really sums it up.
To recap: I made the outer frame out of 4.5cm-wide wooden corners that were put together with 45° mitre joints. In the process, I was forced to build my own low-quality but temporarily effective mitre box, learned to slow down, and also began to suspect that handsaws have some important differences (described here). The bottom of the tray was made out of 4mm-thick plywood. I am really becoming weary of working with this material. For one, the stuff that I can find in local hardware stores just looks plain cheap. More importantly, this 30cm × 50cm × 4mm sheet was already too big to stay flat, curling up at the sides. One solution might be to go with a thicker plywood, I suppose.
Since sand was one of the potential fillers for the future “Zen garden”, and especially because the plywood’s edges were curling up from the frame, I covered the inner frame/bottom joints with some wide transparent sticky tape. This is where the project stalled after I ran out of material to make the box dividers.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I finally restocked on the wooden corners. The ones I got for the dividers were only 3.5cm as opposed to the frame’s 4.5cm to compensate for the shorter internal dimensions of the frame and for the 4mm thickness of the plywood bottom. I sliced these new corners along their length, although not on a diagonal as shown in the blueprint, but parallel to one side. To do this, I used my new EZ544 EZ Lock carbide cutting wheel. What a difference from the EZ456 metal cut-off wheels! The carbide wheel ripped through the soft pine very smoothly and quickly, with no smouldering that I always saw with the EZ456, and left a clean, straight cut. The only downside was that the protruding head of the EZ Lock mandrel left gouges on the side of the wooden corner that I used as a guide.
With sawing done, I divided each side of the tray into thirds, measured out the dividers, and cut them in my new mitre box. When two of them turned out to be a touch too long, I used the 432 sanding bands together with the 576 sanding / grinding guide to take off a few mm of material off the edges. To make matters easier while gluing, I cut two short pieces of wood to serve as spacers and keep the long dividers parallel to the long sides. To glue the shorter dividers, I used the edged of the long ones as a reference point and kept them perpendicular to the short sides of the tray with another small wood block. And just like that, it was finally done!
When it came to filling the compartments, we almost his another snag. The original idea was to use gravel and small stones, sand, bits of wood, etc. However, while sand and gravel were available in 50kg+ quantities in e.g. garden centres, they turned out to be difficult to find in “decorative” amounts. Freezing weather and a few feet of snow on the ground would have made it challenging to dig for this stuff ourselves. Mari’s creativity came to the rescue, though, and upon coming home from work I found the new Zen garden up and running, with ground coffee and coffee beans substituting for rocks and sand, and a nice coffee aroma permeating the apartment. With a few Thai corals and sea shells, candles, and a definitely-not-long-for-this-world centrepiece thrown in the mix, the whole things looks rather nice, if I may say so myself: