Д wooden briefcase should have all /Л the features of any well-made brief­case: clean, attractive lines and light­weight strength. With a material such as wood, this can present a challenge, since strength and lightness are an uncom­mon combination. When sizing your stock, make the briefcase frame as thin as possible without sacrificing solidity. If you are using walnut or cherry, the stock should be at least A inch thick. The side panels of the briefcase should also be sturdy, since they help hold the unit together and keep the frame square. A good choice is /4-inch hardwood ply­wood. The side panels of the case shown in the photo at right arc made of solid white cedar boards edge-glued togeth­
er. Solid-wood sides are more attractive than plywood, but not as rigid—and sol­id wood may present problems due to wood movement.

The design described in this section uses concealed Soss-type hinges and a laminated handle. The inside of the case can be lined with leather or, as shown on page 129, flocked with artificial suede.

Made from cherry and white cedar, the briefcase shown at right features corners that are joined by miter-and – spline joints. The finger-joint method described below will produce an equally sturdy case.



Cutting the finger joints

You can cut the notches for finger joints one after another on your table saw with a simple jig made from an extension board fastened to the miter gauge. Set the cutting height of the blade to the stock thickness, clamp the extension to the miter gauge, and feed it into the blade to cut a notch. Slide the extension along the gauge so the gap between the notch and the blade is equal to the notch width, then screw the extension to the gauge. Cut a second notch, then insert a wooden key in the first notch so it projects at least 1 inch from the extension.

Butt the edge of one of the frame pieces against the key, hold its face against the extension and cut a notch. Then fit the notch over the key and make a second cut. Continue cutting notches in this manner (above, left) until you reach the opposite side of the workpiece. To cut the remaining fingers, turn the workpiece around and fit the first notch you cut over the key. Butt one edge of the mating board against the first board, and feed it into the blade (above, right). Continue cutting notches in the board following the same procedure you used on the first one.

image261Gluing up the frame



Use a small nail to spread glue in between the fingers in the frame pieces, applying as even a coat as possible. Fit the boards together and secure the joints with four bar clamps, aligning a clamp with each side of the frame just inside the fingers. To check the frame for square, mea­sure the diagonals between opposite corners (above). The two results should be the same. If not, install another clamp across the longer of the two diagonals, setting the clamp jaws on those already in place. Tighten the clamps a little at a time, measuring as you go until the two diago­nals are equal. [3]

image2644 Preparing the frame for the hinges

The hinges that will connect the lid and body of the frame together fit into holes in the edges of the stock. Clamp an auxiliary plywood table to your drill press table and install a bit equal to the hinge diameter. Set the cutting depth equal to the length of the hinge cylinder, adding 3A inch to allow for the rabbet you will cut around the frame in step 5 Holding the lid on the table, bore the holes into the edge of the bottom about 3 inches from each end (right). Repeat on the body.



Preparing the lid and body for assembly

Install a rabbeting bit in a router and mount the tool in a table. Start by routing a rabbet around the inside edges of the lid. Make the depth of the cut % inch, with a width equal to one-half the stock thickness; the resulting lip will mate with a rabbet in the body (step 7), allowing the pieces to interlock when the case is closed. Next, you need to rout rabbets along the outside edges of the lid and body to accommodate the side panels of the briefcase. Raise the cutting height to the side panel thickness and set the lid outside-face down on the router table. Pressing the stock against the bit pilot, feed the lid in a clockwise direction (above) until the rabbet is cut all around the perimeter. Repeat on the outside edges of the body.


7 Preparing the body for the lid

Cut the rabbets to mate with the lid around the inside edge of the body on your table saw. Leaving the auxiliary fence you used in step 3 on the rip fence, set the cutting height so. the rabbet you cut will mate with the one in the lid; one-half the stock thickness should be about right. Holding the inside edge of the body against the fence, feed it into the blade (left). Repeat the cut on the remaining three sides.



Making the handle

Make the briefcase handle by face-gluing three pieces of K-inch-thick wood together. For added strength, alternate the grain direc­tion of the boards. Outline the shape of the handle on the top piece and cut it out on your band saw (above). Then round over the top edge of the handle on a table-mounted router and finish shaping it to fit your hand with a spindle sander. Attach the handle to the case with glue and screws drilled and countersunk from inside the case.



Installing the hinges

The hinges shown above have a small setscrew that makes the cylinder expand when tightened. Loosen the setscrews, then push the hinge cylinders into their holes in the case body. The cylinders should be flush with the bottom of the rabbet.

Tighten the setscrews to secure the hardware in place (above). Line the interior of the case (step 11), if desired, then insert the hinges into the lid and tighten the hinge screws to com­plete the installation.


Flocking the interior

Flocking is a simple, inexpensive way to impart a suede-like feel to almost any surface, such as the inside of the briefcase or a jewelry box. Kits are avail­able from most woodworking suppliers. Start by coating the surface with the adhe­sive provided, then, holding the flocking gun 8 to 10 inches from case at an angle betwen 45° and 90°, pump on the fibers. Let the adhesive dry for about 10 hours and remove any excess fiber, which can be reused for other projects. To complete the briefcase, screw a pair of draw catch es to the mam body and top to keep the case closed.

Updated: March 17, 2016 — 1:16 pm