Box Construction – Engineering Mentorship

Accurately measuring, marking, and cutting, serves as the foundation for engineering and making.  Learning these fundamental skills is critical to success in all future projects. During the first session of Jonathan’s engineering mentorship program, he practices using different measuring and cutting tools to construct an accurate box.  This box will be used to construct a mold which will be filled with concrete.

Student using tape measure to cut cardboard
Practice using the tape measure

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Cardboard Prototypes

Creating a cardboard prototype can be a very useful exercise before moving on to construction of the final parts.  This helps students practice measuring and cutting, and helps to visualize the final project.  To start this project, Jonathan reviews the engineering plans, which describes the dimensions of the box, and creates a cardboard prototype.

Student cutting cardboard with box cutter for engineering box project
Using a straight edge when cutting cardboard increases safety and accuracy of cut

The first box was made using scissors while the second one was used using a box cutter with a straight edge.

Cardboard box made with scissors
Box construction using scissors
Accurate box made with box cutter and straight edge
Cardboard box made using straight edge and box cutter

You can see a small gap in the edge of the box.  This was a result in not accounting for the material thickness of the cardboard.  Since the material thickness was not taken into account the sides were 0.25 inches too short.  When the final box is constructed for the mold, the material thickness will be included in the design.


Box Construction – Learn the tools:

After the cardboard prototype is complete the next step is construct a mold from laminated MDF. To cut this material Jonathan uses several different saws, each with their own distinct characteristic. The first shop tool we used was a hand saw.  After accurately measuring and marking the workpiece, the MDF is clamped to the table, and a hand saw is use to cut.

Student using hand saw
Using a hand saw to cut out sides pieces of the box

For the next cut, Jonathan used a jig saw.  This is a hand held reciprocating saw that can make curved cuts.  We learned it is not very good at making very straight cuts.

Student using jig saw to cut board
Jonathan making a practice cut using the jig saw

The final saw used in this exercise is the band saw.  This is a very powerful and useful shop tool.  It uses a continuous saw blade that rotates in one direction.  This saw can be used to make curved and straight cuts.  When making curved cuts, adding relief cuts helps reduce the twisting of the blade.

Student carefully using the band saw to cut plywood
Using the band saw to cut the bottom section

Jonathan did an excellent job during the first session of this engineering mentorship program.  I was very impressed with his ability to accurately measure and cut.  He learned the advantages and disadvantages of different tools while constructing an accurate box.  During the next session, we will finish the hand made box and compare it to a box that was completely made on the laser.


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