Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Building a Server Box

Today I had arranged with James to meet a carpenter and work with him to build our server box. I have a good general knowledge of carpentry and had designed what I wanted to make but I have no tools here, don’t know where a lumber mill is, and don’t know where a hardware store is for the necessary hinges. When I arrived at the carpenters (8am I might add) we walked two blocks to a lumber yard tucked away in an alley. Two (roughly) 12’ pieces of hardwood one foot wide each ran about $10 but it looked like the wood had been tortured before being stacked for sale. I saw three of what would be the only power tools here but the planer did not seem to smoothly plane the surface and the tablesaw cut crooked edges on the already warping boards.

We walked the boards back to his shop and I realized this was about to get real. All of the tools and workbench were before me and the tools that I would use to get the job done in the USA were nowhere to be found. The carpenter started marking boards and making cuts according to my specifications and quickly grabbed the wood plane to begin reshaping the boards into flat, smooth surfaces with 90 degree corners. I watched and tried to learn as much as I could.

The first challenge which I had never undertaken was to join two panels of wood to make panels wide enough for the sides. The carpenter was methodical and precise with everything he did and before long there were two panels which are at first glance, one board.

After walking to the market to purchase hinges, latches, locks and screws we continued work. The backing on the box was misunderstood and therefore the shelves were too long so we needed to fix their lengths to fit the box. I thought I had seen a fair amount of how to use the plane and set to work.

Now, I’m from the technology age and I’ve really only used power tools for my projects. I started by cutting the board with a handsaw (which was dull and further complicated the matter) and it did not end straight when the carpenter had showed countless perfect cuts. I grabbed the plane and set about squaring the corners and shaping a straight edge. The planer took more skill and practice than any tool I have ever tried to work with; however, I got the edges straight enough for my purposes with this box (the carpenter brought them up to his standards).

After nine total hours of work we finished the box for just under $35 and we paid nearly double what he quoted for the project because of the outstanding workmanship. This box is incredibly sturdy and I realized how few tools that I actually need but want to get a small chisel set with my next project. I have learned a lot today and can’t wait to apply it to another project at home.


  1. He looks so happy to be in the picture with you! And to think, you crafted something completely on your own, thousands of miles from home! :)

  2. Mike, Grampa Bill will be very proud of your carpentry work. And I love the tunes you posted, especially Afroman...bate palmas, indeed! Na

  3. Michael,
    You're a chip off Grandpa Bill's block. I'm so proud of you. What a terrific box!
    Love ya,