Until last Friday, my wife was the manager of a local cooking school. The school offers 300 to 400 classes per year to the general public. Many classes are taught by local chefs with a complete menu. Other classes are taught by the cooking school staff. Then there were the private events in which an individual pays to host a cooking class for themselves and up to 47 of their closest friends. The menus for these private events are negotiated with the host, often with way too many iterations. The dessert for these dinners is often chocolate lava cake. It is relatively easy to prepare and always well received.

We referred to this as one of her Five Easy Pieces desserts. For those who might not remember (or never knew), Five Easy Pieces was a 1970 film starring Jack Nicholson as a concert pianist on permanent hiatus from his career and dysfunctional family. The phrase refers a book of piano compositions one must master before moving on and has come to mean things that are relatively easy to master yet impress the audiences as being more difficult than they are.

I’ve got one of my Five Easy Pieces of woodworking. It is the Limbert #255 Waste Paper Box as interpreted by Christopher Schwarz in the September 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking.

#255 in Jatoba.

#255 in Jatoba.

I have now made at least eight of these for gifts and donations to fund-raising events. They have been well received despite initial skepticism on my wife’s part. She didn’t think people would accept a trash can as a present but they do. Sells well at charity auctions, too.

It does require more wood than you think. I built the last one from a 10′ piece of 5/4 by 5.5″ Jatoba. I get the 5/4 so I can resaw it and make the 9.25″ sides from glued up bookmatched boards. Interesting if you get a nicely figured flat-sawn board. The ones I made from quarter-sawn boards are attractive but not as interesting. The Jatoba I get is rough and dirty. I have no idea what it will look like until I make the first pass through the planer.

Following the teachings of Brian Boggs and Michael Fortune, my band saw is set up so it can resaw Jatoba using a 3/8″ blade with no measurable drift. From the rough 5/4″ board I can get usable 0.5″ + boards.

In other woods:

Jatoba. (Brazilian cherry?)

Jatoba. (Brazilian cherry?)

White oak with an period appropriate red die.

White oak with an period appropriate red die. (Mine)

A darker Jatoba and the first one I made.

A darker Jatoba and the first one I made. (My wife’s)

One shop tip I offer (first ever) is used in making the stopped dadoes (dados) on the legs. They are 1/8″ by 1/2″ and stop 1/2″ from the top. Chris used a table saw with a dado stack. I prefer a router table. I wanted to stop at exactly 1/2″. One of the major lessons from a weekend listening to Brian Boggs talking about woodworking is to not mill it close and adjust but just mill it exactly and be done with it.

If I had a proper router table with a long fence and flip-stops, this would not be a problem. I have a small benchtop router table with a short fence. I raced around the shop looking for scrap lumber to build a stop when inspiration hit. And this is what I came up with:

The miter gauge from my table saw clamped in the miter slot.

The miter gauge from my table saw clamped in the miter slot.

I might be the only person impressed by this solution but it’s my blog. More accurate than a pencil line. I have learned that in woodworking it is more important to be consistent than right.

My other change in the design is the method of attaching the bottom. The published method is cleats screwed to the sides and the bottom. I finally decided for the way I work it is easier to just mill dadoes into the sides and set the bottom in the dadoes. Finishing is a bit easier without the bottom installed but it is easier to cut the dadoes than clamp and screw four cleats level and equal.

If I ever meet Chris Schwarz, I will by him a drink and ask why the cleats and not dodoes.

Does anybody know if Chris drinks?

This blog has been updated to correct a spelling error.