I got the idea for this basket/tote from issue #62 of Woodworking Crafts magazine, so I must thank Charles Mak, the author of the article, for the inspiration. No plans or measurements were published in the article so I had to guess all the dimensions, angles, etc from the photo.

To see how my estimated dimensions and angles would look, I first made a mock-up from cardboard ⤵

Satisfied with the look of my prototype, I started to make the real thing using some pine that I had salvaged from a chest of drawers ⤵

First I ripped away the moulded edges, using the table saw ⤵

Then I ran the pieces through the thicknesser, mainly to remove the finish and stain. The final thickness was 15mm. ⤵

The sides and ends of the basket slope outwards, away from the vertical by 15°. So that is 75° from horizontal. Compound-angle joints are not as straightforward as you might think, and are quite tricky to visualise in your mind’s eye. Luckily there are online calculators to help with the maths. I used one found here, and inserted my requirements into the relevant fields ⤵

I rounded the results to 14.5° for the side and end angle, and 3.8° for the bevel. I first set my saw blade tilt to 14.5° ⤵

I needed to create a bevel on the top and bottom edges of the side pieces so that when the sides are tilted over, those edges become horizontal. With the square edge of the piece against the fence, I ripped the bevel on the first edge. When it came to ripping the opposite edge, with the board flipped, I realised that the ‘pointy bit’ of the already ripped edge would be in danger of getting wedged under the rip-fence ⤵

So I moved the rip-fence to the other side of the blade. ⤵

That way, the ‘pointy bit’ was riding directly on the face of the fence, with no danger of going under it ⤵

To cut the angled ends of the side pieces, I set my mitre fence to 75.5°, (90 minus 14.5 = 75.5) .

Strictly speaking, the saw blade should also have been angled over at the 3.8° bevel angle, but I decided to leave it square and sort out the error later, as it is a non-mating edge. At this point I should mention that, unless you are making, or have made, a project with compound angle butted joints, you may be wondering what the hell I’m going on about with this 3.8° bevel angle. At first glance it seems that you can just cut the butt joints square. I first learned that this wasn’t the case over thirty years ago, when I was making a baby rocker. That was back in the days before the internet, so I had to use my school maths to help me work it out. If you were to cut the butted edges square then you would end up with a gap on one side of the joint.

So I used the mitre fence to cut the ends of the side pieces at the 14.5° angle. ⤵

With the mitre fence still set up, I cut the same angle on a scrap piece of wood. This cut had to be made very carefully, holding the piece firmly against the fence and feeding the wood slowly. ⤵

I set the tilt of the blade to the 3.8° bevel angle. ⤵

Using the angled scrap piece as a poor man’s taper jig I made the first angled cut on the end pieces by running the scrap along the fence while holding the workpiece tightly aganst it. Any slippage between the pieces would be disastrous. Prior to making the cut, I thoroughly waxed the tablesaw table and the rip fence to ensure the pieces ran smoothly across the blade. Holding the pieces tightly together and firmly against the fence I slowly made the cut ⤵

To cut the other side I had to reverse the scrap piece to make sure the bevel angle is the right way round. I also decided to try to prevent the pieces slipping by sticking them together using a piece of masking tape ⤵

I made sure the cuts were symmetrical by making a note of how much the workpiece overlapped the end of the angled scrap ⤵

I marked the shape on the ends using a French curve, lining up pieces of masking tape on the French curve with marks made on the wood to ensure symmetry ⤵

I used the bandsaw freehand to cut to the pencil line ⤵

.. and smoothed the edges using the spindle sander ⤵

The bottom of the tote was 4mm plywood. So I needed to cut a groove in the two end and two side pieces to house the plywood. The groove needed to be at the same 14.5° angle. I had the same problem as before, whereby I didn’t want to run the ‘pointy’ edge of the pieces along the rip fence. So I created an extra layer on top of the saw’s table by clamping a piece of plywood to the table and raising the blade through it ⤵

This effectively raised the workpiece above the table so that the ‘pointy’ edge would ride directly on the face of the rip fence with no danger of getting wedged under it ⤵

Once I had made the bottom piece using the table saw and RAS, I could assemble the tote using wood glue and brads ⤵

The slotted bottom did a good job of aligning the side and end pieces, making the glue-up relatively straightforward. There was no need for clamps – the brads held it together while the glue dried ⤵

The slots on the side pieces were visible at the ends ⤵

So I made some 4mm square strips of wood and glued them into the holes ⤵

Then I sawed them flush using a trim saw ⤵

To make the handle, I first cut a piece of wood at 14.5° each end, expecting it to fit perfectly. When I placed it between the ends, it didn’t fit well – there was a slight gap at the top, at each end. I assumed it was maybe caused by slight errors in positioning during the glue-up. So I experimented with different settings of the mitre fence and re-cut the piece several times until it fit perfectly. (See Lessons Learned below for the real reason it didn’t fit at 14.5°.)

I marked where I wanted the handle to be ⤵

After using the online chord calculator to work out the radius (710 mm), I used a long rule with a hole drilled in it, hooked over a nail at one end, as a giant beam compass, and positioned the wood under it to line up with the marks I’d made

I used the same radius to draw the other line. Strictly, for perfectly parallel lines, the second arc should have had a smaller radius, but the error wouldn’t be noticeable at these dimensions.

I cut to the lines using the bandsaw

.. and cleaned-up the sawn edges using the belt sander

To make the handle more comfortable to hold, I rounded over the edges using a bearing-guided 8mm radius roundover bit in the router table

After sanding the handle, I fitted it to the tote using glue only

Once the glue had dried, I drilled a 6mm hole through the side and into the handle at each end and inserted a 25mm long 6mm beech dowel to strengthen the joint. I left the dowel protruding by about 4-6 mm as a feature.

I sanded the ends of the tote on the belt sander, and hand-sanded all the edges to remove the sharp arris

And that was it completed. For this project, I left the wood in its natural state, leaving it to the recipient to decide how to finish it.

Tools used

  • Table saw
  • Bandsaw
  • Radial arm saw
  • 13″ thicknesser
  • 6″ planer
  • Router table
  • 8mm radius roundover bit (router)
  • Belt sander
  • Oscillating spindle sander
  • Disc sander
  • Cordless nail gun
  • Random-orbit sander
  • Various clamps
  • Hammer
  • Nail punch
  • French curves
  • Online chord calculator
  • Online compound angle calculator
  • One metre rule (as a beam compass)
  • Rabone Chesterman No. 47R 300mm rule
  • Pencil
  • Plastic protractor
  • Bessey utility knife
  • Flush cut saw
  • Cordless drill
  • 6mm wood bit
  • Trend Digital Level Box
  • Digital protractor

Materials used

  • Reclaimed pine-board
  • 4mm plywood
  • Cardboard (for mock-up)
  • 18g 30mm brads
  • 240-grit Abranet abrasive disc
  • Masking tape
  • 6mm beech dowels
  • Gorilla wood glue

Things that worked well

  • Making the mock-up as ‘proof-of-concept’
  • Scrap piece of wood used as taper jig
  • Plywood on the table saw bed to raise bevelled workpieces to run on the face of the rip fence
  • Using long rule as beam compass
  • Housing the bottom in slots made glue-up a breeze

Things that didn’t work (and improvements/lessons learned)

  • Thinking about this project now, two weeks later, I realise that not all angles should have been cut at 14.5°. The pieces that form the butt joint itself (ie the ends of the side and end pieces) had been correctly cut at 14.5°. But for the slots for the bottom, the bevels on the top/bottom edges of the side pieces, and the ends of the handle, they should have been cut at 15°. For this particular project, the difference doesn’t matter, except for the handle ends, which formed another joint, so had to be accurate. It’s worth knowing though. Compound angled joints really are a brain-ache!
  • When using the scrap piece of wood as a taper jig, I should have adjusted the rip fence so that the end of the workpiece lined up exactly with the end of the jig (as opposed to having to measure the offset each time).