Hand Tools doings #1: Hand cut box joint

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Betsy posted 03-04-2008 03:33 AM 30338 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Hand Tools doings series Part 2: 2nd stab at hand cut box joint - a touch better »

Since I am not able to be in the power tooled shop, I’m twiddling away in my spare bedroom doing hand tool stuff. Having never hand cut a joint, and after trying a dovetail, without really knowing what I was doing – I decided to back track a bit and do a simple box joint instead. I say simple, but its not as easy as it looks. First you have to be able to saw straight which, I’ve found out, is not an easy task in and of itself.

Anyway, since we learn by our mistakes, and since I know I will make many more, I thought I’d share my first hand cut box joint. I’m glad we are on the internet so I can’t hear the laughing and/or groans. Of course, it would be ok to hear the—- “hey that looks like my first one.” But can’t have it both ways.

I digress. Here is the joint and the crown saw I used.





Now having seen these, let my put in a caveat—I did not have a square board, so some of the gaps is from that. I need to make a shooting board so I can square up the ends. But by eyeball, this board was pretty close so I just used it. So there’s my defense and I’m sticking to it!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

10 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3407 days

#1 posted 03-04-2008 03:43 AM

That’s not bad for your first attempt. You will get better everytime you do it.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3203 days

#2 posted 03-04-2008 04:23 AM

That’s actually quite good. I just read last night that box joints are almost exclusively machined, since they’re so hard to do by hand. So I, having no machines, have decided that I will have no box joints in my work!

-- Eric at

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3206 days

#3 posted 03-04-2008 04:31 AM

Not bad. I found that using a knife to make my layout marks (as opposed to a pencil) greatly improved my accuracy on fitting joints. Keeping the corners on my chisel square and sharp also helped me get the waste out of the corners so I got a tighter fit in the bottom of the slot, altho you can “cheat” a little by rounding the inside edge of the pin and just leave the exposed end square. Yours sure looks better than my first attempt!! That appears to be white oak, which is not the easiest wood to hand joint either, because of the open grain.


-- Go

View Betsy's profile


3333 posts in 3315 days

#4 posted 03-04-2008 04:43 AM

Thanks guys.

Gofor——I just got a marking knife. I’m going to try using that the next set. The wood is red oak left over from a cabinet I built several years ago.

The sharp chisel part I have trouble with still. But my sharpening skills are getting better.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View kshipp's profile


179 posts in 3197 days

#5 posted 03-04-2008 05:03 AM

That looks like a pretty nice joint. You’re more brave than I am for trying that by hand.
I’m curious if you cut each board separately or just offset the second one and cut them both at the same time.
Either way, very interesting project.

-- Kyle Shipp,

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3241 days

#6 posted 03-04-2008 05:45 AM


This joint looks fine to me. I agree with Gary, in that, here practice does make perfect. Keep working at it. You will get better both on the joints and physically as well.

Thanks for sharing this (You are far more courageous than I am. I still haven’t repaired my camera so that is the excuse I will use for not posting my hand cut dovetails, which would be a primer more in how not to cut them.)

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Betsy's profile


3333 posts in 3315 days

#7 posted 03-04-2008 08:05 PM

Kyle – I cut one board at a time. I’m going to try to do the staggering with two boards today and see what happens.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Blake's profile


3442 posts in 3293 days

#8 posted 03-04-2008 11:51 PM

Betsy, You’re a brave soul. Not for posting this, but for jumping into hand-cut joinery. I am too timed to try.

I might be wrong, but I think if you stagger them and cut both at the same time you will get gaps equal to the kerf of the saw.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Shopsmithtom's profile


787 posts in 3614 days

#9 posted 03-05-2008 05:15 AM

I think they look great for a first effort. My first attempt of a hand cut joint was much worse. I like the idea of using a marking knife, too. That’s gotta help. (providing I can actually cut along that line. Hand tools aren’t without their frustrations, but it’s really a great feeling to make something that way. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Betsy's profile


3333 posts in 3315 days

#10 posted 03-05-2008 05:43 AM

You are right Blake!!!

thanks S – right now I’m not frustrated yet. But I’m sure I’ll get there if I don’t get good results soon. I get impatient – but that’s part of using hand tools – you have to be willing to put in the time to get good at it. I’m going to keep trying though!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics