My notes on making Butt Joint boxes

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Blog entry by Randy63 posted 12-18-2010 07:33 AM 5513 reads 22 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Some have asked for info on the butt joint boxes I used to make. So I decided to share the info I used when I was making these. They are simple and actually fun to make and the best part is people really enjoy them.
The making or breaking of these boxes is the selection of woods you use. There are so many options available so have a ball. I have never written a blog in my life so this is a first for me. As I wirte this I only wish I had the writting skills of say Autumn or my good friend Roger Beam, but I don’t so this will be as good as it gets for me.

Notes for making butt joint boxes
Box examples:
Koa box
Large box

“Andy provided some excellent into and photos on making his “palm boxes, check it out:

I no longer make these boxes, so in progress photos are not nor
will they be available.
I decided to share this info with Lumber Jocks for any that would like to
give them a whirl. Believe me, they are easy and fun to do.

The width of 3-5/8” covers all three sizes
sides are cut out of the dominant wood and the fronts and backs
are cut out of a contrasting specie. Note when cutting the
fronts and backs allow for an extra 1/8” strip plus saw kerf for
highlight strips for the box lid. For the large box with the sliding
tray you will need two additional 1/8” strips the length of the box
for runners for the sliding tray.
Sides: Small box: 2 pcs 5/16” x 3’5/16” x 1’5/8” Primary wood Medium box: 2 pcs. 3/8” x 1’11/16” x 3-1/2” Primary wood Large box: 2 pcs. 3/8” x 2-5/8” x 3-1/2” Primary wood Note: 2 strips approx. 1/8” x 3/8” x length of lid glued to both the front and back edge.

Fronts and backs: all of your choice of contrasting wood
Small front: 5/16” x 15/16” x 3-3/4” back: 5/16” x 7/8” x 3-3/4”
Medium front: 3/8×15/16” x 8-5/8” back: 3/8” x 7/8” x 8-5/8”
Large front: 5/16” x 1-3/4” x 8-9/16” back: 5/16” x 1-11/16” x 8-9/16”

Note: on both the front and back strips I routed a small bevel on the exterior
side of the top of each piece. allowing approximately 1/2 of the thickness of
the piece to remain flat. On the large box there also has to be a 1/8” dado
on the inside faces of both the front and back. The top of the dado should be
1”. A router table worked best for me.

Bottoms and lids (all of the primary wood):
Small box: bottom: 3/16” x 3-5/16” x 3-3/4” lid: 1/2” x 3-5/16” x 3-3/4”
Medium box: bottom: 1/4” x 3-1/2” x 8-5/8” lid: 1/2” x 3-1/2” x 8-5/8”
Large box: bottom: 1/4” x 3-1/2” x 8-9/16” lid: 9/16” x 3-1/2” x 8-9/16”
Note: on each lid a strip of the contrasting wood must be glued on the exterior edges.

It’s best to finish sand all interior sides of components prior to glue up. And be sure to
select the best side for the exterior.

1st. Glue the front and back of the accent wood to the base. Be sure to have the bevel
of each facing out. Don’t worry if all doesn’t line up exactly perfect on the edges. Let dry. When dry using a sanding disk or carefully on a sanding belt sand the edges of the
front and back sides smooth to the bottom. Make sure to keep the side at exactly 90 deg.
and square.
2nd. Glue the sides to the now flush square and plumb ends. It sometimes helps to have
a small spacer to keep the front and back vertical.
3. When the above is dry. Sand the sides plumb to the front and back, at this time keep the box square.
4. When dry drill 1/8 holes through the sides into the front and back going about 3/8” into those members. Do this on both sides of box. After drying a bit you can then trim dowels near flush to the sides. You don’t have to be too precise with this right now as
all will be sanded later.
5. Fit lid to the box. As you will note, the back is slight lower than the front to allow
movement of the led but still provide a stop for the lid. Which gives you a zero cost
stop hinge. To drill the holes for the 1/8 brass rod hinges, I would mark a point to drll
about 5/16” down from the top of the box and about 3/16” in from the back. Again
doing this while the box is still square.
Fitting the lid takes a little time, first I routed a companion bevel on the back side of the
lid that covered only a portion of the accent strip. This bevel and the bevel on the back
of the box come together as a stop, maybe not completely but even partially works. You
have to make the lid level prior to drilling the holes for the brass rods, so I generally used
cardboard to level then clamped the lid to the box using quick clamps. Then marked and
drilled the holes for the hinges. Be careful here with your measurements. You want a
hole to go at least 3/8” into the lid from the side, but you also want to allow about 1/8”
for plugging hole with a dowel. Cut brass rod to exact length and on a sander, sand the
leading edge to a small bevel for easy entry. While fitting the lid, use a finish nail of
appropriate size to hold the lid in place. Check lid, make sure it opens and closes well.
If it needs any adjustment, do so. When everything meets your approval, remove the
finish nails and insert the brass rods. Note, this is pretty much a one shot try, and that’s
the reason for checking first. Ca glue wasn’t available when I was making these but
to be sure the rod stay you could be a drop of CA in before install the rod., but you’d
have to be quick. You’ll need a nail set to make sure the rod is set and below the surface
to receive the dowel plug.
6. At this point you’re ready for sanding. For most sanding I used the 6×48 belt on
a Delta sanding center. Check your sanding frequently. It’s easy to take off , but you
can’t put any back on. I generally used a 150 grit on the belt and had a 100 grit on the
12” disk. Sand all parts until smooth and square, then using the sander shape the curved
edges on the top of both sides and also slightly round over the front and top edges
7. Final sanding with a RO sander with 220 grit paper.
8. Finish of your choice. I used generally a couple of applications of Watco oil letting
each soak in and then wiping completely. I did this because it was quick and easy
and still provided a decent look. I would also wax and polish sometimes. I think
Andy’s use of Deft lacquer gives a wonderful look on boxes.
9. Extras for the large box: I sometimes added a small handle to the large box for opening. I generally make this out of 1/8” stock, 7/16” x 2-3/4” long with diagonal cuts on both ends. I simply glued these to the box lid. After 20 some years I haven’t heard of any failures. For the lids of all the boxes without handles, the simple little bevels on the fronts of the boxes provides a more than adequate finger grip.

The small sliding tray for the large box.

These were made from solid stock.
The size of the tray is 1/2” x 2-3/4” x 4-3/8”
Out of stock a bit thicker, I would cut a block the size above. I would then on the bandsaw resaw from this block a piece 1/16” x 2-3/4” x 4-3/4” for the floor of the
tray. I would then take the remaining thicker piece and on the scrollsaw cut out the
center leaving a border of about 1/4” all around. Once cut out I would then smooth
and final sand the interior cut I had just made, then glue the smooth portion of the
1/ 16” slice to the bottom of the cutout, clamp and dry. When dry sand completely
slightly rounding over all exterior edges and smoothing the bottom.
Also note that on the sides of the large box you will have to glue in the rails for the
sliding tray prior to proceeding with step no. 3.
I’ll also note people love the sound that this little tray makes with it slides and hits
the end on the box. And it’s actually useful for rings and small items.

10. As a final detail I always added a material to the floors of my boxes. I liked as used faux suede or a compatible color. I cut a piece of cardboard (sometimes poster board) the size of the bottom less 1/8” in width and length. Using spray
adhesive secured the suede to the cardboard. The from the back on each corner
cut the material at approx. 45 deg. from each corner so they would not overlap in
the back on the card. I would give a shot of spray adhesive to the center of the card
and then insert into the box.

I hope this is useful to any of you that would like to make these boxes.
Merry Christmas


-- Randy, Oakdale, Ca.

5 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4183 days

#1 posted 12-19-2010 11:34 AM

wow.. thanks for sharing all that information!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3087 days

#2 posted 12-19-2010 01:22 PM

Ditto MsDebbie.. Thanks for all of the info..

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View Randy63's profile


252 posts in 2914 days

#3 posted 12-19-2010 06:44 PM

Debbie and Tim, thanks so much for the comments. I had noted a number of folks had read but with no comments was wondering if this was of any value to anyone. So thanks for taking the time to comment!
Happy Holidays!

-- Randy, Oakdale, Ca.

View BobG's profile


172 posts in 2984 days

#4 posted 12-19-2010 06:57 PM

Randy those are awesome little boxes!

-- BobG, Lowell, Arkansas--------My goal in life is to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am! Make more saw dust!!

View Mark Blomster's profile

Mark Blomster

107 posts in 3008 days

#5 posted 12-27-2010 08:56 PM

Thanks for taking the time to share this tutorial! Also, that is a fantastic photo of all three boxes! They are stunning!

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