Frame / Panel Keepsake Box - Construction

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Blog entry by Woodhacker posted 04-24-2008 06:37 AM 4797 reads 8 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

On the suggestion of a couple comments from juniorjock and dantheboxmaker, I decided to try my first blog…anywhere…ever. I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I hope this turns out.

Thanks to all who made the kind comments to my posting of this project. These are some of the steps I went through to make the “Frame / Panel Keepsake Box” at

This box consists of five Frame/Panels (FP) – the top, and the four sides making the carcass. Each of the FPs were completely assembled separately prior to gluing to the ebony corner posts.

A few of the comments to the original posting of this box made me think about how many wood “parts” were fitted to actually make this box. If I count the two pieces edge-joined for the top and base, I think I had 57 separate pieces of wood to size, cut, or fit one way or another.

Perhaps the most challenging part of this box was the combination of the miter keys in conjunction with the tongue and groove joinery used on all four sides of each panel. I let the outside dimensions of the frames of the carcass determine the overall dimensions of the box. However, because I used Mortise/Tenon (MT) to join the FPs to the ebony corner posts, I had to allow for additional tenon material on each of the vertical pieces of each frame which you can see in the photo below:

Thus the stock for the vertical pieces of each frame had to be cut from wider stock than the horizontal frame pieces. The tenons were cut on my router table prior to cutting the miters on my table saw, using an Incra miter gauge with a stop along it’s fence. I actually cut the frame’s grooves for the panels using the router table after cutting the miters. Thinking back… it would have been much easier had I cut the grooves before the 45 degree miters. The tongue on the panels were next and this was also done on my router table. The overall size of the panel was determined after the frames were cut and “dry fit”.

Key Slots:
The next challenge was cutting the key slots. The series of three pictures that follow show the jigs I used in conjunction with my router table to cut the key slots. I’m fortunate to have a Jessem router table with a miter-slide (what Jessem calls their miter gauge). It’s a little difficult to see but there are actually two jigs, (1) the larger adjustable one can be used to set a variety of angles for holding stock. This attaches onto the miter-slide, but something similar, or simpler could be made for any miter gauge. The jig was made for another larger project. (I made a table with an 8/4 stock mitered frame with similar miter keys – I’ll post it sometime in the future). The second “jig” is simply two pieces of plywood joined at precisely 90 degrees, and mitered at 45 degrees on the end so it sits flat against the router table and the primary jig. This was only necessary because the FP pieces for this box were too small for the larger jig to support. So it’s only purpose was just to serve as an extension of the larger jig. (Hopefully this will make more sense in looking at the pictures below)

I initially tried to make it much more difficult then needed in trying to measure to get the key slot “centered” in the frame’s width.

As it turned out I didn’t need to measure at all…the position of the key slot in relation to the “center” of the frame was determined by “what looked right” and set by the distance of the router fence from the bit (since the miter-slide is attached to the fence on my router), once the jig was set precisely at 45 degrees.

With a 1/8 inch wide bit, several passes were needed on each slot to get the desired depth of the slot. This was done by raising the bit some with each pass…remembering that you’re never supposed to take a cut deeper than the width of your bit. To make the actual cut it was just necessary to “register” and hold the mitered frame piece flatly against the router table and the jig simultaneously.

This was repeated for each FP, but as mentioned below … for the top FP piece a ¼ inch bit was used.

Ebony Keys:
After having the key slots cut in the frames, the ebony keys were (very carefully) cut on my table saw ripping the width I needed off the side of the blade opposite of the table saw fence. I let my router bits determine the key width. For the four FP sides I used a 1/8 inch router bit requiring 1/8 inch keys. For the top FP I used a ¼ inch router bit, requiring ¼ inch keys. Since the top panel was larger, this matched better proportionally as well. All the keys were cut with the grain running perpendicular to the miter joint. They were also cut a little longer than I needed so I could sneak up on the exact length I needed to make the miters fit tightly during dry-fit. You can see in the picture below that the keys on this panel are a little long preventing the miters from closing completely together. The keys were trimmed a little at a time until all four miters in the panel fit properly.

From the perspective of the picture above…because of the close tolerances, in assembly of each panel I found that I could slide the keys “sideways” into the key slot for two of the corners. For the remaining two corners the ebony keys had to be pushed into the slots once each half of the slots were aligned. This design truly makes each FP piece “interlocking”. Care should not be overlooked to keep each panel flat/square during gluing/clamping. I used Titebond II to glue up this box.

Once each panel was dry-fitted properly and glued they could then be fastened to the ebony corners. As you can see in the picture below, the mortises were cut into the ebony corners using the router table. This wasn’t necessary, but I rounded off the frame tenon’s edges before gluing together to match the contour of the routed mortises in the ebony. I think you can also see that in the picture below. Also note the inside corner of each ebony corner was cut off at 45 degrees to give the inside of the box better contour.

After all the panels were glued/sanded it was time to assemble the box. However, this was done in stages because it seemed too risky to get “out of square” had I tried to glue all eight pieces simultaneously (four FPs and four ebony corners). Thus I glued the front and back FPs to the ebony corner posts first and let these dry before attaching these to the side FPs. See the picture below:

The base:
The base was made of red oak and was rabbeted into the sides. The rabbet was cut “freehand” on my router table using a rabbeting bit/with a bearing. The portions of the rabbet next to the ebony corners were cut out by hand with a chisel since the router bit couldn’t reach there.

As you can see below, the base was then cut to fit the shape of the rabbet including “cutouts” for the ebony corner posts.

The cocobolo feet have round tenons that were turned prior to parting them off my mini lathe. The feet are actually pen blank stock. The ebony handle is also joined using MT joinery. All outside edges were 45 degree beveled 1/8 inch wide. The feet were also slightly beveled prior to gluing into drilled out holes in the ebony corners.

Thanks for looking at my first blog.

-- Martin, Kansas

5 comments so far

View BarryW's profile


1015 posts in 3902 days

#1 posted 04-24-2008 09:27 AM

impressive jig, great cuts…I have tablesaw envy….

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3817 days

#2 posted 04-24-2008 12:29 PM

Hi Martin,

This is a nice blog. Your descriptions and photos helped clarify the construction process.

Thanks for the post. I enjoyed looking at this.

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

View jjohn's profile


390 posts in 3709 days

#3 posted 04-24-2008 02:38 PM

very well done. The box and the blog.

-- JJohn

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4295 days

#4 posted 04-24-2008 08:09 PM

A very nice box, & great pictorial.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4156 days

#5 posted 04-29-2008 03:26 PM

excellent blog
and the visual helps me figure out how to do my corners better.
Thank you

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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