Learning the small box techniques

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Blog entry by Bob #2 posted 04-12-2008 09:55 PM 3632 reads 4 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have become intrigued with the various boxes built and demonstrated here on LJs
When I first looked I thought – I can do that!
Nothing was more of and understatement that that silly thought.
The precision and engineering on these little marvels far out wieghs the small sizes.

A long story begins in January when I cut up some wood and beveled 45 on the corners only to find that not a single piece fit. Hmmmm?
Accuracy and repeatability beyond my current techniques.
I have done some segmented turning so I was aware of the accuracy, I just didn’t think it ws as critical here.
The first thing I had to build was a 45 degree miter sled for my table saw that could be indexed for repeat cuts.
This is what I used here:

The sled holds the project wood down against the sled base so that the 45 is exactly 90 degrees from one end or the cut to the other. Using the hold down I can help eliminate those annoying crescent cuts where the wood shifts slightly as the blade cuts through.

Next I made up a cradle as per Bill Hyltons router book (actually 4 of em). Each one accomodates a different size of dovetail bit and one accomodate straight splines. (5/16, 1/4, 3/8. 1/2”)
These were fiddly but I perservered.

At first the results were awful but with some revision the jigs started to work for me.

Yesterday I got the box glued up and ran the corners off with a round over bit.

This is just a piece of wood from a pallet out back so you can see the nail holes in it which I plugged with black epoxy.

I put a pair of hinges (Butt) on the back and the dovetails keys came out pretty close to what I wanted.

The top is a piece of walnut, the walls are too thick. The joints are acceptable and dove splines fit quite well.
The wood for the splines is African Blackwood. I don’t know what the white wood is so any guesses would be appreciatied. I think it could be Asian


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

14 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6819 posts in 3400 days

#1 posted 04-12-2008 10:22 PM


Great box!

It seems the smaller the project, the longer it takes, and the more critical the joints.

Sounds crazy, but in the construction business we have a fee for working in a small space!

All the same details as a large space, but no room to move. A big room is much faster to finish.

Looks like it will be easier from now on due to the new jigs.

Nice work;


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3821 days

#2 posted 04-12-2008 10:26 PM

Bob. A nice looking box. Great splines.

I bought a jig to cut those about 10 years ago. Still in the package. I guess I’ll have to try it out. Also the jig to cut the splines. It’s called a Kehoe jig

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Thuan's profile


203 posts in 3238 days

#3 posted 04-12-2008 10:40 PM

I too decided to make a box yesterday, however, something I thought would be completed in four hours sat on my work bench 10% finished with gaps I can see clear across the garage. I barely need anytools to build a bookself, but I’ll have to get maybe a unisaw to build a nice box. You persevered.

-- Thuan

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3165 days

#4 posted 04-12-2008 10:45 PM

Welcome to the club. I posted my first box a couple of weeks ago and that baby ate my lunch. Unless it’s a really simple design, it’s not going to happen in a week end.

View Betsy's profile


3334 posts in 3316 days

#5 posted 04-13-2008 12:15 AM

Bob – it a great start! Boxes are deceptive—- the smaller the harder because of the accuracy. I can’t wait to see the next one.

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

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3409 days

#6 posted 04-13-2008 12:15 AM

Great looking box, Bob! I like the radii.

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

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3242 days

#7 posted 04-13-2008 01:05 AM


This is a nice box. I like the round overs on the top. It adds a nice element to the box. This is a nice piece of “scrap”.

Thanks for the post. I am working on my first box so this one gives me some ideas.

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

View Paul D's profile

Paul D

2130 posts in 3169 days

#8 posted 04-13-2008 01:57 AM

Bob, I think it is a very nice box especially for a first try. I too have decided to give boxes a try and they are deceptively difficult. I’m hoping that since they require so much precision that the experience will end up making my other non-box work much better too. Some of the boxes made on this site are just incredible but I doubt most of the people that built them started making them that nice to start with. Hey, maybe we need to have a new-to-box-building contest :)

-- Paul D - Lawrenceville, Georgia

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 3417 days

#9 posted 04-13-2008 04:57 PM

Looking good Bob! I haven’t tried dovetail splines yet…you dove right in. (no pun intended originally – but on the re-read, i’ll take it.)

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3236 days

#10 posted 04-24-2008 06:14 AM

Nice box Bob. I appreciate te blog.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3359 days

#11 posted 04-24-2008 11:45 AM

Bob, the whole box thing just ain’t as simple as it looks. Yours came out looking quite nice and I like the splines. That’s something I want to try in the near future.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Steelmum's profile


355 posts in 3383 days

#12 posted 04-24-2008 12:28 PM

I received a book for Christmas called Box by Box. It is intended to teach woodworking techniques box by box. Looks like I need to give this thing a try.

-- Berta in NC

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 3226 days

#13 posted 04-24-2008 12:32 PM

Hi Bob,
Welcome to the world of box making. As you’ve discovered there’s more to it than mneets the eye. keep on making them and the whole thing becomes a lot easier. You’ll gradually make a range of jigs to speed up the whole process.

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3442 days

#14 posted 04-24-2008 12:53 PM

I’m kind of hooked on this segment of woodworking right now as the accuracy and material selection has me fascinated.
I appreciate all the encouragement at this point from you folks
It would be easy to giveup now there one is hatched, so to speak.
I’m trying another one now with cherry and spalted Manitoba maple for the lid inset.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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