Dovetail Box #1: The Wood

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Blog entry by Eric posted 01-26-2008 10:17 AM 5350 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Dovetail Box series Part 2: When You Don't Plan Your Cuts »

I mentioned recently that I felt like actually making something before working on my bench. What better project for my beginner skills than a simple dovetail box? I haven’t waded through the loads of plans online for boxes, so this plan of mine might not work. Let me know what you think.

First, I had an idea that maybe I could build the entire box out of a single block of 2×4 that is 5 1/2” long. Here’s my block – it’s kempas by the way (click for big size, you wood junkies):

wood for box

The dimensions of the box top (and bottom) I thought would be roughly 4” by 5 1/3” (I read somewhere that a 1:1 1/3 ratio is nice for boxes). So I thought that I would just rip the top and bottom of the box right off the top of this block of wood – I dunno, maybe 1/2” thick for each? That would leave me something like 5/8” left. Is is crazy to think of cutting that in two 1/4” (ish) pieces, that I’d then rip down the middle for the four walls? Are dovetails for 1/4” thick pieces too fine for a beginner?

I guess I’m just being lazy to cut off more wood for the walls, and also I’m trying to mimimize (maybe neurotically so) wood waste.

Another question I have is how to join the box to the bottom. I was thinking that I’d just slap some glue on the bottom of the box walls and throw it onto the bottom, but that sounds so crude to say it. The top will be hinged somehow – I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.

[This entry was taken from my personal website, Adventures in Woodworking.]

-- Eric at

5 comments so far

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3793 days

#1 posted 01-26-2008 01:37 PM

First, I have to admit, I like the look of Kempas. I might have to get you to send me a hunk sometime. I guess I can send you some pine or something ;)

Second, and this is just the opinion of a fellow newbie, but if cutting dovetails in 1/4” thick pieces is a challenge for a newbie, then you can knock it out of the way now. However, you should also be prepared to screw up and have nothing to show for your efforts except valuable experience. Learn it now, or learn it later.

Personally, I think it would be interesting to see the box all made from the same chunk of wood, just resawn for the individual pieces.

As for joining the bottom, perhaps a groove along the bottom, then an tongue in the bottom piece that will fit in? While something like a combination plane would be useful for that, you can do it with just a chisel, so it should be doable.

Just a thought.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3871 days

#2 posted 01-26-2008 01:53 PM

This should be an interesting challenge for you. There are a lot of resources available here to help, too.

View Eric's profile


43 posts in 3782 days

#3 posted 01-26-2008 02:41 PM

Good luck man!

-- Eric

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3818 days

#4 posted 01-26-2008 03:01 PM

Think of this as a personal challenge. Go for it. You have nothing to lose (other than a small piece of kempas) and stand to gain experience- a more than adequate tradeoff. Why not include some posts of your project as you go along. I, personally, would find it interesting to see the progress.

Good luck.

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

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3985 days

#5 posted 01-26-2008 04:39 PM

Good challange for you. Try a rabbit for the bottom.

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

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