Attendance Box

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Project by jsheaney posted 11-16-2008 09:29 AM 2137 views 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a box I made for a martial arts (Aikido) dojo. The box is going to be used to hold attendance cards. These are 8×5 index cards; not the 3×5 ones. The dojo name is Zenshinkan and that is the kanji carved into the top. This was a very educational box for me.

I designed it myself, although much of the design process was really just winging it. I started by measuring the dimensions of a store bought box they already use. I decided I was going to employ my first hand cut dovetails. I modeled the basic box in Sketchup, which turned out to be a good thing. My first intuition was to make a box and cut it in half, which is a typical box making technique. But when I played with the 3D model, it became apparent that the front of the lid was going to hit the top of the index cards when it was opened and closed. It was only in playing with the model that I realized the hinges in the back have to be higher than the front edge of the lid. Centering the lid front vertically and locating the back edge a quarter way from the top causes the front edge to arc forward first as it opens. It returns to the plane of the front edge about where the top of the box is, which means it clears the box contents.

Having figured that out, I didn’t want to give up on the dovetails. That meant having a horizontal cut for at least the thickness of the front and back. I decided to connect the two lines with a graceful curve. I milled the two sides, taped them together, marked out the lines and cut them on a bandsaw. I had to borrow a friend’s bandsaw, as I don’t have one. I cleaned them up with card scrapers and sandpaper to fit.

The sides are Brazilian Cherry, which I learned recently isn’t really cherry at all. The kanji is carved into ebony, which is framed in cocobolo. That’s inlaid into ambrosia maple. The maple is framed in walnut. I was concerned about the maple expanding and blowing out the miters. My solution, which I hope works, was to mill the maple a scant 1/4” thick. It’s face glued to an oversized 1/4” birch plywood. That sits in a rabbet in the lid and the walnut is glued on top of that and to the maple. I’m hoping the ply will keep the maple in check.

My friend turned the ebony knob for the pull. I cut the groove and made the bottom of the pull. One little trick there was to cut the mating surfaces slightly wider in the back than the front. Then I could get a perfect fit by mating them together and sanding the surfaces flush. I located them on the box by first drilling two 1/16” holes in each part. Then I inserted snipped off ends of wired nails and pressed them into the front to mark the locations. I drilled matching holes in the front and then used toothpicks as dowels.

I figured it would be easier to carve the kanji on end grain, so that slab of ebony is actually three slices edge glued together. That stuff is so dense it’s almost impossible to see the glue line. I originally carved the kanji and then cut the slab down to size. Then I framed it in the cocobolo. Since glue ups suck, I had to plane the result flat again before I could inlay it, so much of the carving was lost. Then I did the inlay and it was a bit proud. After planing that down the kanji was completely erased. That meant that the new carving was the very last thing I did before apply the finish. You can bet I took my time.

The maple is spalted, so the color is natural. I bookmatched it to sort of give a landscape look to it, although I don’t particularly care for the growth rings. I put one coat of Danish oil on the inside and two on the outside. The maple just sucked that up like a sponge and the surface didn’t have a nice sheen at all, so I put on another couple of coats of wipe on poly. I had never done that before, so that was really nerve wracking. There were a couple of streaks on the front that I thought would drive me insane because of the pull being there. But I was able to clean it up with a combination of the 8000 grit paper, steel wool and a lot of buffing.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

13 comments so far

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4023 posts in 4033 days

#1 posted 11-16-2008 10:30 AM

Very skillfully made and beautiful box. Thanks for the complete commentary.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 3774 days

#2 posted 11-16-2008 11:31 AM

Great job. The curving match between the top and bottom is really stylish.

View woodworm's profile


14465 posts in 3560 days

#3 posted 11-16-2008 11:34 AM

Very very beautiful design and carefully built box.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4187 days

#4 posted 11-16-2008 04:01 PM

Your design and your attention to detail on this box are amazing. I can’t get a box lid to fit that well when I cut it STRAIGHT off!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4216 days

#5 posted 11-16-2008 09:48 PM

Very well done and very cool.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View dustygirl's profile


862 posts in 3698 days

#6 posted 11-16-2008 09:54 PM

Great job.Looks good.

-- Dustygirl..Hastings,Ontario.. How much wood can 1 gal chuck if 1 gal can't cut wood?

View Grumpy's profile


23841 posts in 3820 days

#7 posted 11-17-2008 12:23 AM

Very nice box. Great job.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View jsheaney's profile


141 posts in 3958 days

#8 posted 11-23-2008 06:56 AM

Thanks for all the nice comments. Charlie, here’s the lowdown on how I fit the lid to the box. The top and bottom were dovetailed as completely different operations, so there was no way I was going to get a perfect match. I took as much care as I could to get them as close as possible. Then I mounted them to together and clamped them tight and I handplaned and scraped all the sides until all the mating surfaces matched up.

The rest of it was getting the hinges mounted. First, I bought Brusso hinges. They’re expensive, but really consistent. Obviously, there’s four mortises that needed to be cut. I made a simple jig or template from two pieces of wood glued together. Then I clamped that in each of the four spots and whaled away with the chisels. All the effort went into making the jig accurate. After that, it was easy. I don’t know if this would have been the case with cheaper hinges.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

View Jiri Parkman's profile

Jiri Parkman

953 posts in 3782 days

#9 posted 11-25-2008 01:31 PM

Good design, beautiful wood, perfect performation.

-- Jiri

View Triumph1's profile


889 posts in 3048 days

#10 posted 01-07-2010 02:51 AM

Stunning box. The kanji carving looks amazing. Beautiful job!

-- Jeff , Wisconsin Please...can I stay in the basement a little longer, please!

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3546 days

#11 posted 01-07-2010 04:47 AM

Looks fantastic.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3563 days

#12 posted 03-09-2011 09:23 PM

Sweet I wish I would have seen it back when you posted LOL very cool design

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

View Manitario's profile


2629 posts in 2852 days

#13 posted 10-02-2013 04:08 AM

Nicest attendance box I’ve ever seen! The Brazilian cherry sides look amazing.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

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