Boxguy Does Spline Surgery

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Project by Boxguy posted 06-02-2015 12:02 AM 1973 views 9 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks for looking. As always I will reply to all of you who take time to “have your say.” I always look forward to your comments, suggestions, and questions.

Ken and I really want more of you to check out the video we made about making and installing splines. Should we make more? How can we improve the video?


Video Link to spline video.

Pictured is a tea box (13 1/2×5 1/2×4 3/4) The sides are Black Limba (from Angola, Africa), The top is Figured Etimoe (from Ivory Coast, Africa), the corner splines Sucupira (from Brazil, South America). Black Limba is found only within a mile of the coast where the moist conditions promote the growth of fungus and molds that give it this wood its unique coloring.

Features: A chain pocket (left) to keep the stop chain from tangling with the teabags, and 12 compartments for various teas. The divider is made from Venetian blinds, and the brass coated steel hinge is mortised in and is very strong. There is a three-part finger indent and it uses 4 coats of finish applied with a cheap one-inch foam brush. The faux-feet are made by routing away sections of the bottom with a 5/8 diameter bit. This same bit rounds the corners and the edges of the top.

Pictured above are a Tide detergent holder for the laundry, a storage unit for the garage shelf, and a six-pack holder for the Kitchen.

Story: In looking over my latest postings I noticed that they are what I would call “nearly boxes.” That is to say they use the same techniques that I use for boxes, but are not really traditional boxes. Since my dermatologist decided to excavate a small spot on my nose and fill it in with a patch from my neck, I am exiled from shop dust, sweat, and physically exertion until it heals a bit. What a bore. I thought I would use this down time to post a couple of projects on line.

Emphasis: corner splines are a trademark of my boxes. I have moved from 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch to accent their importance. With a large diameter round on the corner, it lets you see the grain wrap around the box. I love the look, and it sells well. This closeup lets you see how they fit and note the slight chamfer added to the seam between the top and the bottom of the box. The chamfer is done with a couple of light strokes of a hand plane and some light sanding. Once again, here is the video of making and installing splines.

As always…stay safe in your shop. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

28 comments so far

View ralbuck's profile


1781 posts in 1683 days

#1 posted 06-02-2015 12:12 AM


-- just rjR

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

2237 posts in 695 days

#2 posted 06-02-2015 12:20 AM

How are you cutting the 1/4 inch splines?

Early in the video it says that the splines add 90% more strength. Where has this been established? I would agree that they do add strength, I have just not seen any evidence on ho much more strength. I would think the strength added would depend on the number of splines added, so I have doubts that “90% more strength” is scientifically correct. Otherwise I think the video is fine.

-- Don K, (Houghton, Michigan)

View Boxguy's profile


2121 posts in 1685 days

#3 posted 06-02-2015 12:28 AM


Ralbuck, thanks for the praise.

Don, good question. I attended a lecture on glues at the Wood Show in St. Louis. They said that gluing end grain to end grain was like gluing straws together because wood is so porous. However, gluing side grain to side grain was 90 percent stronger since porosity was not a factor. Having a tight joint and putting glue on both surfaces also seems to be a variable, as was the type of glue used. Seems like I also saw something like this in Fine Woodworking though I can’t cite the page and volume as I give them away to friends after I read them.

-- Big Al in IN

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

2237 posts in 695 days

#4 posted 06-02-2015 01:10 AM

Oh and I forgot to add. As always a very nice box. Very nice figure in the wood.

You need to teach me how to take good photos.

-- Don K, (Houghton, Michigan)

View Blackie_'s profile


4527 posts in 1930 days

#5 posted 06-02-2015 01:12 AM

That one is pretty Alan.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View Jerry's profile


1709 posts in 1065 days

#6 posted 06-02-2015 01:37 AM

That shore is purty!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View DocSavage45's profile


7645 posts in 2260 days

#7 posted 06-02-2015 01:45 AM

I like this one! A lot! Al where did you buy the piano hinge?



-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Jim Sellers's profile

Jim Sellers

393 posts in 1752 days

#8 posted 06-02-2015 02:42 AM

Another fine piece of work Al. I love the grain and worm holes. Nice video too but I was hoping to see you cut the slots in the corners and how you had your jig and blades set up for this.

-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.

View bosum3919's profile


338 posts in 1036 days

#9 posted 06-02-2015 02:50 AM

How about a video showing how you cut off the top? BTW great box.

-- Bob

View observer100's profile


229 posts in 527 days

#10 posted 06-02-2015 03:03 AM

Beautiful project and stunning photography. Very inspiring!

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 2726 days

#11 posted 06-02-2015 04:03 AM

Great looking box Al…It is good to see you posting again. keep up the great work.

View Boxguy's profile


2121 posts in 1685 days

#12 posted 06-02-2015 04:36 AM


Don, I cut my 1/4 inch splines with a table saw. My planer does a good job of bringing splines to precise thicknesses. Thanks for the compliments. I take my photos with an early digital camera. I did buy two lights on stands at the local camera store, and I use the back side of a piece of vinyl floor for a backdrop. When I finish I edit the photos in Picassa which is a free download. There is a learning curve, but mostly it is patience and fiddling around with what I have to work with…like woodworking.

RJR, Blackie and Jerry, thanks. Most of the credit for the beauty of this box goes to the trees, molds, and bugs that created such random beauty. I didn’t make it…just found it and tried to enhance the work of nature.

Tom, I order all my hinges from Rockler. The hinges are three feet long and I cut them to length. They come in varied colors. The advantage of having one source is that I can fine tune my mortise depth on the router table and just leave it there. Gives me a consistent depth, and I know I can cut the hinge where I want it. Some Chinese hinge brands have too much slop in the working parts. Some brands have pins that are too hard to cut. The better hinges seem to come from Canada. I do wish the Rockler hinges didn’t have the occasional oblong holes in them.

Jim, a slot cutting video is in the works. In the mean time look here for a tutorial on cutting spline slots.

Ted, thanks, but nature did a really lovely job of making these woods beautiful.

Bosum, a video of cutting the top is a good idea, thanks. The trick is to save a scrap from the original board so you can set the saw at the proper height. That scrap takes all the guess work out of it . Here is a blog with nice photos that describes the process of cutting off the top. It does a pretty good job, but a video would be better. This is a tutorial on setting up the saw for spline cuts.

”Observer” sort of says it all. The fun is in making boxes and posting them for others to see and give feedback. I make better boxes because of what I have learned here. As Yoda says to Luke Skywalker, “Don’t try…Do.”

Greg, always nice to hear from you. Hope your shows are going well for you. You have been on a tear to restock between events. I like your recent simpler look. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View ruddy's profile


521 posts in 2356 days

#13 posted 06-02-2015 11:39 AM

A very handsome box. The choice of woods and the finish applied makes a very fine piece that would not look out of place in any kitchen.

-- And my head I'd be a scratchin'

View Roger's profile


19706 posts in 2221 days

#14 posted 06-02-2015 12:42 PM

Very nice video Al. You and the camera guy did good, even w/the out-takes.. ya gotta have some fun, right.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Ted's profile


2785 posts in 1628 days

#15 posted 06-02-2015 12:46 PM

Big Al—I like the video, subscribed to your channel and look forward to seeing how to cut the slots. Thanks for sharing! :)

-- The first cordless tool was a stick. The first power tool was a rock.

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