Boxguy Takes On A Tall Order

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Project by Boxguy posted 07-07-2015 11:50 AM 2813 views 26 times favorited 42 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks for looking at this posting. I especially appreciate it when you take the time to “have your say” about the projects I post. I try to respond to all comments and criticisms made the first day or two. That is part of the fun for me on this site, so check back for feedback.

Pictured is a box (8×8 x 3 3/4) designed to hold 25 small bottles of essential oil (concentrated scent oil) The hinge is Rockler's 8 inch hinge with a built in stop. This box (above) has sides that are made of teak.

Materials As you can see, there are 12 boxes in this set. They all have Pupleheart corner splines, Anegre attached tops, inserted Melamine bottom boards, and dividers made from wooden Venetian blinds. The sides are made from Teak, Anegre, Black Cherry, White Oak, Zebrawood, Tulip Poplar, and Sweet Gum. Basically, any narrow boards that I had sitting around the shop got a chance to be a box.

Story A local businessman approached me from Essential Oil Quality Alliance. They make great scents. He wanted some quality boxes for special orders. I made him some samples with different shapes, internal arrangements, and woods. We agreed on the specifics and a price. They were to be made of recycled materials, and all have the same shape, and the same woods on the top, bottom, and corner splines. I could vary the side woods. I had crating, cut-offs, old bolsters, and veneer backer boards so recycling was no problem…it is what I do anyhow. He was not in a rush and I could work at my own pace. We would start with 12 boxes.

Probably I should have stopped to do a little more math. That is 144 corner splines to slot, cut, glue, and trim. 48 side boards to form, dado, angle, glue, sand, and finish with 4 coats of finish (1 tung oil , 2 poly, 1 wax) to hand apply and sand between coats. Then there were tops to apply, bottoms to fit … all the usual 125 steps I go through to make a box. This was going to take some time…and it did. Of course there were economies of uniformity but there were still a lot of steps and cuts to form 30 pieces of wood into a box times 12. Each box took about 135 passes over a saw blade to make all the parts. Yikes! That is 1620 saw cuts to make this order! I didn’t do the math at the start; I just slogged away at the boxes and couldn’t figure out why this was taking me so long. Now I know.

Challenges I had never made copies of the same box over and over. I usually make boxes one at a time and put as much variety into that as I can. I make lots of boxes, but not a lot of boxes that are alike. I quickly learned that making copies present some challenges for me. It is difficult to stay focused and concentrate on what I have done to what box. I had to make three or at most four boxes at a time to avoid this. I am not suited to doing the same thing over and over in succession. In the finishing stage this was like putting 48 coats of finish on the same box.

The people who ran the gallery that sold the most of my boxes retired, and I was glad to have the business and appreciate the support. I got to buy a fun new tool as a result of this project and did learn to be more systematic and efficient in my work. This was a new kind of challenge for me, but I am glad this tall order is now filled.

As always, keep boxing and keep posting.

This is an index to my tutorials on Lumber Jocks about making boxes like those pictured above. They are arranged by topic. I hope they are useful. The spline video was fun to make.

Video on making and gluing splines.
Making a jig to cut spline slots:
Jig for 45ing corners:
Making splines with a simple jig:
Finishing tips:
$5 band clamps:
Combining Wood Colors:
Sizing Tea Boxes and Dividers From Venetian Blinds
Making Kleenex boxes:
Making music boxes
Routers and Rounding edges
Why round box corners?
Organizing a glue-up table:
Adding splines to a box:
Measuring for spline slot cuts:
Installing an attached top: like that pictured above.
Cutting off the box top and sizing piano hinges
Adding finger indents:
More about finger indents.
Mortising and installing hinges:
Tips on making sliding trays: for inside boxes:
Swapping Wood By Mail:
Making a serving tray with angled sides.
Making household boxes:
Roy Underhill's tool tote.
Teaching Boxmaking

-- Big Al in IN

42 comments so far

View Mr M's Woodshop's profile

Mr M's Woodshop

392 posts in 2487 days

#1 posted 07-07-2015 12:07 PM

Great post, as always. I have to remember not to show this to my wife, or I’ll have another project.

I can’t do that, because I just got an order for 24 cutting boards & serving pieces yesterday. I woke up in the night calculating the board feet I needed to buy. I haven’t gotten to the number of saw cuts yet, but I’m not far away from that sleepless night.

But, when I’m standing in the shop covered in sawdust, I’ll have a smile on my face … just as I know you do.

Great job, and keep having fun!

-- Henry Mowry, Santa Clarita, CA,

View wncguy's profile


327 posts in 1732 days

#2 posted 07-07-2015 12:10 PM

Al – keeping track of the parts must have been fun! Very nice.
Thanks for including the list of tutorials, this time I saved the info!

-- Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad

View Roger's profile


19711 posts in 2223 days

#3 posted 07-07-2015 12:15 PM

Your boxes are always a pleasure to view. Very nice eye candy. You are thee box man. That is a lota parts when you break it down.

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

View Boxguy's profile


2122 posts in 1687 days

#4 posted 07-07-2015 12:34 PM


Henry, thanks. Always good to hear from you. Looks like you are on your own adventure in mass production. Let us know how it goes. Hope you can slog through all that work.

WNCguy, looks like you have been busy with bandsaw boxes and have some very nice skills there. Thanks for the nice comments, and I hope the tutorials are helpful. If you have questions…just ask.

Roger, hope you are on high ground since we seem to be in monsoon season locally. Always nice ti hear from you. Thanks for the compliments. Yeah, about three boxes and my brain is shot an ready for a change. I did put some other projects in between like the six-pack project and some other work.

-- Big Al in IN

View maplerock's profile


521 posts in 1219 days

#5 posted 07-07-2015 12:40 PM

Lots of great work there! Same Boxguy quality in a smaller version. Nice!

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 596 days

#6 posted 07-07-2015 12:52 PM

That is some collection of boxes!

Thanks for the collection of links.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View Blackie_'s profile


4527 posts in 1932 days

#7 posted 07-07-2015 01:16 PM

All very nice Alan, your customer will be happy.

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

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2286 days

#8 posted 07-07-2015 01:59 PM

Al, your work has always been beautiful and you are sooooo productive. You are also a good teacher. Have you ever considered the possibility of writing a box making book?

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 2728 days

#9 posted 07-07-2015 02:03 PM

Great box builds Big Al. It’s good that he wanted them all the same size as it makes life easier…just think if he wanted each one a different size and all done at once…ouch… Repetition is definitely boring except for the repetition of making bank deposits.

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2754 days

#10 posted 07-07-2015 02:21 PM

All good. Production work is…....well, work. But it was a nice order and they turned out great. The finishes are very nice too. Not too shiny, with a nice smooth satiny look that invites to be touched.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View ralbuck's profile


1795 posts in 1686 days

#11 posted 07-07-2015 02:50 PM

My congratulations and sympathies!

#1. C-Great Work #2. S- Repetition

I will not/cannot clone! I tell anyone right off there will be variations not exact duplicates of anything I make.
I would hate trying to clone! I like innovating as I go.

-- just rjR

View  woodshaver (Tony)  's profile

woodshaver (Tony)

3938 posts in 2772 days

#12 posted 07-07-2015 03:09 PM

Even before I click to see what you have made I know it’s going to be something really nice! And it was! I see nothing to criticize here! Just a bunch of beautifully hand crafted quality boxes.

-- Tony C UAW, St Augustine FL, My high school shop teacher said "You can do it"... Now I can't stop!

View Boxguy's profile


2122 posts in 1687 days

#13 posted 07-07-2015 03:44 PM


Jerry, These boxes are not as mini as your recently posted “babies,” but smaller than the usual box that I make. See you Friday.

WNS, Thanks and you’re welcome. I hope the tutorials are useful to you.

Blackie, I hope Dan is happy. He paid for all the boxes up front…that was part of the deal. I think he’ll like them.

Charles, thanks. I try to be organized and productive. At my age life is short and not to be wasted. In a way I have written a book about box-building. It is an e-book and it is my postings on this site. Look trough the index on this posting.

Greg, As usual you are right. Uniformity does lead to efficiency and getting all the money up front leads to the bank.

Mike, thanks for the compliment about the finish. That final coat of wax applied with 0000 steel wool does make for a smooth and inviting finish. Most of my customers enjoy petting the work. It does take a lot of buffing and sanding to get there.

RJR, I get it about cloning. This is my first round with it. At least I got to change up the side woods. I agree there is more joy in creativity, but sadly there is more money in cloning. This is ever the angst of art, isn’t it?

Lumber 33, Welcome to Lumber Jocks. I see you have been a member for about an hour. Thanks for the kind words about my work. I didn’t see a box on the link.

Was this link a sort of ad? Was this link site a source of my design? No, I have never used a set of someone else’s plans to build anything. I can see the value of it, and recognize the effectiveness of it. I just can’t find the fun in it. For me, designing what I build is often the best part.

Tony, thanks for the compliments. I see you have been busy with more grandkid projects. I am discovering how much fun that can be. I especially liked your recent bank, top, and the play table. Nice work.

-- Big Al in IN

View  woodshaver (Tony)  's profile

woodshaver (Tony)

3938 posts in 2772 days

#14 posted 07-07-2015 04:36 PM

I think your right in thinking it’s an ad Al. I think we are being tricked into clinking on that link.

-- Tony C UAW, St Augustine FL, My high school shop teacher said "You can do it"... Now I can't stop!

View DocSavage45's profile


7648 posts in 2262 days

#15 posted 07-07-2015 05:01 PM


I’m sure he will be or is happy with what you do/did. You are a master at recycling. The boxes have your mark on them! like Greg said, repetition in the same dimensions is efficient. I’d need a lot of coffee breaks to stay focused. LOL!

Maybe make a bonus box that is filled with “out of the box” ideas?

Congratulations on being recognized for your work.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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