Joinery Dilemma

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Project by Don posted 07-19-2007 10:04 AM 11485 views 4 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A few days ago, Bill sent me a Private Message challenging me to make a small wooden box using glueless joinery. This is the result.

The joints are held together with pegs made from bamboo meat-skewers. I soaked the bamboo in water overnight so that when pressed into the holes drilled slightly smaller than their diameter, the wood would compress. When the bamboo dried out the pegs expanded and were securely locked in place.

The peg driven down through the box joint holds the box sides together.

The pegs that form the hinge axles were inserted through holes that are slightly over-sized in the box walls and undersized in the lid.

The base is held in place with wedge pins. The base keeps the box square and removes any slight flexibility due to the glueless joinery.

The design idea was somehow to look oriental as the idea of using glueless joints is somewhat reminiscent of the Japanese genre.

The lid is Silky Oak, Cadwellia Sublimis, from Northern Queensland. The box walls are Rosewood, and the bottom is solid wood; 4mm Tasmanian Myrtle. (The picture above shows the box prior to swapping the ply base over to solid wood. The new base is shown here.)

I have not completed the finished the box yet; I have applied one coat of pure Tung Oil, but will be it will be finished with two or three coats of Danish Oil.

Here’s my dilemma, do I enter this one in the Summery joinery contest – am I allowed to remove the Mallet and replace it with the box??? My current inclination is to enter this box, because I just love small wooden boxes! LOL

[One more thing, the box is sitting on a Kangaroo pelt.]

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

24 comments so far

View markrules's profile


146 posts in 4109 days

#1 posted 07-19-2007 11:34 AM

Make this entry from the kangaroo. That way both get entered.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4154 days

#2 posted 07-19-2007 12:13 PM

someone else had said that they removed their entry from the joinery category. Don’t know how though.

The mallet is a great entry because the technique was such a surprise—I just thought, well, let’s just say that I am in awe of how you put the two pieces together.

This small box (hmmm sounds like a TV show)... is beautiful. Great idea re: soaking the skewers and the tight/loose cuts for the lid.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View TomFran's profile


2957 posts in 3988 days

#3 posted 07-19-2007 02:47 PM

Beautiful box! I may have to join you as another person who ”just loves small wooden boxes!” ;^D

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4230 days

#4 posted 07-19-2007 04:30 PM

Your work never ceases to amaze me. You’re quite the inspiration, Don

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 4155 days

#5 posted 07-19-2007 04:52 PM

Way to go Don! I would say this should be your entry to the joinery category. I like what you did with the box joints by not making them flush. It does have that oriental flair to it this way.

I am amazed you completed it so fast. Of course, since it was a small box, that gave you the inspiration you needed!

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4059 days

#6 posted 07-19-2007 05:47 PM

Thanks Bill for “calling Don out” to make this box. It is inspirational and brilliant. Don, I guess we can say you Thought Outside The Box on this one. I really like the unique look and if you don’t mind, I may try to copy it. I like the detail and effort, you even chamfered the edges of the box joints, nice touch.

Thanks for posting. Looks like everyone involved with this box is a winner – except the kangaroo.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 4080 days

#7 posted 07-19-2007 06:18 PM

Great execution. Strangely enough I’ve thought of using bamboo skewers in a similar way (great minds and all that…;) )

While I love the mallet and am a fan of wedge tenons (especially foxed) I think this tops it.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4167 days

#8 posted 07-19-2007 07:57 PM


Got the solution right here, brother.

Give ME one of the two pieces (mallet or box – I’m good with either), and I’ll enter it into the contest. :)

-- Ethan,

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3985 days

#9 posted 07-19-2007 08:36 PM

Don, I might be wrong but wouldn’t soaking the skewers in water swell the bamboo and then when it dried shrink it back down?

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3985 days

#10 posted 07-19-2007 08:38 PM

Also I like the mallet better (even though this is neat) because the wedged fox tail is such a cool joint.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4170 days

#11 posted 07-20-2007 12:38 AM

Damien, you are right. But soaking them also makes them quite a bit more ‘pliable’. I drilled the holes sized such that the bamboo was just slightly too large to fit into the hole when dry. (I could have forced them, but I was afraid of splitting the Rosewood.) When wet, it seemed that the fibers of the bamboo compressed as I forced them into the hole. When they dry, they settle back to their original diameter which makes a tight fit.

I’m not sure that the properties of Bamboo acts in the same way as normal wood. If you look at the capillaries at the end of the wedge-pin in the lower picture you will see that the structure of the bamboo looks a bit like the end of a cigarette butt. I think these tiny capillaries draw water up into the bamboo like drinking-staws. Perhaps it is these capillaries that collapse under the pressure of being forced into the drilled holes.

After soaking, the bamboo had slightly, and I emphasize very slightly, expanded. To make the pin easier to get into the holes, I sharpened the end to a point.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4308 days

#12 posted 07-20-2007 12:49 AM

Well if it were a seed box, I’d put it in the garden category. In any case it is a winner!

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 3985 days

#13 posted 07-20-2007 01:44 AM

Ah okay, that makes sense, the water most likely softened the cell walls (or something fancy like that) the water probably helped lubricate them as they went in too.

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 3990 days

#14 posted 07-20-2007 03:19 AM

Nice work on this box Don!

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

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6855 posts in 3973 days

#15 posted 07-20-2007 03:54 AM

Hi Don,

Simple beautiful work and design!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

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