Chinese style jewelry box - walnut and mara

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Project by KirkSawdustmaker posted 814 days ago 1604 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A friend asked me to make a jewelry box for her daughter’s college graduation present. I picked a design that was fairly portable, but would hold a decent amount of jewelry. The box is walnut with a Tung oil finish. I took a piece of mara for the drawer fronts, taking care to keep all the grain matched. I made a template for drilling the holes for the pulls, so for once they actually line up.
The biggest challenge on this box were the slots for the drawers. I typically cut a 1/4” wide and deep slot for each drawer. I then cut a matching slot in the drawer itself. I’ll glue 1/4” square stock in the box slot, and then sand as necessary to get a smooth fit. The box is 12” tall, so my router table couldn’t slot all of them. And since each side has to match exactly, I used the table to cut the slots for the top drawer. Then I made a jig 2” wide with a 1/4” ledge on it. This fit into the first groove, giving me a straightedge for the remaining slots. I started with the 2” piece and trimmed it down until matched the location for the next slot, since I had to allow for the spacing of the router as well. I used a trim router rather than my big one, otherwise I would have the straightedge off the box side.

The front was fairly plain, and the wife told me it needed something. I happen to have a Chinese front that didn’t get used on an older project, but was perfect for this one. So it got a Chinese flair at the end.

-- Have saw, Will travel

13 comments so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

540 posts in 914 days

#1 posted 814 days ago

What a beautiful box with the Mara draw fronts. Is that a commonly available wood? The design on the front looks very intricate. Can you tell us more about it?

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View KirkSawdustmaker's profile


30 posts in 968 days

#2 posted 814 days ago

Mara is South American as I recall. It should be reasonably available if you can ask your local shop owner if his supplier can get it. The local wood shop here in Columbia SC generally has a couple of planks. It runs about $13 a bd-ft, so it’s not cheap, but not outrageous either. Mara starts off as a medium brown, and quickly ages to a beautiful chocolate, which is why I love using it as an accent piece. BTW, for the picture, I pulled each drawer out slightly to show that these are drawers. They all recess to make a flat front when closed. What I did for the front was take a 7” wide plank I had and make the box width slightly less. I had picked three 1” drawers, two 2” drawers, and one 3” drawer. I lined up the board putting the one knot hole in the middle of the second drawer. I then cut the drawer fronts making each one about 1/8” taller than I needed. This allowed me to trim them down after the box was assembled to minimize the gap between each drawer. As usual, after I’d assembled the box with tape, and got all the drawers to fit right, I glued it up. Instantly, all the drawers were too tight. So I had to put each one on the belt sander to shave off about 1/32” on each side to get them to fit again. The drawers are made using a rabbetted joint, with a rabbetted recess for the bottom. I generally try to cut the bottom as close as possible ot the opening size as this helps keep the drawer square during glue up. I generally take the approach of oversizing critical parts, like the drawer fronts, and then after assembly, sand or carefully use the tablesaw to cut to the final fit. I’m not much of a paper plan person, as the plan is generally in my head. Some of my best results of course come from foul ups and I have to figure out how to fix it. I hope this answers at least a few questions.

-- Have saw, Will travel

View IndianJoe's profile


425 posts in 852 days

#3 posted 814 days ago

love it vary good work

-- Nimkee** Joe

View helluvawreck's profile (online now)


15432 posts in 1469 days

#4 posted 814 days ago

Wow! It’s beautiful.

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 doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 2158 days

#5 posted 814 days ago

That looks terrific, the grain pattern down the font is really cool

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View fernandoindia's profile


1072 posts in 1545 days

#6 posted 813 days ago

Hi Kirk, great job on a beautiful box.

Chinesse doors is also very nice.

I made some adjustments to the published back lighted picture, so it can be better appreciated. I think.

Splendid gift

-- Back home. Fernando

View mmh's profile


3326 posts in 2324 days

#7 posted 813 days ago

Beautifully executed!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Richard's profile


111 posts in 2017 days

#8 posted 813 days ago

Beautiful design.

View GenerationWW's profile


521 posts in 852 days

#9 posted 813 days ago

Really neat, great design!

-- list your handcrafted treasures @ for free!

View gfadvm's profile


10592 posts in 1292 days

#10 posted 813 days ago

That is one of the nicest jewelry cabs I have ever seen. You did a super job on the build as everythig looks like a perfect fit. I had never seen mara before but will start hunting some. That stuff is beautiful and the way you matched the drawer fronts up really showcased it. Someone will be very happy to receive this! Fernando, Great job fixing that pic!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View KirkSawdustmaker's profile


30 posts in 968 days

#11 posted 813 days ago

First off, Fernando, thanks for fixing the picture. It looks much better. Dang, I didn’t realize that a lot of people have never seen mara wood. I’ve got a castle box I did a while back that I’ll put on the projects folder. It has a very windswept look. For an exciting grain pattern, mara is tough to beat.
You guys realize I’m going to have a hard time getting thru the door with my swelled head from the compliments.
I forgot to mention earlier, the Chinese front is from (I need to double check that .com). They have a nice selection of box hardware that is all fairly reasonable priced.

-- Have saw, Will travel

View Martyroc's profile


2708 posts in 908 days

#12 posted 812 days ago

beautiful design, and a great gift. This looks awesome.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View KirkSawdustmaker's profile


30 posts in 968 days

#13 posted 809 days ago

For anyone interested in another project made with Mara, seach for “Castle Box”. I put it on the projects page a while back. It’s also made of Mara and is another good example of the incredible grain this wood has.

-- Have saw, Will travel

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