Mini Japanese Tool-box

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Project by AkumAnubis posted 07-04-2008 06:21 PM 14921 views 16 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I apologize ahead of time for how long winded this post will be.

A friend of mine went to New Zealand for vacation and brought me back some small blocks of wood of varying species approximately 3”x3”x10”. In gratitude I decided to make him something and at the same time further hone my hand-tool skills. I decided on a miniature version of a traditional Japanese tool-box, with some modifications which I feel will add some strength and longevity to the piece. I chose to use the block of New Zealand Red Pine as it has a very nice grain and is not too hard, so it would not be too difficult to work with hand-tools.

I began by rough cutting 5/16” slabs off of the original block and then rough and finish planing them with a smoothing plane and bench-hook to a 1/4” thickness (this would have been much easier if I owned a thickness planer). I then squared up all of the edges on my shooting board and began dimensioning the pieces and laying out the joinery. As you can see I used double through M&T for attaching the ends to the sides which were cut with Japanese pull saw, and chisels. If the project were not so small I would have wedged the tenons, however it was not necessary for a project of this size. The bottom of the box is composed of three rabbeted panels riding in 1/8” dadoes I cut by auguring out most of the waste and then cleaning up the sides and bottom with chisels.

The 4 pieces on the top are secured with glue and dowels. The dowel are 3/16” and were cut by first making 3”x3/16”x3/16” stock and then clamping my jack plane in the vice upside down and shaping the pieces until they were as close to round as i could get them. I feel that this is the weakest part of the entire design. If any one has any suggestions on a better way I could attach them in the future please let me know. Keep in mind that all of the peices must be flush with the top of the sides of the box otherwise the lid would not be able to self-wedge and slide closed properly.

The finished dimensions are 8-1/2”x2-5/16”x2-1/4”, and the finish is 3 coats of hand-rubbed tung oil.

The best aspect of this box design is the self wedging action of the lid which keeps it tightly closed without the aid of any hardware. When I began this project I did not know this and had started to install some rare-earth magnets, until I found out that they were not necessary.

Tools used on the this project are:
Band saw (Initial rough cutting of slabs only)
Japanese pull saw
Jack plane
Shoulder plane
Smoothing plane
Mortising and paring chisels
Hand auger
Card scraper
Try square
Marking knife
Mortising gauge

Thanks for baring with with me during this long post.

-- -...(insert inspiring phrase /quote)

11 comments so far

View ben's profile


158 posts in 4105 days

#1 posted 07-04-2008 07:20 PM

Slick little box. I’m completely unfamiliar with them—I’m guessing the top slides to the left (wrt to the first pic), and pops up on the right side?


View AkumAnubis's profile


17 posts in 4049 days

#2 posted 07-04-2008 10:29 PM

Thanks for the response, and yes thats exacts right.

-- -...(insert inspiring phrase /quote)

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14179 posts in 4218 days

#3 posted 07-05-2008 01:09 AM

good posting. cool ideas.

welcome to lj’s

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 3967 days

#4 posted 07-05-2008 02:43 AM

Great box! Great post, no need to apologize!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4562 days

#5 posted 07-05-2008 02:45 AM

neat project. I’m interested to learn more about how it goes together, and stays shut so well without the help of hardware. Looks like a great project to try (and possibly adapt to other boxes and puzzles.)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 3919 days

#6 posted 07-05-2008 08:51 AM

Oh, Red Pine… this is Rimu. The wood I use the most. Beautiful grain you got there!
I would also be very interested in learning about the design of this box. do you have a plan or link to plan?

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View AkumAnubis's profile


17 posts in 4049 days

#7 posted 07-05-2008 03:20 PM

There aren’t any planes that I know of but I saw some photos of tool boxes at the below link and built the piece based on what I could see there. There are lots of other links and photos at this site showing some very interesting joinery methods.

-- -...(insert inspiring phrase /quote)

View SteveKorz's profile


2139 posts in 3949 days

#8 posted 07-05-2008 05:11 PM

Cool box, very nice.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4120 days

#9 posted 07-05-2008 06:21 PM

Great post!!!! Good information. THANKS!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 4327 days

#10 posted 07-06-2008 04:28 AM

Great post and great box. Thanks for letting us see it.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View Dusty56's profile


11830 posts in 3923 days

#11 posted 08-20-2008 07:08 AM

I liked your ‘long winded’ tale ….thanks for sharing your process and the project looks great : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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