Birdseye Maple Jewelry Box

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Project by GeneR posted 11-08-2013 06:52 PM 2604 views 6 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was the first jewelry box that I have ever built and the project that launched me into woodworking. It was also what got me into fastener free old world joinery. (The only metal in this project were the screws that held the hinges in and the hardware to open and close the box)

It is made from some very expensive instrument grade Birdseye maple with a Purpleheart insert on the lid that I inlaid with store bought inlay banding. I laid the sides of the box out prior to cutting so that when the box was assembled the grain would seamlessly wrap around the box. I then cut a groove into what would be the inside bottom of the box (large enough to accept a piece of 1/4” ply). While I was working on this I had the 3 piece of Purpleheart top insert being glued up I laid these out to hide the seams as best as possible. I then laid out the and cut the groove for the inlay. I used a Dremel tool with a router plunge base and edge guide for this. I then finished the corners with a hand chisel. Next I laid the inlay pieces out and cut them to the desired sizes.
Tip spread a light coat of light colored wood glue on the back of the inlay (and let dry to tacky)to prevent the darker colored glue from seeping through. I used darker glue to glue in the inlay and hide any small gaps. Set aside and let dry overnight (also clamped it between some MDF withwax paper over the inlay to keep the inlay flat while drying. Next I cut the bottom plate out of 1/4” plywood and I cut a short tenon around the lid to insert into the groove I cut next into the box sides.
Tip: Cut the tenon around the lid first then measure the top of the lid to the top of the tennon. This gives you the distance from the top of the box to the top of the groove for your lid. Now cut the groove to insert the lid tenon on your box sides (Still 1 long board)

I then cut the box side apart using a thin kerf blade. Here is the interesting part and reason for the weird jig picture above. I then cut the 45 degree angles for the side (which for some reason were not 45 degrees, lots of cussing and screaming at this point). To resolve this problem I built a Jig called a Donkey ear in which I was able to clamp the side to and hand sand the corner pieces to 45 degrees. This took forever, since then I went and bought a Porter Cable sanding station.

Before assembly I finished the inside by using a French polish technique with hand mixed blonde shellac. (This is a must as it is damn near impossible to get a good interior finish when assembled) I then put a good thick coat of wax on once the finished had cured for a couple days. (This prevents glue seepage from sticking to the sides.)

Now I assembled the box with wood glue and used hand made wooden corner cull and ratcheting band clamps to square and hold the box together. AS this was drying I built a jig for the table saw to cut the corner splines. When the box dried I laid out the corner splines and cut the grooves. Next I inserted 1/8” thick Purpleheart squares into the spline grooves and glued them in.

Note: Lay out your lid location first then you can center the lid spline from the cut line to the box top and the bottom 2 splines equidistance apart from the cut line to the bottom.

When Dry I flush cut them by hand and used home made wood filler (Birdseye saw dust and glue) and I filled in any gaps. Next was lots and lots of sanding up to 12,000 grit. I did not use oil on this because I did not want the Birdseye to change color very much. And this High of grit on the wood gives you a glass like finish when you are done.

I then French polished the whole exterior with shellac and used about 12 thin coats. and let cure for about a week. And then use a light coat of clear wax to prevent finger printing.

Notes: 1. write down the location distance of your lid cut line. 2. NEVER EVER use the denatured alcohol in the green can that they claim is green and better for the environment. (Shellac will not ever cure due to some of the contaminants in this product) I had to refinish the whole exterior of the box 3 times before I figured out what the problem was.

Lastly install hinges and yell and scream a lot, I recommend a router hand plane from Veritas for this job if you can afford it, and any other hardware you choose. I just went with a simple small brass knob to open the box.

Also this box is 12×12 x 6 and the lid is very heavy so I used briefcase lid stays to hold the top open, then discovered the 90 degree stop hinges.

Hope you like it and enjoy the errors and frustration of my box making journey.

-- Failure is always an option. :-)

9 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2433 days

#1 posted 11-08-2013 06:59 PM

Beautiful work—you’ve done a very fine job of craftsmanship on this box!

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View a1Jim's profile


117229 posts in 3718 days

#2 posted 11-08-2013 07:51 PM

Wow a first that hits a home run ,great job.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18373 posts in 3817 days

#3 posted 11-09-2013 02:12 AM

+ 1 a1Jim, probably a grand slam ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View ward63's profile


353 posts in 3228 days

#4 posted 11-09-2013 02:27 AM

Very nice box! Excellent first project.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2831 days

#5 posted 11-09-2013 02:36 AM

Excellent first box of some beautiful woods. I prefinish all the insides of my boxes before gluing them up. (easier and glue squeeze out will not stick to the finished interior).

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

View tomd's profile


2166 posts in 3911 days

#6 posted 11-09-2013 03:31 AM

Very nice looking box, I like the birdseye and the finish. The contrasting dark lid with the inlay is great.

-- Tom D

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 1965 days

#7 posted 11-10-2013 05:11 AM

Very nice jewellery boxnice design and beautifully bade…great job

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View Rick S.'s profile

Rick S.

10514 posts in 3174 days

#8 posted 11-10-2013 06:27 AM

Very Nice Work Indeed! Thanks For Sharing.


-- _

View GeneR's profile


151 posts in 2079 days

#9 posted 11-11-2013 02:46 PM

Thanks everyone I was hesitant to put it up being the first and seeing my mistakes just irritates me but I guess we all have to start somewhere.

-- Failure is always an option. :-)

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