Making boxes

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Forum topic by borny posted 07-05-2015 03:47 AM 1221 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View borny's profile


26 posts in 1445 days

07-05-2015 03:47 AM

Long time lurker here!

I have a lot of scrap wood and I’m looking ro make some boxes. I’m looking for opinions on what YOU feel is the best type of joinery for boxes. Being very indecisive and often lazy, I cannot choose which is best, miter, rabbet, dovetail or box joint. All have their advantages! And I’m beginning to feel design trumps joinery, which makes my decision harder. So what do you think and why?

A little about myself,

I mainly work with hands tools out of convenience but will fire up an old 1940’s delta Milwaukee table saw from time to time and always keep a router handy. I’m looking for a repeatable joint to make boxes to give as presents.


23 replies so far

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 1927 days

#1 posted 07-05-2015 04:18 AM

Build one of each and then you’ll be able to answer your question…

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View RobinDobbie's profile


133 posts in 1158 days

#2 posted 07-05-2015 09:06 AM

Miters with splines are pretty classy, and easy enough. That said, I think these glueless boxjoints are pretty sweet.

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 599 days

#3 posted 07-05-2015 11:49 AM

Incra double double dovetail make a nice box corner. And it would be a great challenge to be hand cut.

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

View Redoak49's profile


1824 posts in 1411 days

#4 posted 07-05-2015 11:58 AM

I think the best thing to do is try a couple different starting with finger joints and miter with splinters. Do not expect your first box to be perfect as it will be a learning experience.

Cutting a box with miter corners requires a good saw set-up and execution. The first couple I made were great for the scrap bin but with each I learned something new and eventually made some good ones with splinters.

A good box requires a number of different skills and will take some time.

Good Luck

View borny's profile


26 posts in 1445 days

#5 posted 07-05-2015 01:10 PM

Thanks for the replies! The one thing I always, always forget is that boxes require certain level of skill, time and patience to make.

The one joint I can’t make is the double dovetail. I might try the double finger joint.

View CharleyL's profile


190 posts in 2787 days

#6 posted 07-05-2015 02:44 PM

I’ve made quite a few boxes, mostly using box joints. Over the years I must have made over 30 box joint jigs and all worked, with varying results. Two years ago I bought an Incra I-Box jig, and soon after I threw all of my shop built box joint jigs in the fire. I could never make perfect fitting box joints repeatably until I started using the I-Box jig. It’s easy to set up and easy to change for different sizes of box joints, usually with only one test cut before committing it to use. You should watch the U-tube video It isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth the investment if you plan on making a lot of boxes. Attached is a couple of photos of boxes that I made recently using the I-Box jig.


View borny's profile


26 posts in 1445 days

#7 posted 07-05-2015 05:29 PM

That’s a beautiful box! Was it made with plywood? Also do you use a router table or table saw with the incra box jig?

View rwe2156's profile


2126 posts in 904 days

#8 posted 07-05-2015 08:37 PM

If the wood is highly figured a miter joint will give you a continuous wrapping of the pattern around the corners.
You can add a spline or you can do things like make cross splines or even very small dowel pins of contrasting wood.

Box joints are nice.
Dovetails are good but they have to be perfect on a box because they attract so much attention.

I also have the Incra jig and highly recommend it.
I wouldn’t recommend box joints with plywood because its too prone to chipping out.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View NiteWalker's profile


2735 posts in 2000 days

#9 posted 07-06-2015 12:24 AM

My favorite is box joints, followed by splined miters.
Box joints always look amazing because of the contrast. Simply beautiful.
I use the ibox too; It’s a great jig.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View gfadvm's profile


14932 posts in 2113 days

#10 posted 07-06-2015 12:29 AM

I make a few boxes and here’s my take on the joinery: non-splined miter joints give the most ‘formal’ look followed by splined miters. Box joints are best when there is a strong contrast between woods being joined. Traditionally, box joints were used for drawers, ammo boxes, and other utilitarian projects. I am NOT bad mouthing box joints as I really like them for some applications.

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

View jeffswildwood's profile


1287 posts in 1400 days

#11 posted 07-06-2015 12:38 AM

I MUST get one of those incra’s. As for box joinery, just use what feels right. If it’s scrap your using, play with it a little bit. Try new thing. It’s a great skill builder.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way thats says "I meant to do that".

View Gary's profile


8965 posts in 2856 days

#12 posted 07-06-2015 12:38 AM

To me, it depends on what I want the box to look like. Some boxes look good with dove tails, others, not so much. Really formal, to me and Andy would be mitered with no …. what we have been calling splines. My understanding is what we are calling splines are actually keys. A spline would be running down thru the miter. It’s fairly easy and keeps the outside free of cross grains. I’m not too nutty about finger joint stuff. Box joint is ok, again depending on what the project is and how I want it to look. Those fancy dovetails done with the incra set up are really cool but, again…. they have to fit the project for me.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View borny's profile


26 posts in 1445 days

#13 posted 07-06-2015 05:29 PM

Thanks for the replies!! I guess it’s just time to makes big scraps into little scraps!

When you make a miter how do you reinforce it, if you are not using keys or splines?

View gfadvm's profile


14932 posts in 2113 days

#14 posted 07-06-2015 09:33 PM

Glued miters seem to be strong enough for boxes as I’ve never had one come apart. Even with grandchildren abusing it!

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

View CharleyL's profile


190 posts in 2787 days

#15 posted 07-07-2015 03:45 AM

Thanks Borny for the comment on my boxes (actually 2 different boxes are shown).

I made the boxes that I posted in #6 from 1/2” Baltic Birch plywood for the sides with 1/4” top and bottom BB because I have a lot of scraps left over from a large project. These weren’t intended to be “Fine Furniture”, just utility boxes to hold shop tools. I frequently make boxes of this basic design mostly to hold new shop tools. I used a Freud S-BOX-8 blade set on my Unisaw with the Incra I-Box jig to make the cuts. I had no splintering problems and the cuts turned out clean and perfectly square. For the finish I applied 1 coat of BLO, followed by 1 coat of Zinser shellac, then rubbed them smooth with 0000 steel wool, before applying 2 thin coats of ZAR cherry stain. Then I applied 3 coats of Polyurethane with a light sanding between each coat to smooth the nibs.

The larger box was actually built to hold my Incra I-Box jig. Here is a photo of the inside.

The smaller box had no purpose at first, but it became a pistol box for my DIL’s 9mm target pistol. The thickness of the box and the foam lined interior holds the pistol quite firmly in whatever position it is placed in when the cover is closed and latched.

I recently received a CRB7 router jig with all of the options, so I made the following box to hold it and all of the associated pieces for it. Again, the sides are 1/2” Baltic Birch and the top/bottom are 1/4” (because I have the most scraps in these sizes). I used the BLO on all of these boxes to pop the grain some in the finishing process because Baltic Birch doesn’t have much visible grain and I wanted the best appearance that I could get, even though they are just “tool boxes”. I designed this box to hold the main parts of the jig in layers with each higher layer fitted accordingly. I think I spent more time figuring out how to package the pieces in the box than I did building the box itself, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

The outside of this box was finished the same way as my previously posted boxes, even to the color of the stain, so I didn’t post a closed view of this one. Boxes like this made from solid wood or Baltic Birch are easy with the Incra I-Box jig, a good table saw, and the right blade.


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