Small box question

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Forum topic by Betsy posted 12-16-2007 01:05 AM 1112 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3391 posts in 4067 days

12-16-2007 01:05 AM

I’m making a small box for one of my bosses at work. I’ve settled on a very simple design – I usually do miter corners – but this one is butt joints. The book I took this out of suggests using screws and like colored plugs to connect the sides to the ends. I don’t like that idea. I’ve decided to make square plugs of contrasting wood to hide the mechanical fastener.

My question is in a small box such as this (3×5 roughly) do you really have to use a screw? I’m thinking of just a small finish nail as I don’t have screws that small that would not crack the wood. Would a nail do the job or should I go out and get some small screws? Or do I really need a mechanical fastener for a box this small? Either way, screw or nail, I’ll drill a pilot hole.

I’ll be sure to post a picture later of the box – but while I was thinking about this I wanted to get your opinions.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

9 replies so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4046 days

#1 posted 12-16-2007 03:10 AM

Betsy, how much do you like this boss? Just kidding!

I think you’ll be fine with glue and brads – in fact, you’d probably be okay with just glue. Gluing end grain isn’t as strong as gluing face or edge grain, but that doens’t mean there is no strength – just less. For a box this size, the joints probably will not be subject to very much stress.

-- -- --

View Don Niermann  's profile

Don Niermann

219 posts in 4144 days

#2 posted 12-16-2007 03:54 AM


-- WOOD/DON ( has the right to ones opinion but not the right to ones own facts...)

View bryano's profile


546 posts in 4105 days

#3 posted 12-16-2007 04:00 AM

If you are drilling a pilot hole I dont think the wood would crack. Haave you thought about using half lap joints, they are stronger than butt joints and all you need is glue.

-- bryano

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4067 days

#4 posted 12-16-2007 04:38 AM

Peter – this is a new boss – but I think she’ll be on okie dokie boss.

I’ve been scrounging around and have found enough small brass screws. So I’ve drilled and screwed them in. Worked great – no cracks!

I’ve inserted the square plugs and have done the flocking. I just need to do the slab lid and the inset tray, sand and finish and viola I’m done! Whew – just in time! :-)

Don – Epoxy? I did not even think to consider that. Will next time though.

Bryan—I’m not sure how I would have done a half-lap on this one. I did not mention that the ends are set in from the end of the sides.

I’ll post pictures later this week when the finish is done.

Thanks for all your help!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View bryano's profile


546 posts in 4105 days

#5 posted 12-16-2007 05:17 AM

cant wait to see the finished project.

-- bryano

View molarman's profile


46 posts in 3989 days

#6 posted 12-16-2007 06:43 AM

Hi Betsy -

Another thought – why don’t you skip the metal fasteners entirely and merely drill a few holes in each corner once the box is assembled, and then place a section of contrasting dowel in each hole – thus “pegging” your joinery. I would think it will supply more strength than would ever be needed for such a small project, and it will add an element of visual interest as well.

-- Woodworking is not a's a joinery !!!

View Karson's profile


35139 posts in 4572 days

#7 posted 12-16-2007 07:04 AM

Yes I was thinking of Dowels that were inserted after the glue up was finished. As points of light or dark as the case may be.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4059 days

#8 posted 12-16-2007 07:21 PM


Another option is to cut a rabbet in one side and to butt-joint in the rabbet. For a box that small glue strength should be more than enough, if you can clamp the piece while drying. Brads I mostly used as a clamping technique than jointing technique (keep the pieces together until the glue dries). My kid played with gluing things together (including end grain to end grain). I was surprised how strong the end-grain to side-grain glued joint is.

The advantage of not using screws or nails is that there is nothing to cover.

Good luck,

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4067 days

#9 posted 12-17-2007 06:27 AM

I think you guys will be surprised to see what I’ve come up with. I’ve almost have the box done and will get a picture up by Wednesday or so once the finish is dry. I think I’ve done good!!!!

Thanks for all your help. When I started this box – it was supposed to be a quick, simple project. Did not take long to change the quick part. But I’ve learned a couple of things from it. When I post the pictures – you’ll see!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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