Box Makers Advice, Lid First or Sides First?

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Forum topic by DRJZ1974 posted 06-22-2010 06:35 AM 2091 views 1 time favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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71 posts in 2333 days

06-22-2010 06:35 AM

I have been making boxes for only a short while and wondered what the box guru’s on this site do when making a box. Do you make the lid first and cut the sides to size of lid or make the sides first and cut the lid to size of box? I realize that depending on the design, one may need to be made before the other, but a fairly simple design box, what do you do first? I am sure there are many different opinions, but I would like to hear what they are and why.

31 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115172 posts in 2996 days

#1 posted 06-22-2010 07:06 AM

You make it in one peoce and cut the top off.

-- Custom furniture

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2417 days

#2 posted 06-22-2010 07:16 AM

Do you mean the panels for the top or the whole top. If you mean the whole top, listen to Jim.

If you mean the panels for the top and the pieces for the sides, I would make the sides first. Too many places to get the length inconsistent from trimming and fitting. The top and bottom are easy once you know the exact size of the box.

But then again, I am no box making guru ;)

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1101 posts in 2393 days

#3 posted 06-22-2010 07:38 AM

There is a good video series on box making on Fine…really well done.
Doug Stowe’s “Basic Box Making” book and video are great resources as well.
Both were helpful for me to get going :)

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View DRJZ1974's profile


71 posts in 2333 days

#4 posted 06-22-2010 03:57 PM

Thanks guys, I think I came across sounding newer than I am. I do have the book “Basic Box Making” and have taken a few classes on box making at my local woodcraft. I guess I am looking for advice like what David mentioned in his post. As I am trying to become my detailed with my boxes, I find myself trying to figure out which order would be easier. I often think the more detailed the top is, it would be easier to build the sides around a finished top, but I also agree with david that the sides can easily become inconsistent too.

View rance's profile


4243 posts in 2579 days

#5 posted 06-22-2010 04:18 PM

Looks like you’re talking about a lift-lid box. Make the sides(carcass) first, then build the lid to fit. At least I find it MUCH easier that way.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2405 days

#6 posted 06-22-2010 04:28 PM

I just tried making a box yesterday based off of a piece of wood for the top. My math skillz failed me hardcore, and I now have a box with a too-small lid. Oops. :)

I would build the sides, then the top. Ensuring you have (more than) enough top material, or a willingness to get creative.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3637 days

#7 posted 06-22-2010 04:29 PM

Of course it depends on the style, but usually I make the sides first and glue them up. Then I make the top slightly oversize and glue that on. Then I trim it flush on the router table with a flush trim bit.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View DRJZ1974's profile


71 posts in 2333 days

#8 posted 06-22-2010 04:42 PM

This is what I am looking for! Charlie, that is also something I have thought about is making the top bigger and trimming it down to size.

I seem to be getting creative blocks lately for box building. I go to local art fairs and see some really neat designs combining different wood types and then get home and can’t decide how to tie a top and sides together and make it look like they belong together.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3637 days

#9 posted 06-22-2010 05:03 PM

Another little trick I’ll pass on… If you put a profile of some type on the lid, and let the bottom of the profile be even with the seam between the top and the sides, it will almost make the seam disappear.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 2405 days

#10 posted 06-22-2010 05:21 PM

That IS a neat trick! :) (files away for future use)

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View DRJZ1974's profile


71 posts in 2333 days

#11 posted 06-22-2010 05:24 PM

That’s great Charlie, you are right, it does almost disappear because at first I couldn’t figure out what you were talking about when I looked at your pic. Now teach me the trick of the fancy inlay around the bottom!

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3637 days

#12 posted 06-22-2010 07:00 PM

Well, making inlay banding is an art form all by itself. Personally, I buy mine ready-made.

The inlay on the box above is easy to install, because it is exactly the width of a 1/8” saw kerf. All you have to do is set the blade depth and the fence (making the cut a little shallower than the thickness of the inlay), and cut a kerf into the box sides. Trim your banding to the proper length, glue it in, and sand it flush when the glue dries.

Which brings up another tip: You can also put an inlay band directly on a seam to hide it, as I did on both the top and bottom of the box below:

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Tim_456's profile


170 posts in 3014 days

#13 posted 06-22-2010 07:19 PM

Charlie, thanks for the great tips and pix! I haven’t built any boxes yet, but this makes me want to get back to the shop and give these tips a try;)

View Maveric777's profile


2692 posts in 2496 days

#14 posted 06-22-2010 07:30 PM

Ohhh I am so glad I looked in on this thread…. Thanks for the info Charlie! Very useful info…

As to the subject…. I always have made the sides first. Never thought of doing the lid first. In my twisted mind building the sides first just made more sense. But I will say again…. That’s my twisted mind…lol

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Gene Howe's profile (online now)

Gene Howe

8094 posts in 2848 days

#15 posted 06-22-2010 07:57 PM

Sides first.
Many of my box lids have loose panels dadoed into the sides. so, I profile the top edge of the sides, cut the dado for the top and bottom, dry assemble the sides to measure for the top, make the top (usually a raised panel), bottom is the same size, dry assemble AGAIN and, if it all fits get out the packing tape, apply the tape and the glue, roll it up and tape it off tight. Then, just cut off the top.
There’s a neat trick with a router to form the edges of the lid so it fits perfectly over a lip formed on the top of the open box.
But, that’s another thread.

EDIT: Started this post and got called away. Now I see that the REAL gurus have weighed in. Consider my suggestions as from a guru wannabe. (Grin)

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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