Need tips for making box joints

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Forum topic by DaveFFMedic posted 10-21-2012 02:30 PM 3037 views 2 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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81 posts in 2162 days

10-21-2012 02:30 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig question box joinery

Recently I posted a project for a wooden beer holder for six bottles. Last night my brother in law asked if I could make six of them for his reenacting group.

I would like to make the holder using box joints, but I have never had luck making box joints. Particularly small box joints. I made my own box joint jig which is functionally similar to the Rockler jig and It just doesn’t seem to give me the accuracy I am looking for.

My options are a table saw with 1/8” ATB blade, dado blade, or router table with 1/4” spiral bit. I can buy more router bits or make another jig. I’m looking for some advice. My box joints never seem to mesh. They are always off by just enough that they mesh at one end, but don’t line up at the other end.

Thanks for your help!

34 replies so far

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2572 days

#1 posted 10-21-2012 03:04 PM

Buy once, cry once.
Mine shows up monday.

Here’s a couple of videos:
Incra product video
Review by Tom Hintz

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

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3154 days

#2 posted 10-21-2012 03:16 PM

A homemade sled should work pretty well. You just have to be patient while dialing in your key size.

That said, I now use my Incra router setup.

-- jay,

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2680 days

#3 posted 10-21-2012 03:24 PM

I think the key to a home-made jig is that the alignment finger is exactly the width of your dado and spaced exactly away from the dado. and then the dado set needs to be at a perfect 90 to the table and close to the proper height (err on a little taller…you can always sand off the excess tails). And then a backer board is essential. there are a lot of “exactlys” there but it does make a nice looking joint.! This came from an old cherry beam (wormholes and all).!

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3424 days

#4 posted 10-21-2012 03:47 PM

I use 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 jigs like this. Box Jig Except mine is made of polypropylene instead of laminate covered MDF.
MLCS has an excellent video on it’s use. VIDEO#!

Easily adjusted for great fitting joints.

-- 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

View DaveFFMedic's profile


81 posts in 2162 days

#5 posted 10-21-2012 06:13 PM

It seems like the Incra jig is a favorite here. I don’t think its in my budget right now. If I understand right, it’s not so much the jig, but my patience to dial it in. Does anyone have any tips or tricks to getting the spacing just right?

View waho6o9's profile


8188 posts in 2572 days

#6 posted 10-21-2012 06:16 PM

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3154 days

#7 posted 10-21-2012 06:55 PM

Yep, for most homemade jigs, I’d start with the key-size. I like something with a set width, like metal rods with precisely the right diameters. From there, you adjust your dado set (make sure its a stacked dado set) with the appropriate shims to give you the right width to match your key. Then, make one cut at that width and then you can fit your key. Use a second, identical key as a spacer to set the correct distance for the next cut. Once you’ve done this correctly, everything else falls right in line.

I originally made a 1/2” one with a wooden key. I made the 1/4” version with a drill shank (which is just a tad less than a true 1/4”). But that didn’t matter much to me since I just adjusted the dado stack to match. I usually adjusted the project dimensions to match the overall number of fingers, so that I didn’t have anything end in the middle of a finger.

-- jay,

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2680 days

#8 posted 10-21-2012 09:49 PM

cosmic…I think the “key” slot has to be made at the same time as the rest of the jig…variations in the dado set (a tooth here and tooth there can goof it up). I followed the “nail-gun Norm” plan for the jig (a lot of people don’t like him but he taught me a lot) but I built mine so long ago that I forgot the process and they work so well that I haven’t seen the need to do it again!

I’ll get some pix…it’s pretty easy I think (a very sharp pencil and a good tape measure). As I recall though it was a pass with the dado set, then a measurement from the edge of one cut leaving exactly that distance of “meat” before the next cut without changing the dado set or depth. The alignment “key” (milled from a scrap of hardwood) goes on the right side slot in my case.

View RogerM's profile


792 posts in 2394 days

#9 posted 10-22-2012 01:41 AM

You can get accurate box joints almost every time using the Woodsmith Box Joint Jig which is available at Rockler. Probably like yourself, I made at least two complete jigs for cutting box joints but ended up with the Woodsmith box joint jig after many failures and unsatisfactory results. Go ahead and lay down $120 and eliminate the frustrations.

-- Roger M, Aiken, SC

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18267 posts in 3671 days

#10 posted 10-22-2012 01:46 AM

A simple sled jig for a single size is eay to make.

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2685 days

#11 posted 10-22-2012 03:54 AM

I use shop made box joint jigs attached to my cheapo miter gauge with shop made “T track”. This allows for very easy and quick tweaking when setting it up. I also highly recommend the Freud Box Joint cutter blades as they cut perfectly flat bottoms and the cuts are always EXACTLY 1/4” or 3/8” wide. Another important factor is NO slop in your miter slot fit when using the miter gauge (I tightened mine with a center punch). I posted my simple jigs in my projects if you are interested. Once you get the technique down, you will cut perfect fitting box joints every time with these blades and a shop made jig.

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

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3556 days

#12 posted 10-22-2012 12:20 PM

If you are going to make hundreds, I still think the best way is to use a dovetail jig with a box joint template such as a PC 4212

-- Joe

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2572 days

#13 posted 10-22-2012 12:57 PM

What advantages does the 4212 have over the ibox?
I have the 4212 and decided on the ibox for box joints because the setup and adjustability is much easier. Cutting time is probably about the same, but with the ibox there’s less chance for tearout.

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

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3354 days

#14 posted 10-22-2012 01:02 PM

I made the jig that was in ShopNotes a while back and I wasn’t happy with it. I bought the ibox and was making boxes within 30 minutes of opening the box. Yes, its more money, but it can’t be beat for simplicity and ease of use.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2572 days

#15 posted 10-22-2012 02:09 PM

That’s the main reason I grabbed it too Dave.

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

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