Box joint question

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by ADHDan posted 01-14-2013 04:52 PM 1329 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2077 days

01-14-2013 04:52 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m making a cedar chest and I’m thinking of trying something new for the joinery. I have a lot of 1×3- and 1×4 boards sitting around. Could I rip them all to uniform width (say, 2.5”) and stagger them during glue up to make panels with “pre-made” fingers for box joints? I’d make the fingers about an inch long, and just trim them after glue up since they’d be about 1/8” proud.

To make the joints symmetrical, I could cut half of the boards to be about 2” longer than the others, and alternate them long/short for the front and back, and short/long for the sides.

If this sounds like it might work, what would be the best way to ensure that the fingers are uniform?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

10 replies so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


5624 posts in 2782 days

#1 posted 01-14-2013 05:06 PM

I have seen people attempt to create joinery with a glueup. The problem is you often need waxed spacer blocks to maintain proper alignment. Then hope the block doesn’t get glued to the project. Your method of trimming the fingers to length after glueup would prevent some of that headache. I still wonder if fitting the joint would be a bear.
Have you thought of through dovetails?

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2077 days

#2 posted 01-14-2013 05:24 PM

Yeah, it’s not the length of the fingers I’m concerned about – whenever I’ve cut box joints on the router table (for smaller boxes) I leave the fingers proud and trim them flush. I’m more concerned about the “inside” part of the finger joint, because those end have to be perfect or else I’ll get gaps.

I love through dovetails; the only problem is that I have no experience doing them and very little time to practice. So, I’m trying to figure out a solution that will be more attractive than pocket screws, but not as time consuming as dovetails.

I suppose if the “inside” part of the finger joint doesn’t come out perfectly even, I could fix them by hand with a chisel?

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3546 days

#3 posted 01-14-2013 05:36 PM

If I were going to try a glue up like that I think I would cut the strips in two different lengths and on the short ones glue some pieces of wood the same thickness to each end of the short strips so that they are the same length as the longer strips. When gluing the strips together you will have to make sure all the strips are even and that you don’t glue the on the extra pieces. once the glue up is dry you ought to be able to snap the extra pieces off since they would be glued end grain to end grain.

All said and done I think it would be easier to cut the box joints than this process.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3127 days

#4 posted 01-14-2013 05:52 PM


When I moved into my first apartment after high school, I went to the lumber yard, picked up a ton of 2×2 pine, and laminated panels together, exposing the ends of every other board in the glue up (leaving them proud). I fit them together as “box joints” and turned it into a TV stand, with bottom shelf for movies and a VCR. Blotched all to heck when I stained it. It was okay, but functional.

Ironically, I soon gave it to my best friend because I was going to dump it. Despite being a medical doctor, he kept the thing for a LONG time. Heck, he might still have it for all I know.

Yes, it will most certainly work. Mine worked and I laminated my boards using the stock dimensions. Planing everything to size, it wouldn’t be a problem. Just leave the ends proud and work them back if you want.

-- jay,

View Lifesaver2000's profile


551 posts in 3081 days

#5 posted 01-14-2013 11:49 PM

I saw a chest in one of those “rustic furniture” places a while back that looked like it was made using a similar method, except it looked like all the pieces of each panel were the same length. The box joint fingers were opposite of each other on whatever side you are looking at (not sure I said that where it makes sense).

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2811 days

#6 posted 01-14-2013 11:58 PM

The only time I’ve seen this done successfully, the person building it glued the pieces up already assembled. I don’t know if that makes sense.
They did not build panels. They built the box as they went, putting four pieces down at a time on each level, sort of like building a log cabin. I hope that is explaining it right.
Anyway, I asked why they were doing it that way. He told me that he’d tried doing it similar to what I think you’re suggesting, and could not get the short pieces perfectly aligned so there would not be gaps later.


View bondogaposis's profile


4688 posts in 2320 days

#7 posted 01-15-2013 01:18 AM

I think this would be very difficult because lining up the pieces during glue up would be next to impossible, for me it would be. I would rather cut the box joints after the panels are glued up.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2330 days

#8 posted 01-15-2013 01:34 AM

Easier to cut the fingers into the glued up panels.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View runswithscissors's profile


2725 posts in 1994 days

#9 posted 01-15-2013 03:43 AM

I built the cabin on a sailboat that way out of cedar, about 1X1 1/4” or so. Worked fine. I didn’t do it for looks, but rather for strength. In fact, on the outside covered the joints with brass angle, cut to a semi-fancy shape on the edges, so you couldn’t see the shape. Clint Searl’s chest shows you can make a nice looking chest that way, where you emphasize the structural element instead of trying to hide it.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View ADHDan's profile


800 posts in 2077 days

#10 posted 01-15-2013 03:46 PM

Clint, I like that idea. That seems like a happy medium between my original plan (which likely won’t work, logistically) and the ideal approach of through dovetails (which likely won’t work because I just don’t have time to do them properly).

-- Dan in Minneapolis, woodworking since 11/11.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics