Projects » Small Precious Box
This box is great as a gift. It's easy to make, using a dowel as a hinge pivot, so there's no need to mortise for hinges and drill for screws--which saves tons of time. I have made this box with dovetailed corners, but this is the express version, with miters for the corners.
While I've included measurements for my box, I would encourage you to modify your design depending on the stock laying around your shop. Use these techniques and dimensions as a starting point and go from there. The handle or lid is a great place to utilize that beautiful curly grained off-cut you just couldn't throw away! I've used walnut for the box, flame birch for the lid and bottom, and a small piece of cocobolo for the handle. All of the wood for this box was left over from other projects, which not only saves money, but a trip to the lumberyard as well.
The front, back, and sides of the box should all come from one piece of wood. This makes milling easier and ensures the grain and color tone of the wood will match. Cut the front (A), back (B) and sides (C) from this blank. Rip a groove 1/4" deep x 1/4" wide slot (for the bottom to fit in), using the dado blade in your table saw. Make this slot 1/4" from the bottom.
After ripping a groove in the blank, cut the box front, back, and sides on the miter saw. For a perfect fit, cut the front first and use that to measure out the back. Repeat with the sides. It is crucial that your miter saw is finely tuned for this. It is also possible to make this cut with a sled on the table saw with the blade tilted to 45-degrees.
To determine the dimensions of the bottom (D), tape the box together temporarily. Measure the inside dimensions from front to back and from side to side. Add 3/8" to both dimensions. This is the dimension to use for the bottom, including the tongue. Rabbet a tongue onto the underside of the bottom. I use a dado blade in the table saw. I cut the tongue on both ends first, adjust the fence, and then cut the tongue on the front and back.
Use the same dimensions you took for the inside of the box and subtract 3/32" from each dimension to determine the size of the lid (E). Cut the lid to that size. To mark for the dowel pivot point, strike a center line on the thickness of the lid and measure the same dimension from the back of the top. To bore the hole, insert a 1/4" bit in the drill press and apply tape to indicate 1/4" depth. Clamp the lid to a fence installed on the drill press and line up the center of the hole with the bit. Bore the hole for the hinge pivot point, rotate the top, and bore another hole for the other hinge pivot point.
Repeat this operation with the sides, making sure to mark the holes to mirror each other.
Insert a 1/4" roundover bit in your router table. Feed the back of the top into the spinning bit to create a round over so the top can pivot inside the box. Flip the top over and repeat, creating a bullnose on the back edge of the top.
I used a small piece of cocobolo for the handle. The handle can really be any shape, but I chose a rectangle and chamfered the edges of the handle with a block of sandpaper for a nice, faceted look and feel. Measure for center on the edge of the top, as well as on the handle. I taped off the exact area where I wanted the handle to go to help with positioning the handle, as well as to protect the top from adhesive squeeze out. Cocobolo is an oily wood, so I'm using 5 minute epoxy to attach it to the top. I simply press fitted the handle into the defined area on the top and held it there for a couple of minutes for the epoxy to harden. After 15 minutes, I removed tape and any epoxy squeeze-out with a chisel.
I cut the two short pieces of dowel with a Japanese handsaw. Assemble the box. As always, dry fit first! Carefully tape the mitered corners and use the tape like a hinge and a clamp. Once you know it all fits together, lay out the box and apply glue to the insides of the miters. Insert the dowels into the sides. (No glue here). Then slide the bottom into the groove in the back and on one side. Do not apply glue to the tongue of the bottom or on the groove. Line up the hole in the lid with the dowel on the side and continue wrapping the box around the bottom. Line up the hole on the lid with the other dowel. Tape the last corner and let the glue on the miters set up for 45 minutes. Relax…go get a cup of coffee or tea.
Once the glue for the box has set, remove the tape from the sides of the box and let the top and handle lay down on the front of the box. Then mark the handle for position and depth. ( I used a black marker on the walnut. I left about 1/16" on either side of the handle). Mark the top edge and then transfer that line to the front of the box. Mark the slot as deep as the handle is thick.
Cut the slot for the handle to nest into. I used a Japanese pull-saw for the sides...
...then, use a coping saw to clean out the rest of the waste of the slot. Clean up saw marks and unevenness with a sharp paring chisel.
Once you get the fit for the handle dialed in, sand and finish the entire box. I sanded to 220-grit and then applied two thin coats of blonde shellac. I waited until the next morning and then rubbed out the finish with 0000 steel wool and then added a coat of wax with a clean rag. This is a super simple and fast way to finish a table-top object like this.
Download the Small Precious Box Plan and Cut list.