The Family Handyman - - BEST PRO TIPS -

Splurge! Con­sider bird’s-eye maple, burled wal­nut or some ex­otic species you’ve never even heard of be­fore. is a great source for im­ages and work­ing prop­er­ties of var­i­ous wood species.


Try to cut all your parts in or­der from a sin­gle board. When you as­sem­ble your box—par­tic­u­larly one with mitered cor­ners—the grain will look seam­less as it wraps around the cor­ners.


Cut out card­board win­dows, sized to each of your box parts. Po­si­tion the win­dows on your boards to find the most at­trac­tive sec­tion of grain for each piece.

This box is made from 1/2-in.-thick ma­te­rial. Most home cen­ters carry 1/2-in. boards in a few com­mon species like oak and po­plar. If you want more choices and don’t own a planer, shop on­line (rock­ is one good source).

Since the ends (B and C) are so short, leave each end and side (A) as a sin­gle board for now Photo 1).

Then cut them free after milling the

grooves, leav­ing ex­tra length.

Mark the out­side face of the side/end boards. Keep that side fac­ing up as you cut the grooves. The eas­i­est way to cut these grooves is with a dado set. Make one pass for the bot­tom groove, spin the board and make one pass for the top groove Photo 2). To cut these grooves with a reg­u­lar blade, you’ll just need to make sev­eral passes to get the right di­men­sion.

Cut the bot­tom (D) over­size for now, and then plane it to proper thick­ness. It should be just thin enough to fit in the groove eas­ily with­out be­ing loose.

At­tach a long, straight fence to your miter gauge. If you have two miter gauges, at­tach the fence to both of them so they work like a sled. Tilt the blade to 45 de­grees, cut a miter on a piece of scrap, then ver­ify that the an­gle is

ac­cu­rate and the cut is straight. Make any nec­es­sary ad­just­ments, then cut the miters on the sides and ends ( Photo 3). Rip the short end to fi­nal height.

Cut the lid (E) and bot­tom to fi­nal di­men­sions. To get ex­act di­men­sions, dry-as­sem­ble the box us­ing tape to hold the cor­ners to­gether. Mea­sure the in­te­rior width and add 7/16 in. to get the width for the lid and bot­tom. Mea­sure the in­te­rior length

of the box and add 7/16 in. for the length of the bot­tom. The lid length is the in­te­rior di­men­sion plus 3/16 in.

As­sem­ble the box

It’s dif­fi­cult to sand in­side the box after as­sem­bly, so sand all the in­te­rior sur­faces up to 180-grit be­fore as­sem­bly. Lay out the box parts in a line and glue the miters. Slide the bot­tom into its groove and fold the box to­gether, stretch­ing the tape across the cor­ners ( Photo 4). Wipe off any ex­cess glue in­side the box

with a slightly damp rag. This will raise the grain a bit, but you can lightly sand those spots after the glue dries. Let the glue dry for at least an hour.

Rabbet the lid

While the box is dry­ing, pop in your dado set again. Clamp a sac­ri­fi­cial board to your saw’s fence so you can slide the fence right up against the blade. Rabbet both edges and one end of the lid

( Photo 5), test­ing the fit in a grooved of­f­cut. The fin­ished, vis­i­ble sur­face of the lid should be equal to the in­side width of the box mi­nus about 1/16 in.

Slide the lid into its grooves. If it’s too tight, thin the rab­beted edges us­ing a sand­ing block un­til the lid slides home smoothly. Once you’re sat­is­fied with the fit, cut the lid end (F) and glue it on ( Photo 6).

Key the cor­ners

The cor­ner keys (G) are op­tional. They’re mainly dec­o­ra­tive, but

they do add some strength. If you choose to use them, lay them out on the box cor­ners how­ever you like. Clamp the box in a vise and make a sin­gle cut on each line with a hand­saw ( Photo 7). I wanted my keys to be a lit­tle bit thicker than my hand­saw’s kerf, so I widened the kerfs us­ing a fine­tooth re­cip­ro­cat­ing saw blade ( Photo 8). (

Rip the key stock from the outer edge of a wide board ( Photo 9).

You might have to try a few times to get the thick­ness just right. The key stock should be just thick enough to slide in eas­ily with­out wig­gling in the kerf; if you have to force it, it’s too thick. Cut the key stock into short sec­tions just long enough to fill the saw kerfs, us­ing a fine-tooth hand­saw or util­ity knife. Ap­ply glue to each key and then slip them into the kerfs

Photo 10). Let them dry for at least an hour, then trim and sand them flush ( Photo 11). Fin­ish-sand the whole box to 180-grit.

Ap­ply fin­ish

To get a rich, satin sheen on my box, I ap­plied three coats of tung oil, al­low­ing each coat to dry overnight and do­ing a light 400-grit sand­ing be­tween coats. Fi­nally, I ap­plied paste wax with “0000” steel wool. Wipe the wax off im­me­di­ately for a satin fin­ish, or let it dry first for a glossier fin­ish. If the lid doesn’t slide as freely after fin­ish­ing, lightly sand the un­der­side of the edges. Rub­bing the edges with a can­dle also helps.

Card­board win­dow

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