Wing Boxes- A mini Tutorial

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Blog entry by Andy posted 10-07-2012 05:44 PM 11047 reads 57 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I dont have time to write a lengthy tutorial but I do have a few photos and will write a word or two to help you get started.

This style of box was first made by me using plans from the October 1997 American Woodworker and authored by Dave Freedman.

I made a rectangle box about 12” long x 5 1/2” wide x 2 1/2” tall.
I used miters for all the corners instead of butt joints as he shows. Nothing wrong with butt joints, they are what I used in the “Palm boxes ”
they are much simpler and plenty strong for small boxes like these. I just opted for mitered corners prefering the continous grain wrapping around the box.

As I have mentioned before, make a test box to try out everything first. This is mine.

Its a bit more difficult to cut away the ends to allow for the lid. With the butt style ends you simply make them shorter in height.

I cut the ends down by flipping the box over and cutting down about an inch and cutting away about 3/8” along the inside edge of the front and back, creating a ledge for the lid to sit on. I cleaned up the saw kerfs using the router.

I pinned the corners with small dowels. I hid the brass hinge pins behind the top dowel and spaced the others equally after getting that one located.

I made my own dowels since I couldnt find anything small enough, 1/8” that is.
I dont remember what I read or saw in my years playing with wood, but something niggled at my brain and helped me come up with a way to make my own.
I played with several ways to make a small dowel and came up with this, and it works slick.
I took a thin piece of steel, an old hinge was the only thing I could lay my hands on, and screwed it to my bench to keep it immobile. I then drilled a 3/8 hole in the counter and drilled a 1/8 hole in the hinge and placed this hole over the larger one in the counter, which keeps the dowel from binding up and breaking off. I sharpened the cutter in the hinge by boring a recess over the 1/8 hole with a larger but which thinned out the steel. I then cut a small notch in one edge using a triangle file. Just play with it until something works.

To make the dowel stock, I ripped strips on the bandsaw down to about 3/16, chucked them in my cordless and rounded them over on the drum sander like this:

Then I sharpened a point on the end and slowly fed it into the cutter like this:

Cut the lid blank to a snug fit, but leave it long until after you fit the handle and cut it in two parts.

Make a bottom frame if you like and add corner blocks as needed to attach screws up into the bottom.

Glue or pin or use mortise and tenons to attach the lid, but remember that when its cut apart a teneon joint will show at the edges, so it needs to be done perfect, or you can line the edges as I did. Rough shape the handle a cut a notch for it to settle down into. Cut the lid in two pieces, straight like I marked out here.

or wavy like this. The line was just to guide me on the entry and exit cut as it went through the bandsaw.

Add accents like these bloodwood strips if you prefer, like these. Final shaping or sanding will remove the chips.

The lid is hinged after its cut in two pieces.
Space it up off the box ends about 1/16, place masking tape as a spacer between the lid faces and tape it all into place very securely. Drill a 1/8 hole at all 4 corners for brass rod. Mark the lid-to-body orientation for refitting into the correct location.
Place roofing nails or long rod stock in each hole so you can easily remove them when fitting the lid.
You will need to carefully round over the bottom edge of the lid so it will swing up and stop just off vertical. Do this slowly and allow for final sanding and for the thickness of finish. You will need to pull the pins and sand a little and retry several times to get it just right.

Sand or shape as desired. Finish with lacquer, its easy and doesnt darken the wood like oil, or use bear fat, hamster milk, paint, or whatever you prefer.

Hope this encourages you to try one of these boxes.
Happy cutting,

-- If I can do it, so can you.

18 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4586 days

#1 posted 10-07-2012 06:02 PM

Thanks for this great blog Andy I know it takes a lot of extra time and effort to stop and take photos plus write every thing down in such great detail.


View Dez's profile


1172 posts in 5086 days

#2 posted 10-07-2012 06:11 PM

Cool, simple tutorial!
One question – isn’t a kilt a little chilly at times?

-- Folly ever comes cloaked in opportunity!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10961 posts in 5061 days

#3 posted 10-07-2012 06:17 PM

Very COOL tutorial & techniques!

Beautiful box…

Thank you very much!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Albert's profile


544 posts in 4599 days

#4 posted 10-07-2012 06:20 PM

Excellent, thank you!

View mafe's profile


12928 posts in 4098 days

#5 posted 10-07-2012 06:41 PM

Exelent, thank you.
Nice tutorial, always a pleasure to follow how others work.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4298 days

#6 posted 10-07-2012 08:03 PM

Great explanation,

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View DocSavage45's profile


9043 posts in 3852 days

#7 posted 10-07-2012 09:52 PM


You asked for criticism and all you get is praise. Guess that is boring after awhile? You have taken boxes into an art form pushing the envelope. Maybe Boxguy, or Greg the box sculptor, or Andy the boxmaker who have also pushed the envelope would be best qualified to actually do constructive critiques?

Nothing in your work that I’ve seen seems out of place? The colors and lines of materials move well. You are consistant with many construction rules for cabinetry, and sculpting, that are learned over years?

I’m guessing that when you come back to a piece you say “coulda done this.” or “coulda done that.” Mistakes are where creation and evolution comes from.

I have been busy with repair to my 140 year old home. I have been working on finishing what my wife calls big cabinets..LOL! Feeding station for my cats, and a garden shed that willl also hold my dust collector outside the shop. And I had to go back to my real world job for economic reasons.

I have promised myself, no more additional mainenance projects, rehabs , or rebuilds. I did agree to building a winter dog house for my nieghbors pitbull, who is actually quite a sweet dog. But I guess he backed off because I gave his wife the materials cost and my phone number..didn’t call me?

So I am going to build some prototype cabinets and practice all I’ve learned about carcuses and joinery and all the information I have learned about design, and I’m going to make those “mistakes” that are important in learning.

Later I will be building a basic box, then I will take risks at your suggestions. Just taking more time than I expect. LOL!

Thanks for the encouragement and invitation to take the journey. Maybe then I will see something that I don’t see now?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View rance's profile


4277 posts in 4170 days

#8 posted 10-07-2012 11:23 PM

Yeah, I think the Bear Fat would be the best. Thanks for sharing.

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3699 days

#9 posted 10-08-2012 01:51 AM

Andy, I have absolutely no criticism for you. I love these wing boxes and particularly like the curved cut dividing the lid. I tried the hamster milk finish but couldn’t keep the little bastards from biting while I milked them. My wife refused to restrain em for me so I had to give up on that plan. The only negative I can offer is: those jeans do make your butt look big! Keep posting these educational tutorials and inspiring us. We appreciate you. Regards from the other Andy.

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

View Arlin Eastman's profile

Arlin Eastman

4544 posts in 3570 days

#10 posted 10-08-2012 02:06 AM


Are you noticing Big Butts on men? lol

Love the boxes and the winged box alot. Came out really stunning

-- It is always the right time, to do the right thing.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3699 days

#11 posted 10-08-2012 03:23 AM

He asked! I replied!

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

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4918 days

#12 posted 10-08-2012 12:24 PM

Thanks for your thoughts and humor.

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3607 posts in 4722 days

#13 posted 10-09-2012 04:15 AM


We know how much effort goes into documenting your work for us so we can aspire to the same greatness of your boxes. We say “aspire to” since we know we’ll never achieve anything quite so spectacular if for no other reason than we are too cheap to buy such beautiful wood. (Realistically, it’s the level of your craftsmanship than we’ll never attain but the wood price seemed like a good excuse.) We love your creative way of writing to make your tutorial fun!

We’re working on rendering the woodchuck blubber for our finishing. (We need to recoup our losses from them for devastating the garden!)



-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Roger's profile


21051 posts in 3813 days

#14 posted 10-15-2012 07:00 PM

Very detailed blog and info session. Appreciate all your hard work and your teachings. Thnx a bunch.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View bannerpond1's profile


397 posts in 2908 days

#15 posted 07-31-2013 03:28 PM

Thanks for sharing you experiences, Andy. I have a question: Is end grain an issue when you are carving the lid while it’s attached to the box? If so, how do you work around it? The only thing I can come up with is to perfectly insert the lid flush with the top edges of the box so that there will be no end grain showing after you carve the waves into it. I’d appreciate any hints.

-- --Dale Page

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