"Art Box" Tutorial #3: Making the box

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Blog entry by Andy posted 06-22-2009 09:19 PM 32704 reads 72 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Wood selection Part 3 of "Art Box" Tutorial series Part 4: Corner Splines »

Part 3
updated 1/15/12

Regarding size:
Size and proportions are important…to a point.
We will be building a box that will start out at 11 1/8 W x 7 D x 4 1/2 H. (After shaping it will finish out at about 10 3/4’’ x 6 3/4’’ x 3 1/8 h depending on how much shaping is done.)

I like the proportions of this box, they just look good to my eye. They are loosely based on the Golden Ratio which is a ratio of 1.618. There is much more to it than that, but simply put, here is how it works in relationship to this box. We multiply Height x GR= Width.

The height is 3 1/2 plus the lid and medallion add another 3/8 each, for a total of about 4 ¼ for the overall height. We multiply x 1.618 =6.875 and if we multiply that x 1.618 we get 11.125’’.
As you can see this box is very close to the Golden Ratio. After shaping it is going to be a little more off of that ideal, but it is only a guide. It will be up to you to decide what pleases your eye, and for the intended purpose of the box,and the material you have on hand.

But just so we are all on the same page from start to finish, lets work with these dimensions.

Lets start cutting some wood.

Make sure your board is flat. Any twist will not allow your mitered corners to come together.
Start by milling the board to 3/4’’ thick.
Rip a strip 3.5’’ wide and 38’’ long minimum.
Orient the grain direction from left to right and mark out your pieces just to be sure you cut each piece in proper order. Its easy to flip the board front to back and miter the wrong side.
Make sure and mark the front and top of the board for the lid and set it aside for now.

Next step is to cut a dado to receive the bottom. I use 1/4’’ plywood and size the kerf to fit the actual thickness, since it varies. I make the kerf about 1/4’’ deep which will allow for more shaping.

Next step is to miter your 4 box sides. I prefer to use a miter saw with a simple jig to make repeatable cuts.
There are many ways to get the same results, including a table saw with a sliding cutoff sled. I just prefer this setup because I get great results and its simple.

The photo below shows cutting a miter using the first stop. The saw is always kept at the same position for every cut.

Then flip front to back and trim away just enough to get a full miter, that ensures the grain on the face will continue unbroken.

The flip front to back for the next cut using the second stop.

Its a good idea to use backer boards to prevent tearout, but you will need to take that in to account when setting up a jig like this. They will push your board away from the fence which will change where the saw enters your board,making each piece longer. I prefer putting wide masking tape on the entire back. I did not use any here because I just had this 96 tooth sharpened.

As you can see in this last picture, my cuts dont land on my orientation marks. They are only there to keep me from doing something boneheaded. The preset stops are what determine the length of each cut.

Here are all four sides ready to assemble.

Next we want to temporarily tape the box together so we see how well we did with our miters.
I either use my table saw fence for a backstop or a board screwed to by bench to keep all the pieces in line for taping them together.
I use 3/4” yellow masking tape, it really takes the strain and doesnt leave a lot of gunk behind to clean off. I personally dont like blue tape, it doesnt allow me to get enough pressure on the joints, and it will often slacken off without me realizing it. Some people use duct tape or clear packing tape. Find what works best for you.

This photo is simply showing the faces taped tightly together, edge to edge. The orange highlighted circle shows how I let the edges ride over a little bit, so when its folded it up to form the box this really pulls it tight since its trying to stretch the tape even more. But, just a little overlap is plenty, or the tape may break.

This photo is of the inside after its all taped together.

we are going to measure for our bottom and fit it, then we will glue and tape up the box.

Cut the bottom so it fits snug but wont interfere with the closing up of the miter joints.
I allow about 1/8” gap. I glue in the bottom, its plywood so its dimensionally stable and wont cause the box to split. You dont need to glue it in if your joints are tight and especially if you add corner splines. I just prefer to, for the added strength and the solid sound the bottom makes when tapped on. Its a personal thing-)

NOW is the time to tape the box up tight and see that everything fits nicely together, the miters should be snug and the bottom should fit right and it should be square. If not, you will see if you can tweek it where needed or recut everything.

Bottoms Up
When you have your bottom prefitted, add two new bands of tape to act as your clamps. The bands of tape you have been sticking and un-sticking for your dry fitting, are getting pretty sad looking but are ok to just leave on for the actual glue up.

Be prepared.
This all needs to be done fairly quickly! The glue starts grabbing within a few minutes, so work fast. If its very warm, you will need to move quickly or the glue will start to skin over and your joints will not close up tightly. This will cause them to be very noticeable. I use Titebond 3 because it has a little longer open time.
If the miters dont pull up tight you will need to coax them a little with some screw clamps, so have them handy.
Have a damp rag at hand for drips.

Brush a thin layer of yellow glue on each miter face and while that soaks in, brush glue into the dado groove for the bottom if you wish. Then go back and put another coat of glue onto each miter face if has soaked in all the way. This will of course depend on the woods porosity and the glue you are using. Move quickly but dont be sloppy.

Now you can slip the bottom in and fold up the box pulling it closed with the tape.
Check your miters and add more tape as need to tighten it up.

Flip the box over and check the top edges of the miters too. Clean any excess glue off and place the box on a perfectly flat surface, like your table saw and make sure it doesn’t rock. If it rocks much at all, then it is out of square. I use a block of wood and a mallet and smack it hard on the high corner to level it out. You will then need to put another band of tape around it to tighten up that joint and keep it in that position. A little rocking is acceptable as long as your joints look good. I will show you how I get the bottom flat later on._

Check from corner to corner with a tape measure to double check that its square. But be sure the miters are tight!

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

25 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35271 posts in 5456 days

#1 posted 06-22-2009 09:41 PM

nice job on the tutorial.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5039 days

#2 posted 06-22-2009 09:51 PM

thanks … I’m taking it all in …. very well done instructions, almost like a text book

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 4747 days

#3 posted 06-22-2009 09:56 PM

thanks for the tip on second box your just to good at this teaching thing i hold on to your every word

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4878 days

#4 posted 06-22-2009 11:10 PM

Andy, this is a pretty good tutorial. It is easily followed, concise, and well-documented.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4995 days

#5 posted 06-23-2009 12:12 AM

Nicely done. That’s a pretty slick jig for your saw.

-- Working at Woodworking

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4073 posts in 5120 days

#6 posted 06-23-2009 12:14 AM

Thumbs up…on to step 4. Thanks again, Andy.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 4486 days

#7 posted 06-23-2009 02:43 AM

Just read through all 3 of your “Art Box Tutorials” You are doing a fantastic job on teachingus your process. It is very concise yet informative. Your use of BOLD and italics help do highlight specific points.

Excelent job. CAn’t wait to have you finnish this series.

Thank You


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4964 days

#8 posted 06-23-2009 04:41 AM

Thank you all for the support.
I am glad its easy to follow,I have spent much time rewriting and whittling away all the unneeded photos and words.

Bad news!
I was recutting the rabbit for the lid to set down into,and I ruined the box.Arrrggg!!!
Here is the way it should look.

And here is the major malfunction that even the most expensive putty cant fix.
Artsy as it may be,I dont see any way to incorporate this new ledge into the design.
It was my own dumb fault too.I was trying to cut the lip a little deeper for the lid to set lower because the hinge pin was not going to land into the meaty part of the lid.I had mistakenly cut the rabbit only 3/8 deep instead of 1/2.I just was thinking clearly.The bearing for the rabbit bit needs something to ride against and that section had already been milled away when I cut the pockets.


Oh well.No need kicking myself too hard.I will always remember this and therefore have learned a good lesson.
I would rather kiss a duck than start over at this point,but…
I promptly went ahead and made another box.It took me about 30 minutes to plane the new board,rip it to size,miter all 4 sides,cut the bottom,and glue it up.Its drying now,and it will take me another 90 minutes to get it back to where I was when this happened.Fortunately I can still use the lid and medallion,I have already made,so it could have been worse.
I will cut off the top of this box and use it for screws or…something.I have about 4 just like it to keep it company.
Stay tuned to this station,more to come.

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

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4633 days

#9 posted 06-23-2009 06:45 AM

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5217 days

#10 posted 06-23-2009 01:12 PM

this is a great tutorial!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4964 days

#11 posted 06-23-2009 09:17 PM

And here is #4

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

View moshel's profile


865 posts in 4740 days

#12 posted 06-28-2009 04:04 AM

one of the best tutorials i have ever read! Thanks!

-- The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep...

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 4843 days

#13 posted 07-16-2009 02:54 PM

I’m still along for the ride.

View Carolynne's profile


33 posts in 4360 days

#14 posted 01-10-2011 12:25 AM

Eeeeeek! Nice to know that experts can make errors and keep on trucking! Wonderful example for me!

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3860 days

#15 posted 03-11-2011 02:19 AM

Great tutorial. I’ve gotta try doin a box or 2 like this. very very kool

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

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