"Art Box" Tutorial #5: Cut the lip for the lid

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Blog entry by Andy posted 06-27-2009 07:23 PM 37306 reads 41 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Corner Splines Part 5 of "Art Box" Tutorial series Part 6: The Lid »

Updated 1/15/12

At this point we have a box body with corner splines.
Our lid is still oversized, so we can stop here and just use it to make a traditional box,one where the lid sets on top.

For some, this may be the best option. They may not have all the required tools or may feel their skills need a little more honing.
Or, you could leapfrog over the next few stages and pick up the project again when we do the medallion.
Then you could continue on to the shaping if desired.
For now, just follow along with the tutorial, and continue at your own pace.
I strongly recommend making a test box. Are you listening to me at all or are you still texting little Sheba?
You will feel more comfortable when trying out some of the following procedures on a lesser grade of wood.

We want the top edge of the box sanded flat in case you havent already done that.
What we are going to do is route a recess on the inside top edge of the box to recieve the lid.
We will invert the box over a router fixed in a table. Any bumps at the corner joints on the top of the box will transfer to the lip we are routing down inside. Its much easier to sand the top edge than to sand inside.
Once the top edge of the box is smooth, remove any sawdust, etc from the inside of the box and the router table so we have a clean surface.

We are going to route a rabbet, a lip, inside the box, all the way around. It will finish at 3/8’’ wide x 1/2’’ deep.
Keep in mind that any chipping is a real issue with this style of box. Any variations along the gap, which is called the reveal, between box and lid, will really jump out. We do need a gap between the lid and box for the lid to open, but it needs to be small and very even. Capiche?
NO? OK, OK, then look at it this way,, if you sand out a chip, or deep router burn on the inside lip of the box it makes a divot, meaning it becomes wider at that point, a wavy line. The lid cannot be shaped to fit into those “wide spots”. Its like trying to parallel park a Winnebago.
I route the lip using several shallow passes for the depth and the width. This will minimize chipping and burning.
I use a rabbet bit with interchangeable guide bearings and start with one that gives me a cut just under 3/8” wide. I go fairly slow on the first shallow pass, not worrying about the burn marks. I cut down to just shy of the full 1/2’’ depth, leaving about 1/16’’. I then clean this up with a bearing that gives me the full 3/8’’ width and also I reset the router to take the full 1/2’’ depth.

Be sure and let the bit stop spinning before lifting the box off, clean away all the chips after each pass, and be sure you move around the bit in the correct direction. This of course will depend on which side of the equator you live on.” Here in Oregon, thats clockwise.

Wet the wood with a damp cloth prior to routing to minimize tearout.

If you dont have a set of bearing, just use a pattern bit and make multiple passes. Depends a lot on the wood.

with the edge of the cutter about 1/8 above the table. Use a high speed setting if you have that option and lower the center of the box over the bit and move it in a clockwise direction, (moving into the bit). After a complete pass around the bit,c enter the box over the bit and turn off the router. Clean away all the chips and raise the bit to about 1/4” – 3/8” and repeat. Leave the bit about 1/16 shy of the total 1/2” depth. Last of all, change your guide bearing and raise the bit to exactly 1/2’’ deep and make your final pass, moving at a little faster pace to prevent new burns.
Your final results will depend on the wood you are cutting and the sharpness of your bit, and how tight you crossed your fingers.

Here is the bit set and the router. Also, you can see the bent wrenches for the router I made. I massaged them to fit down into the well by heating them in the woodstove and tempering in oil. But thats another story.

A close up of the bit.

The first pass just under our 3/8” width.

Done @ 3/8” wide x 1/2” deep

Carefully and lightly sand the rabbet just enough to smooth it out.Then sand a very small radius on the inside edge of the lip to ease fitting in the lid. This will prevent denting it as you test fit the lid… over and over.

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

11 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4627 days

#1 posted 06-27-2009 07:39 PM

Good tutorial well done


View Alan's profile


443 posts in 4454 days

#2 posted 06-28-2009 01:39 AM

Look forward to the next one.

-- Alan, Prince George

View flcopper169's profile


187 posts in 4389 days

#3 posted 06-29-2009 02:50 PM

Andy… You’ve done a great job putting this together….. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this….

Sincerely …


-- Happy and safe woodworking, [email protected]

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 4811 days

#4 posted 06-30-2009 12:41 AM

Thanks for writing this blog! I have learned a lot.

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4958 days

#5 posted 06-30-2009 10:21 PM

And here we go to chapter #6.

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

View Jonathan55's profile


14 posts in 4389 days

#6 posted 07-24-2009 01:28 AM

Andy, thanks! I’m getting ready to try cutting and sanding the corners of the lid if I can get the rabbet cut this weekend. I’m wondering how much room you leave for wood movement. Most of the boxes I’ve made have had a frame and panel lid.


View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4958 days

#7 posted 07-24-2009 03:34 PM

I am glad to hear that you are making a box.I have just started getiing a little feedback,hopefully more in the future.
This is a good question,so I am going to post this into the tutorial.

Regarding wood movement:
Depending on the wood you use,where you live,and your own personal experience,you may want to allow more clearance.

This is what works for me. I really dont allow for any movement at this stage.I know this sounds like trouble waiting to happen, but it works just fine for me.Even if we start off with a snug fit,we will still end up with a small gap around the perimeter.This is due to the final sanding and easing of the edges between lid and lip.Feel free to start off with a small gap (1/16) or so if you wish.But keep in mind that as you sand your mating edges,that its very easy to get a sloppy fit.This would allow the lid to move from side to side,which will just feel wrong,and the pins may show too much in the gap,and the handle may not drop straight into the seat,but might rub the sides on the way down.

The only time I have seen a problem was when one of my boxes was placed on a counter in the bathroom and over a few months the high humidity caused the lid to stick.Once removed from that room, it returned to normal,about two months later.

I hope this helped.

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

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4338 days

#8 posted 11-22-2009 05:47 AM

i almost sent a message to ya about this but then i read it and now i understand how u didi it (the lid fitting) im still kinda nervous about trying to do the whole box so i just been reading the tutorial a page at a time really ones where i dont understand how something was done i wish i had the ink to print the whol thing but for now its ok to just read here the only thing is i have to stand the whole time im on the computer cuz i dont have space for a desk and chair mabee a stool but anyway thanks for the info my first box you will see first even before i post it so till then.

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

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10961 posts in 5102 days

#9 posted 11-22-2009 06:44 AM


Thank you very much for your hard work in putting this together.

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

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3854 days

#10 posted 03-11-2011 02:25 AM

seriously, thank you for taking the time to do this awesome tutorial on how to your box designs. I really appreciate you sharing these ideas.

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

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 3877 days

#11 posted 03-18-2011 02:39 PM

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