Building the Gunsmith Box (over 100 photos)

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Blog entry by Blake posted 01-10-2011 10:03 PM 11240 reads 14 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Blog follows the building process of one of my Gunsmith Boxes. See the finished project HERE:

Click for details

A new addition to my personal website is a blog which I use to keep clients updated on the progress of their projects. I copied the contents of my blog here for you to see. If you would like to follow my blog as I update it, just click here and sign up for the RSS feed (at the bottom of the sidebar)



The selected Padauk in the back of my truck at the lumber yard:

Milling the Padauk; here it is going through the surface planer:

Ripping it to width and straightening the sides on the table saw:

Cross cutting the pieces to length on the radial arm saw:

Here are the cut pieces for the front, back and sides:

The front, back and sides sitting in place (just to show proportions)...


Here is the front of the box, cut into the top and bottom sections and the two drawers in between:

Here is the setup on the router table to cut the dovetails:

The machine cut dovetails for the sides of the box:

The joinery is complete! Next I dry-fit the pieces to check the fit:

Several different sized groves get cut into the interior of the box sides to accept the horizontal partitions and drawer slides.

Assembling the finished parts:

The box is glued up and clamped:

When the glue dries the clamps are removed and its beginning to look like a box:


To make the drawer fronts fit the front of the box a rabbet had to be cut into each end on the router table:

Here you can see the rabbets and how they allow the drawer fronts to fit:

Planing Poplar stock for the drawer sides from 3/4” down to 1/2”:

Crosscutting the poplar for the drawer sides:

Ripping them to width:

Cutting the joinery for the drawers on the router table:

Dovetails in the drawer sides:

The other side of the dovetail joint is called the “pins.” Here are the pins in the drawer front:

Measuring and laying out center lines for the carving detail in the drawer fronts:

Start by drilling out the center with a forstner bit on the drill press:

The hole:

Ready to start carving:

Marking the oval:

I hand carve the recess with a Japanese gouge and mallet.

The finished carving: The solid brass pull will go in the center.

To assemble the drawers, the sides need a dado cut into them to receive the drawer bottom:

Cutting the Mahogany ply drawer bottoms to size:

All the joinery is complete and the finished pieces are ready to assemble:

The drawer clamped and glued:

Once the glue is cured the clamps are removed:

Dovetail joinery on where the side of the drawer meets the front:

I put the two drawers in the box but they still need to be “fit in.” They will still need drawer slides and a lot of work before they operate smoothly.

Detail of the two carved recesses:


A lot of work goes into carefully fitting the drawers so they will slide perfectly into place. I still need to make the slides:

Now I start building the lids. Here are the pieces for the frame of the lids:

Again the dovetail joinery is machined on the router table to match the sides of the box:

Then a dado (grove) is cut into the side of each frame piece to accept the plywood middle:

Checking the fit:

Mahogany ply will become the core of the lid for stability:

Ready to assemble:

The lid glued up and clamped:

The assembled lid:

Here are the two lids in place. They will still get figured maple and inlay inserted into the recesses before they are finished:


This is my home made drum sander. I built an additional attachment for it just to sand these boxes. Normally you pass thin stock under the drum on the lower table. This new upper table allows me to pass larger stuff over the drum.

The top of the drum sander table:

Running the side of the box over the sanding drum:

All sides have been drum sanded now. There is still a lot of orbital sanding and hand sanding to be done before it is ready.

The dovetail joinery on the sides is looking nice after being sanded flush:

I have removed the upper table from the machine and now I am passing the lid pieces through the sander:

The lids in are in place. It took a lot of work to get them to fit perfectly. Sitting in front of the box are the Maple inserts and some spacers to bring them up flush with the top.

Now I am gluing the Maple inserts in place.

After the glue sets up I run them through the drum sander again until they are flush.

Here I am routing a channel for the inlay banding around the edges of the lid.

Routing between the Padauk and Maple:

This is the inlay banding I will use:

I cut the tiny mitered joints with a chisel:

And dry fit them in place:

Here is the first banding glued down:

They swell a little from the glue so they must be scraped until they are flush with the surface.

The inlay banding is in place on one lid. It is ready for the final sanding:


These are the “Brusso” premium solid brass hinges for the two lids. They are about $40 per pair. This box uses two pair.

Marking for the hinges:

The holes have been drilled for the hinges with a forstner bit:

This special drill bit pre-drills the screw holes perfectly in line with the holes in the hinge:

I use steel screws for now. Eventually all of the parts will need to be disassembled before applying the finish. I will save the brass screws until final assembly.

The lids in place:

This is the start of the rifle holders:

After a hole is cut on the drill press, the rest of the shape is cut on the bandsaw:

And finally sanded on the oscillating spindle sander.

This is one of the handles being shaped on the router table:

Two holes are drilled through the side of the handle:

After It is glued and clamped in place, I drill through the holes in the handle into the side of the box. Then I drive a wooden dowel through the holes for strength.

After the glue dries I cut off the excess dowel length with a flush-cutting hand saw:

The I sand the handle flat:

The decorative circles are actually dowels for strength:

Now I am cutting the lid pulls on the table saw:

The process for attaching the pulls is similar to the handles. I first drill the holes in the pulls:

Then glue them and clamp them in place:

Once the glue is dry I drill the rest of the way into the lid:

Instead of wooden dowels, I am driving solid brass rod through the front of the pulls. The brass will show from the front of the box.


This is the inlay I will use for the top of the box. I got it from Rockler.

To make a router jig for the inlay I cut a hole in a scrap of MDF on the drill press.

I measure and mark where the inlay will go:

And then use double stick “carpet tape” to temporarily attach the jig.

The jig taped in place:

The router bit has a ball bearing that follows the jig:

After routing out the circle I pull off the jig and I have a shallow, circular indentation:

Then I glue and clamp the inlay in place:

After the glue dries I remove the clamp:

And sand it flat with a random orbit sander:

I cut the monogram “C” on the scroll saw. Then I mark where it will go:

I rout this shape by hand with a palm router:

After this point I must use a chisel and gouge to finalize the shape:

When it is ready I glue it in place:

The excess glue must be sanded off:

Final sanding with a vibrating pad sander:

More sanding up to 600 grit, and finally 1500 grit by hand:

I didn’t photograph the oiling process. I first applied 6 consecutive coats of hand rubbed tung oil. Each coat takes about 24 hours to dry. Applying the oil takes about a week. After the Tung oil cures I hand rub and polish the box with 3 layers of Paste Wax.

Here I am installing the hardware for the rifle arms:

And the brass hinges get there final fit with brass screws… I make sure they are all oriented horizontally.

It takes a half hide of black cow leather to yield enough pieces to line this box.

I cut the pieces with a square and razor blade:

Then contact cement gets painted on to each surface and the leather is carefully aligned and pressed into place.

After a final polish and inspection, this box is ready to go!


Here are some photos of the completed box taken by its new owner in Texas!

The “C” monogram and duck inlay:

The owner’s supplies look right at home:

Thanks for looking!

-- Happy woodworking!

17 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5618 days

#1 posted 01-10-2011 10:18 PM

this is wonderful… the blog is not only a great gift to go along with the box (can you imagine their great-grandchildren seeing this?) but it also is a great record for you for future reference.

I’m sure the photography added a lot of time to the production of this piece.

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

View HerbC's profile


1822 posts in 4316 days

#2 posted 01-10-2011 11:43 PM


Great project and great blog. Thanks for taking the time to thoroughly document this build.


Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Robsshop's profile


923 posts in 4432 days

#3 posted 01-11-2011 12:04 AM

Blake, this is an awesome post ! From the project its self to the pics and build blog. You have really taken this site and its features to a professional level ! I am glad to see You are making strides in the professional arena, I think this project will be a great addition to Your already impressive portfolio. The box its self is a great looking and functional piece, the craftsmanship and attention to the details are top notch ! I really like seeing the process within someones shop of how they progress thru a project and its great to see it all spelled out with pics and description like this, really helpful stuff for us novelists . Good luck with its success and thanks again for the look at a great post !

-- Rob,Gaithersburg,MD,One mans trash is another mans wood shop treasure ! ;-)

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 4288 days

#4 posted 01-11-2011 12:16 AM

Double on the WOW!
The photography in your blog is fabulous. Thanks for taking the time to describe your process with such detail.
The final product is definitely well worth the effort.
Nice, Nice, Nice, etc.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View RexMcKinnon's profile


2593 posts in 4652 days

#5 posted 01-11-2011 12:44 AM

Great post. Anyone missing this one is losing out. Going in my fav’s!

-- If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

View mafe's profile


13872 posts in 4546 days

#6 posted 01-11-2011 01:55 AM

You have done a exelent blog here, so informative, so precise, and now I understand why you miss that workspace. Wonderfull tools also seen on the way.
Thank you for the fine series of photos on this build.
You have done a exelent job there.
Best thoughts,

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

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 5130 days

#7 posted 01-11-2011 03:19 AM

Thats a nice peice of furniture.

View JL7's profile


8793 posts in 4422 days

#8 posted 01-11-2011 04:42 AM

Blake – great looking project – excellent tutorial. Glad to hear their are some folks out there that will pay for all the time and effort it takes to make these. Good luck selling the other two, but no doubt you will. Thanks for posting.


-- Jeff .... Minnesota, USA

View tyka's profile


142 posts in 4150 days

#9 posted 01-11-2011 05:16 AM

Thanks for all the pics and the comments. I’ve learned a lot just going through your post fast. I will come back. I love the way you do dovetail joinery with your router/table. Tks for taking the time to make this presentation.

-- Paul, Plantagenet, Ontario

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1133 posts in 4431 days

#10 posted 01-11-2011 05:30 AM

Wow, incredible.
Thanks for taking the time to detail your craftsmanship

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View Bob42's profile


457 posts in 5247 days

#11 posted 01-11-2011 06:55 PM

Excellent post!!! The project looks great, my son is drooling. Very well done. I really like the tung oil and wax finish.

-- Bob K. East Northport, NY

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4791 days

#12 posted 01-11-2011 10:28 PM

Thanks Blake. Outstanding blog and project. Thanks for posting, I enjoyed it a lot.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4324 days

#13 posted 01-11-2011 10:37 PM

This is outstanding and the presentation of it is fabulous. I will make it a favorite. You have built a beautiful box that will serve you well. Congratulations on a job well done.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4324 days

#14 posted 01-11-2011 10:42 PM

I just looked at your projects and your shop. You do some wonderful work and are very productive. I also love your shop. Thanks for posting this.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4534 days

#15 posted 01-28-2011 03:48 PM

Really enjoyed this blog Blake. No doubt you have a crazy eye for detail and it shines through in your work.

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

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