Boxland: Work Stations and Boxing Tips #10: Adding Splines To A Box

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Blog entry by Boxguy posted 03-11-2013 07:07 PM 11432 reads 16 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Making an Attached Top Box Part 10 of Boxland: Work Stations and Boxing Tips series Part 11: Making Indented Finger Lifts »

Adding Splines To a Box

Assumptions: I assume you have looked at the tutorial on making the splines themselves. The tutorial on cutting the splines slots with the jig there gives you a box that looks like this on the corner.

The next step is to glue the splines into the slots.

I should have pictured it, but I apply Tightbond’s Carpenter’s and Trim Glue to both the spline and the slot to assure there will be a good bond. This thicker glue is easier to work with, and much less runny, but it should be stored upside down to be sure it flows out when you squeeze the bottle.

Keeping your plumber’s brushes in water will let you reuse these brushed for months. Dry them on a paper towel before you apply glue.

(below) This is a demonstration box that I use to explain to customers and students the steps involved in the spline process. All the spline slots are cut and the splines glued in place and smoothed down even with the sides of the box before the top of the box is separated and the hinge is added.

(above) This represents adding the splines in the demo box. There is a tutorial about gluing on a lid onto the box.

So now you have a rough box complete and it looks like this. (Below)

Let’s take a close look at the corners.

As you can see the top and the splines are hanging over the sides. Now make to trip to the band saw and trim away most of that overhang without cutting into the side of the box.

After bandsawing away the overhanging top and splines, It will look something like this on the corners.

With the overhang removed you can now apply a large bearing-centered flush trim bit to remove the last of the overhanging top board. The alternative is to use rough grit sandpaper to remove the last of the spline overhang and top overhang and then make the sides of the box smooth and all surfaces flush. This will give you a box that looks something like this corner does.

For rounding over the corners and the top of the box your bearing has to ride on the smooth sides of the box. There is a real possibility of kickback when you are using a large roundover bit on a router. Use a starter pin, and consider making a light pass first, then another pass. Grip the box tightly and be very wary of kickback! You may be more comfortable using a flush trim bit on the first step of this route to smooth away the overhanging top after you have used the band saw. The flush trimming bit will remove the last of the top overhang on the side of the box or you can smooth away the last of the spline and top overhang with sanding using rough grits. This is the time you want to remove all of the glue squeeze out from gluing your splines into the slots.

Next the top is separated and hinges are added and the corners are sanded and finished.

When all this is done you should have a box that looks something like this.

To see other boxes click here.


Making a tutorial with this many links and pictures is pretty exhausting. I hope it is of use to my fellow Lumber Jocks.

-- Big Al in IN

14 comments so far

View ellen35's profile


2750 posts in 4769 days

#1 posted 03-11-2013 07:15 PM

I do know how complicated and time consuming writing this kind of blog is… you have done an excellent job. I particularly like your technique and your pictures. All the little hints are great as well (upside down glue bottle, your glue center) I cut my excess off the splines with a dozuko saw. This works well too.

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Boxguy's profile


2905 posts in 3604 days

#2 posted 03-11-2013 07:24 PM

Ellen, I have used that saw for this job and you are right is does work very well. Guess I am just getting lazy in my old age.

-- Big Al in IN

View moonls's profile


412 posts in 4323 days

#3 posted 03-11-2013 09:07 PM

I agree with Ellen that you did a nice job and the finished box you illustrated shows you are the box master!

-- Lorna, Cape Cod

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


23308 posts in 5013 days

#4 posted 03-12-2013 02:55 AM

I agree 100%, excellent job.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Boxguy's profile


2905 posts in 3604 days

#5 posted 03-12-2013 03:11 AM

Lorna, thanks. I hope these tutorials help some fellow LJs. Good luck with your summer sales.

Topa, thanks and it is always good to hear from you.

-- Big Al in IN

View harrywho's profile


123 posts in 4569 days

#6 posted 03-12-2013 06:08 PM

Great tutorial Al! I’ve just finished rereading all 10 entries and I’m sure I will refer to them often. I’m going to TRY to make some of those great jigs you’ve described.
Thanks again.
Harry up in NE Indiana

-- Harry, Indiana

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4141 days

#7 posted 03-12-2013 10:03 PM

I sure appreciate you sharing your expertise on the subject of boxes. Kudos to you Al

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

View woodworksbyjohn's profile


89 posts in 4029 days

#8 posted 03-21-2013 05:04 PM

Boxguy, I have a question. When you glue the top solidly onto the box do you ever have an issue with it splitting? I was always told that the top should be able to float to allow for temperature and humidity changes. I see you have done this before so wondering if you’ve had any problems with that—Thanks

-- John Visit my Blog:

View skiler's profile


71 posts in 3292 days

#9 posted 03-24-2013 02:03 PM

Great looking work! Thanks for sharing. Gonna give this a try.

View Francois Vigneron's profile

Francois Vigneron

263 posts in 3656 days

#10 posted 07-06-2013 10:24 PM

I learned a lot. It’s clearer than most books and I really appreciate all the effort you put into it. Thanks for the tutorials !

-- Francois Vigneron, Gif-sur-Yvette, France & Altadena, CA

View woodworksbyjohn's profile


89 posts in 4029 days

#11 posted 07-06-2013 10:30 PM

Excellent tutorial, thanks

-- John Visit my Blog:

View Boxguy's profile


2905 posts in 3604 days

#12 posted 07-07-2013 09:56 AM

Reply about splitting tops.

John, you are right about the attached lid boxes; there is a risk of cross grain splitting. Only time will tell. I have some that have gone about 10 years with no signs of a crack, but it could happen with a top glued on to the cross grain. Smaller size and air dried wood seems to help. It would not be a good idea with a larger box.

The inset tops that float would be a better bet for a box that you wanted to last for 100 years. I like the look so well that I can’t resist making them this way.

-- Big Al in IN

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 3849 days

#13 posted 08-14-2013 10:32 AM

This is a very useful blog, thanks a bunch for taking the time Big Al

When cutting the access away from my splines I take it to the bandsaw with a 3/16” 14 TPI blade I am able to do a complete row at one time, then finish the rest on the 4” belt sander.

As for as wood movement, could it be that these boxes are small enough that movement isn’t as big an issue as a much larger project say for example a cabinet door?

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View robscastle's profile


8349 posts in 3541 days

#14 posted 05-22-2018 11:03 PM

OK more invaluvable info hers again Big Al,
I think Blackie summed it up in the first line.

But thanks again.!!

-- Regards Rob

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