Making a Small Wooden Box #1: Getting Started

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Blog entry by Don posted 08-11-2007 09:06 AM 115521 reads 64 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Making a Small Wooden Box series Part 2: Spline Jig »

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about what I should charge for a small box I was asked to make.

I thought that those of you who haven’t delved into the wonderful world of box making might like to journey along with me as I make this commissioned box. I was given the outside dimension for the box, as the owner intends to place it in a chest of drawers, so it must fit the size constraints of the drawer. The box will be 95mm high x 360mm wide x 240mm deep (approximately 3.75” x 14” x 9.5”).

I have selected a wood I’ve had in my stock for some time. I’m not absolutely certain, but I believe it to be Northern Queensland Lacy Oak.

The joinery will be miters with splines. The lid will be a frame and panel with a Burl veneered.

Below I’ve milled the box walls to approximately 1/2” thickness, cut the pieces to length and mitered the ends.

Here I’m clamping the Victoria Ash trim to the lid frames.

After the glue has dried, I plane with a small Stanley adjustable mouth block plane and finish with a scraper.

This shows that I’ve decided to add trim to the inside of the frame to highlight the veneered insert panel. I’ve also cut the rebate to hold the veneered panel using my router table.

Before cutting for the spline I glued up the lid frame. The box in the foreground is not yet glued up.

Then I used this miter spline jig to cut for the insertion of a spline.

Here you see the lid glued up with the splines inserted and glued. The box is only dry fitted at this point.

This final shot today shows the box being glued up. I use two picture frame clamps to apply even pressure to the miters. Note that I have stained and inserted the base of the box. The base is ‘trapped’ in a rebate, but not glued. I have found that installing the base this way when using mitered joinery helps to keep the corners square and stop the miter joint from creeping when the glue is drying.

This represents about eight hours of work thus far. More pictures in a few days when I progress.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

23 comments so far

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4061 posts in 4864 days

#1 posted 08-11-2007 09:28 AM

Go Don Go! Very elegant splining jig. I had to subscribe to the RSS feed on this one…

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

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4886 days

#2 posted 08-11-2007 09:30 AM

I can already tell its going to be a winner. Beautiful wood, and I like the addition of the trim. It should set the burl off to great effect. Great progress shots.

-- Bob

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6869 posts in 4779 days

#3 posted 08-11-2007 01:21 PM


Absolutely beautiful ! The splines in the miters are larger then I’m used to seeing, and I love it.

It really stands out nicely. Also, as Bob pointed out, the trim added to the lid will make the burk really stand out.

You are going to end up making me build some small wooden boxes, I’ve had all I can stand, seeing how beautiful they can be!

I hope you’re happy! One more hobby to use up my spare time! LOL

I hope you get this done quickly, so I can see the final project photo’s.

Also, as Douglas mentioned the jig you used for the splines deserves some explaining.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4762 days

#4 posted 08-11-2007 01:36 PM

Boy, Don, you not only love small wooden boxes, you do a darn good job of making them! That wood is going to be pretty outstanding when you get some finish on it. Outstanding design! I can’t wait to see the finished product. Hurry up, will ya!!

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View DustyDave's profile


70 posts in 4747 days

#5 posted 08-11-2007 02:28 PM


Very nice. Great inspiration.


-- Dave _-^-_ Baltimore, MD

View Obi's profile


2214 posts in 5037 days

#6 posted 08-11-2007 02:37 PM

Anyone who has a Barton Box, truly has a work of art.

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 4897 days

#7 posted 08-11-2007 03:39 PM

I can testify to that Obi. The one you have is wonderful.

Looking forward to seeing the completed box Don. It is coming along great.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Lboy's profile


196 posts in 4882 days

#8 posted 08-11-2007 06:08 PM

Thanks Don, for the detail in making this box. I have had it in my mind to make my daughter a jewlery box, but havn’t gotten past the thinking about it.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4960 days

#9 posted 08-12-2007 01:14 PM

how exciting – getting to watch you build a small wooden box!

I would like to see more on how to do the splines

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

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4824 days

#10 posted 08-12-2007 03:19 PM

Fantastic! I’ve always been scared of making a box because the joinery has to be so precise. You’re going to have me trying it before it’s over.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View Steffen's profile


326 posts in 4835 days

#11 posted 08-12-2007 08:42 PM

very nice work Don…

-- Steffen - Kirkland, WA

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 4877 days

#12 posted 08-13-2007 02:36 PM

Great and wonderful work on this blog Don. You really got me interested!

Now I can say: I love small wooden boxes, Don! (With your permission.)

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 5044 days

#13 posted 08-13-2007 03:47 PM

Can’t wait to see the finished project, we all know it will be abeautiful one. Thanks for sharing you process.

-- Joel Tille

View Jeff's profile


91 posts in 4748 days

#14 posted 08-13-2007 07:35 PM

This is one of the reasons that I joined so that I could learn knew things and get ideas to try myself. Don your pictures say a lot and your box look great, the contrast in colors is cool and I would like to use your ideas to come up with something for myself. Great work.

-- Jeff B.

View Karson's profile


35224 posts in 5200 days

#15 posted 08-18-2007 02:53 AM

Don. Now I see it. It was reposted as a blog. Great job.

-- 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]

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