Making a Small Wooden Box #2: Spline Jig

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Blog entry by Don posted 08-13-2007 11:33 AM 40025 reads 25 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Getting Started Part 2 of Making a Small Wooden Box series Part 3: Lid and Trays »

In my opinion, one of the most difficult joints to make is a miter joint. Although they are very attractive, they have almost no inherent strength, and require a high degree of accuracy to get all four corners of a box or frame to meet without gaps. To ensure that they remain closed, I use a spline of some design to strengthen the joint.

A number requested additional information on the Miter Spline Jig I use when making boxes. I can’t take credit for the design of this jig, but for the life of me, I can’t remember where I got the idea; perhaps a magazine or maybe a woodworking buddy.

It’s very simple in concept; a carrier that allows me to pass the mitered corner of a box or box lid over the table saw blade at 45 degrees. I think the close-up pictures speak for themselves. The jig is crudely made, but the right-angle is dead accurate. I’ve been using this for about four years. Perhaps someday I will make one that looks like it belongs in Shop Notes; NOT. LOL

Here I have just cut two spline slots in the four corners of the previously glued up box body. The blade is tilted to ten degrees and the box was flipped so that the slots angled in opposite directions. The splines will be cut from American Maple and will be one saw curf wide. I will also use American Maple to make the trays that will fit into the box – but that’s a few blogs away yet.

A close-up of the spline slots.

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

25 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5373 days

#1 posted 08-13-2007 11:56 AM

it looks so simple

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

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6875 posts in 5191 days

#2 posted 08-13-2007 12:15 PM


From these angles, it’s easy to see. In the earlier photo, it looked like the box would be several inches from the saw table. Had me bewildered.

Thanks for posting this!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View TomFran's profile


2964 posts in 5206 days

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

Thanks a lot for your willingness to share your knowledge. The pictures are very helpful.

Isn’t it amazing that some of our jigs, although not very attactive, do an amazing job at their intended purpose?

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 5289 days

#4 posted 08-13-2007 02:31 PM

Great pictorial Don. Another great blog.

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

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5174 days

#5 posted 08-13-2007 02:41 PM

Don, Thanks for sharing. Seems the first of these I saw was in R. J. DeChristophoro’s Book “The Complete Book of Power Tools” I see no reason that our jigs need to look like our furniture. They only need to be functional. Most I use once or twice and that’s it. Your box works very well and that is what you expect from it. Keep going with these boxes, Don, because I just happen to LIKE little wooden boxes alot too.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 5456 days

#6 posted 08-13-2007 02:53 PM

thanks for the closeups. This could be in shop notes, in the shop it’s all about fuctionality not the beauty, that is what should be the end product. Of which you have many great examples.

-- Joel Tille

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5248 days

#7 posted 08-21-2007 04:39 AM

Well, that clears that up! Thanks for the post Don! Great tutorial. (subliminal CSS plug being sent down under)

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 5169 days

#8 posted 08-31-2007 07:06 PM

Great jig. Who cares what it looks like..if it does what its supposed to do its awesome! I am going to build one just like it! I love miters and I like the splines for decorative more than structural purposes. I love the angled effect too..a little tweak that makes all the differance in the beauty of the finneshed piece!


View Hawgnutz's profile


526 posts in 5288 days

#9 posted 09-10-2007 08:28 PM

Very nice jig, Don. Looks better than soem of my jigs….LOL As long as they get eth job done, who is gonna look at em, anyways!

Gonna have to make me one, too.

God Bless,

-- Saving barnwood from the scrapyards

View Andy's profile


1718 posts in 5120 days

#10 posted 09-21-2007 01:53 PM

Don, what type of blade do you use for cutting splines slots? I use a standard ATB saw blade which means the bottom of the kerf is not flat.I then use the edge of a file to clean them up. Tedious and not consistant results. I am thinking about getting a flat top grind ripping blade which will make a perfectly flat bottomed kerf.Whats your thoughts.Thanks in advance.

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

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5430 days

#11 posted 09-21-2007 04:44 PM

So many jigs… little time.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5430 days

#12 posted 09-21-2007 04:51 PM

BTW, this may be (read: probably is) a dumb question, but I noticed the spline cuts don’t seem to be perpendicular to the box side. Is this an appearance choice, or is that part of what adds extra strength to the joint?

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5389 days

#13 posted 09-22-2007 12:35 AM

Charlie, there are no dumb questions, only dumb answers. I hope this answer doesn’t sound too dumb.

It’s simply a design choice. I like the look, but my wife doesn’t. I can only hope that my client does.

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

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5389 days

#14 posted 09-22-2007 12:39 AM

Quote Andy: ”Don, what type of blade do you use for cutting splines slots?”

Andy, I have the same problem. I use a very narrow and sharp chisel to flatten out the bottom of the slot.

I, too, find this less than fully satisfactory. I plan to purchase a cheap saw blade and have it ground flat for this purpose. It will only get occasional use, so I don’t think that I should be necessary to spend good money for the blade.

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

View Krisztian's profile


89 posts in 5111 days

#15 posted 09-25-2007 04:22 AM

Very nice jig,Don.I need to make one,just like yours.

-- Krisztian VA My website:

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