Making simple boxes with inlay designs in lid.

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Blog entry by Jim Finn posted 01-09-2012 07:50 PM 11285 reads 3 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch

I make simple boxes, mostly of cedar with poplar inlays. There are many fine ways to make boxes and this is about the simplest. I make them 11”x8”x2 1/2” deep with hinged lid. 8” is my limit of the width of wood so anything over that will have a splice in it, which I avoid doing. I start by planeing and re-sawing the 1” thick rough eastern red cedar to 3/8” thickness on my band saw. I then cut strips to 2 1/4” to form the sides of the box. I cut 45 degree cuts on these to 11” and 8” lengths in my compound miter saw. Apply white glue and hold together these pieces with masking tape until I get a rubber band around it. Remove tape and let dry before removing rubber band. I sand the top and bottom edges flat in a “V” sander or use sandpaper glued to a flat surface. This is how I do double bevel inlay:
I use 3/8” cedar and inlay 3/8” soft maple into it. I also use have used oak, walnut, and maple. I have used mahogany a few times also. I have one of my scroll saws set to 2.2 degrees, approximately, that I use only for inlays. I set that angle with a Wixie but you can also do it by trial and error and it is just as good a way to do it. This is how to get the right angle: Stack the two woods you want to use, scraps. Tape or hot glue them together. Do some trial cuts starting at 2 degrees and adjusting up until you get the fit needed. Start at the edge and cut out the shape of a mushroom, freehand, and see how it fits. With the table tilted down on the left of the blade and keeping the image you want to inlay to the right of the blade make your mushroom cut and see how well the bottom wood after doing the cutting, fits into the upper. If it will not go all the way up you need to lessen the angle and if the bottom wood comes up to high you need to sharpen the angle closer to 3 degrees. I move mine about two tenths of a degree at a time. Remember a little too loose a fit is better than too tight a fit. I inlay into cedar mostly and if it is too tight a fit and I try hammering it in place with a plastic hammer I split the cedar. Perfect fit can be attained with many trial and error mushrooms. I leave most of mine just a little loose and fill any slight gaps with a mixture of white glue and sanding powder of the base wood. Cedar in my case. I use Flying Dutchman Polar #5 blades but whatever you use be consistent. I hot glue the wood to be inlaid to the underside of the base wood and draw the image or lettering on the top wood. I drill 1/16” starter hole or holes at six degrees toward the outside of the image with the image to the right of the drill bit. This six degrees will cause this starter hole to not appear in the final inlay. It enters inside the image on top and exits outside the image on the bottom. After drilling the starter hole just inside the image insert the saw blade and cut the image out keeping the image to the right of the blade. Cut the entire image out, remove the bottom wood scrap and do a dry fit of your image. If it fits well enough tape the top image piece to the bottom one and cut any interior lines you want in the image in a scroll saw set at 90 degrees. Make all these interior cuts so that the wood does not fall apart. Keeping “bridges” of wood to hold the image together in one piece. I cut these two images together for two reasons. (1) The internal lines are not on the lower piece and (2) cutting this ¾” thickness gives you more control of your cut. Slows your feed rate down a little. Now apply glue (I use Elmer’s white glue) to the edge of the piece to be inlaid and spread it all along the edge using a small artists’ brush. Insert the inlay from the back side of the base wood and push in place. After glue is set, sand or plane smooth, both sides. Using a mix of white glue and sanding powder (From the base wood, or the inlay wood) and a credit card as a squeegee force it into any slight gaps or cracks in your inlay. Let it dry and sand again. Repeat a few times because the glue mixture will shrink a little.
If you have any questions Email me [email protected]

I use white Elmer’s glue to glue the inlayed top and the plain bottom in place and clamp with 6-8 quick clamps. After it dries (Overnight) I cut off any overhang of the top and bottom over the sides and sand this flush in my stationary belt sander. Then fill in any gaps or flaws in the wood with the glue and cedar powder mixture and sand smooth after it dries. (12 hours). I then apply about 2-3 coats of finish.

Now I cut the top off of the box in my band saw with the fence set to make a 3/4” thick lid. Sand this band saw cut smooth and apply the brass hinges. I just screw them to the outside of the box and lid. I then put on another coat of finish and call the box done. I hope these instructions will help.

-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

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403 posts in 3825 days

#1 posted 01-16-2012 04:32 AM

Really awsome technique, Thanks for posting this!!! I learned allot from it and will have to try this in the near future.

-- Michael Mills, North Carolina,

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