Old Projects #13: Cross Box Tutorial

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Blog entry by Madmark2 posted 12-21-2020 08:59 PM 350 reads 1 time favorited 0 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 12: Build a Tile Topped End Table Tutorial Part 13 of Old Projects series Part 14: Inlaid Bible Box/Stand Tutorial »

Jatoba (Brazillian Cherry) Box
Bacote (Mexican Rosewood) Inlay
Last Revision: 1 November 2000

Client Custom Ordered This

Interior is felt lined


Inlay Detail


This is another in a continuing series of projects using Lynn’s Box Joint Jig. It is an easy weekend project and makes a lovely presentation box with an inlaid Maltese cross. The basic box is Brazillian Cherry (Jatoba) and the inlay is Mexican Rosewood (Bacote). The construction is very straight forward and only two pieces of wood are use in the entire project. The box is sized to hold standard 8½” by 11” papers and is felt lined.

5/4×7” x 48” Jatoba, resawn in half
4/4×4” x 12” Bacote, resawn into four pieces
1¼” x ½” Brass Stop Hinges w/mtg hardware (Rockler #70391)
Box Lock w/mtg hardware (Rockler #71449)
Victorian Solide Brass Keyhole Eustucion w/mtg hardware, 2-3/8” wide. (Rockler #11594)
½ yd. Maroon Felt
4, ¾” diameter felt pads (feet)
2, 3/8” diameter felt pads (slam bumpers)

How To…
Start with material prep. I bought a 4’ piece of 7” wide 5/4 Jatoba and had my wood supplier, Brad at Chipmunk Hardwoods, resaw it in half so I had two pieces about 5/8” thick. I also bought a small block (4” x 12”) of 4/4 Bacote and had Brad slice that into four slices, each nominally ¼” — less a bandsaw kerf.

When I got the materials home I began the project by converting the rough cut wood into usable lumber. I planed one face of the two Jatoba pieces to get a reference face. I then trimmed both edges with the reference face down on the TS to get a pair of clean edges. Finally one piece was finish planed to ½” thick and the other was planed just enough to get both faces flat.

The thicker piece of Jatoba was then cut in half and edge glued using the biscuiter to insure proper alignment. I used the PC 557 biscuiter and #10 biscuits about every 6”. This was glued with Elmers “Carpenters Yellow” glue, put under the clamps and left to set.

Making the sides…
While the first piece was drying, I began work on the 2nd piece. This one was destined to be the body of the box and had been planed to exactly ½”. I carefully ripped it to exactly 6½” inches (the plan calls for a ¼” box joint and you need to land on a multiple of ½” for the teeth to come out even.) The board was then rough cut to get two 10½” and two 13” pieces. These were then cut in pairs to their final lengths of 10” and 12½” to form the four sides of the box.

Lynn’s Box Joint JigI mounted Lynn’s Box Joint Jig to the mitre fence and started cutting the box joints. The depth of the saw was set so that the joint was just a hair deeper than the thickness of the sides. Normally I would tape the matching sides together as a pair and cut them as a set, but I wanted to take my time and make this as precise as possible (sometimes the pair will shift during cutting no matter how tight the tape is!). I cut each end of all four pieces separately on the box joint jig. Once all four pieces were cut, I lightly sanded the fingers with #150 to get rid of any tearout. The box was dry fit to use as a dimensional reference for the top and bottom.

Making the top…
By this time the glue up had set on the first piece and I pulled the clamps off. The glue line was cleaned up with a pass thru the planer and the #150 sander and I now had a board about 13” wide by two feet long. I cut it in half and then ripped to about ½” over what I needed for the width on the top and bottom (9”).

I mounted the ¾” straight cutter into the ½” table router and set the TS fence 3” back from the near edge of the cutter. I set the depth of the cutter just shy of the thickness of the Bacote slices (around 1/8”). This was set by feel rather than be measurement. I set the depth intentionally shallow so that the inlay would be slightly proud of the finished surface. This aids in clamping.

I ran the top thru face down and cut the first dado. I then adjusted the fence so that it was 6” away from the far edge of the cutter and made the 2nd pass. This defined the limits of the 3” wide dado that was to receive the inlay. I moved the fence back to about 3½” from the near edge of the cutter and ran the rest of the dado. I moved the fence about ½ after each cut. You need to work increasing fence spacing so that the router doesn’t try and grab the piece from you (Bad router!).

Once the horizontal (with the grain) dado was cut, I reset the fence to 4¼” from the near edge of the router bit and did the first crossgrain cut. Again I moved the fence out to 7¼” from the far edge of the cutter to define the opposite edge of the dado. The rest of the dado was cut in the same way as the first and I very quickly had the outline of my inlay done. I did a little touchup with the chisel to get rid of any tool marks in the bottom of the dados.

I ripped the pieces of Bacote so that they would just fit in the dado slots. My slots were pretty well dead on 3” wide, this gives the cross a nice proportion with the top being divided into thirds.

I used the CMS to cut a 45° in the middle of two pieces of 12” x 3” Bacote. I then measured the distance from the heel of the mitre to the end and marked the other side of each piece to match. I also marked the centerline of each piece. If the ends are cut right, both mitres should meet at the centerline. I flipped the pieces around in the CMS and slowly snuck up on the end mitre. When I hit both my heel mark and the center line at the same time, I knew I was as tight as it was going to get. This process was reapeated for four inlays.

The inlays were dry fit until I was satisfied with their positioning. Then the bottom and sides of the dado was ‘painted’ with glue as were one side and the edges of each inlay. All four inlays were tweaked and then the top and the inlays were clamped. I used a piece of 1×3 as the crossing piece with a 3” ‘C’ clamp on either end. The exposed ends of the other inlays were clamped with a block and a ‘C’ clamp of their own. The clamps were tightened, the squeeze out cleaned up with a damp rag and the whole thing was allowed to set over night. You can’t unclamp after just an hour or two with such a large gluing surface.

Using the dry fit box as a guide, I measured and precisely cut the bottom to fit.

Since there was nothing else to do while the glue set, I called it a day.

time passes…
Ok, we rejoin our saga with the top coming out of the clamps after drying for 24 hours.
Now that the top was fully cured I rough trimmed the overhang from the inlays on the TS. The top was then sent thru the planer to bring the inlays flust with the rest of the top (now you understand why the top and bottom board wasn’t planed too much initially). When the inlays were flush, the top was then trimmed to the exact size using the dry fit box as a guide.

Initial Assembly
The top and bottom were separately fit into the box and marked for biscuits. The edges of the box were marked to insure that they would be reassembled in the correct relationships. The biscuits were cut using the Ryobi Detail biscuiter as the sides are too thin for the PC 557. The box was knocked apart. All pieces recieved a good ‘10 pass’ sanding with #150 on the 5” ROS. The interior of the box would be felt lined and so this was all the sanding they were going to get. This also meant that I didn’t care too much about glue smudges on the interior surfaces.

Assembling a box is tricky. Start with one long face, then glue in the top and bottom. Add the opposite long face and you now have a hollow rectangle. Using one of the sides as a spacer, upend the box onto the spacer. Poured a couple of ounces of glue into a cup and using an acid brush smear glue inside all the fingers and on the inside ½” of each board end and on the side. Gently rap the side into place with a hammer and a block. Flip it onto the end you just installed and repeat the gluing process for the other end. Once you have all four sides installed, go around it a couple of times with your hammer and block to insure that all joints are tight. Finally throw every clamp you have onto the box. I started with two band clamps to get things into position and then used bar clamps with blocks at each set of joints. I wound up with ten clamps on this box, two band clamps and an upper and lower barclamp at each joint and on both sides. Let it set for a couple of hours.

Although I cut as precisely as I can, I almost always have some thin gaps. After the clamps come off I rub wood putty of the appropriate color into all of the joints, edges and seams. This is then cleaned off and allowed to dry.

The box was then placed onto the 3×21 belt sander with a #80 belt on it. I lay the sander on it’s back and clamp it to the bench and use it as a stationary belt sander. I hit the fingers of each joint and sanded them down until they were flush with the rest of the side. BE CAREFUL with the belt sander — sand in the direction of the grain and keep the piece moving both end to end as well as side to side. If you stop moving the piece you will leave a ridge in the wood as the #80 belt cuts in a hurry! Sand all fingers flush with the sides.

Once the fingers are smoothed out move to the router station and use a 1/8”R rounder, round the edges of the top and the bottom. I didn’t round the box joint itself as I didn’t want to risk tearout.

Sand ten passes with #150 and then 10 more passes with #220. Be sure to get the edges and to take out any glue or other imperfections. I hook up the shop vac to the 5” ROS to keep the dust down as the Jatoba dust is an irritant to me. After much sanding you should now have a sealed box.

Completing the Assembly
I hate this part… Move to the TS and cut the sealed box in half, 2” down from the top. Set you cut so that you hit the glue edge between two fingers instead of cutting thru the middle of a finger. Set the blade depth so it just cuts thru the side of the box and cut the two short sides first. Then the long two sides. You should now have a box and a lid.

Sand the cut edge of your box to remove any sawburn or other saw marks (you will always have a little bit where the last cut hits the sides.)

Mounting the Hardware
Lock—Rockler #71449Lock mortise detail
Here is where we transition from power tools to hand tools. The lock is mortised into the inside of the box. Since we didn’t know exactly where we were going to cut the box lid, you can’t precut the mortise before assembly. Additionally the mortise is into both the inside and the lip of the box so it has to be cut afterwards. The mortise is hard to cut not only due to it’s complexity but also due to the hardness of the Jatoba and the fact that you’re working inside the bottom half of the assembled box. I laid out the lock and marked it’s outer edges. I used a sharp blade in the utility knife to cut the grain where I wanted the mortise to end. Using a sharp (soon to be dull) chisel I slowly cut out the mortise. I did the deep center portion of the mortise first and would chisel a little and then score the sides a little deeper and then chisle some more. Patience is the order of the day. You certainly don’t want to put a big gouge into the piece at this stage of the game. You have to mortise the lock so it sits flush with both the inside of the box and with the top lip of the box. If you don’t, the locking pin won’t mount correctly. Eustucian—Rockler #11594Continue fiddling until it’s “just right”. It took me a couple of hours to mortise the lock and the hinges in. Once you have the lock in place, drill the keyhole with a ¼” bit. Don’t worry that the hole is a bit bigger than needed, this is why they make keyhole eustucians!

Once you have the lock in place be sure to predrill the screw holes. The Jatoba is so dense that you’ll simply strip the head off the tiny brass screws if you don’t drill them deep enough. I also rub soap in the screw threads. I hate this part. If you shear off a screw head at this point there isn’t a whole lot you can do to recover.

After much trepidation, the lock was mounted. Now on to the hinges. The hinges used are 95° stop hinges. This is so the top is self supporting in the open position. The style of hinge chosen by the client (did I mention that this was a commissioned piece?) was a Brusso #JB-102 (Rockler #70391) and has a very nice square style. After you mortise the hinges in (I set mine in 2½” from each side) you will need to chamfer the bottom of the mortise slightly (about 1/16”) so that the knuckle of the hinge will pivot smoothly.

Well we’re into the stretch now (you know it takes almost as long to prep the web page as it did to make the entire project?!)

The box is mechanically complete at this point. The client had specificaly requested “dark” so I chose to finish with boiled linseed oil and paste wax. A old fashioned finish appropriate to the piece. As the linseed oil dries it will darken the wood, and that is exacly the effect I wanted. I poured on the linseed oil nice and thick and let it sit over night and soak in. The box was finished inside and out.

Rags with linseed oil on them WILL spontaneously combust!
Be SURE to store them in a sealed metal can!
After the oil had soaked in all night I gave the box three coats of “Johnson’s Paste Wax” on the outside only. This is because I was going to line the inside with felt and didn’t want to try and glue on top of wax!

After I put each coat of wax on I buff the box with a piece of terry cloth stuck on the pad of the 5” ROS. This works surprisingly well!

I cut the felt to the right length but somewhat (about ½” wider) than necessary. Bevel the bottom corners ½”. Use paper to mask off all but the area to receive this piece of felt and use a spray adhesive (Elmer’s “Craft Bond Spray Glue”) to wet the surface of the wood. (Do this outside and wear a mask, the fumes are something awful!) Position the felt even with the top edge of the box and press in place with a wide putty knife. Use the putty knife to crease the felt into the corners. If there is any felt wrapping around the vertical corners use your utility knife to trim off the excess. Repeat this process for the four sides of the box and the lid, do the main top and bottom pieces last.

Apply four ¾” self adhesive felt pads to the bottom near each corner. Apply two 3/8” self adhesive felt pads to the top corners of the lid. These act as a cushion when the box is closed.

Well that wraps up another project.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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