Old Projects #14: Inlaid Bible Box/Stand Tutorial

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Blog entry by Madmark2 posted 12-22-2020 01:41 AM 606 reads 1 time favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: Cross Box Tutorial Part 14 of Old Projects series Part 15: Bathroom Medicine Chest »

I built this for family 20 years ago. I still have the dimensioned cutlist drawing if anyone is interested email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you a copy of the .PDF file.

Build A Bible Box with Inlaid Cross
Last Revision: December 31, 2000

Side View

Interior before felting

Test fit with bible, note tray base covering hidden compartment

Top View

3/4 on showing book stop at bottom

Hidden compartment


This is a project that I came up with that I made for my ex-BIL. It is a box with a space inside to keep a bible and a small interior tray for other stuff. There is even a secret compartment!

The top of the box is slanted and has a lip so that the bible can be placed opened on it and it will not fall to the floor. The box itself is made from Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry) and the cross was inlaid with Bacote (Mexican Rosewood). The entire unit was finished with linseed oil and paste wax and is a lovely “parlor” piece. It has non-skid feet, is lined with felt, and we added an engraved brass plate on the front with the sisters family name and “Christmas 2000” to complete the piece.

A complete dimensioned drawing is available by clicking here on the illustration to the right. The project was started by resawing an 8’ length of 5/4 jatoba, 6” wide into 5/8” slabs. These were then planed down and trimmed to get several lengths of finished ½” stock. We need two pieces about 30” long to make the top and bottom. Another piece of similar size was needed for the remaining parts. A small chunk of ¾” stock made the bottom of the pencil drawer.

Making the Top/Bottom
Cut out all the pieces according to the cutting guide. The dimensions shown are a tad over to allow for kerfs.

Take each pair of 15” pieces and give them a really clean edge. My TS does OK, you may need to use a jointer. Glue them up edge to edge. Use a pair of crossing boards and C-clamps to keep such a thin panel flat while the glue hardens. Once the glue has set remove the panels from the clamps and sand out any leftover glue squeezeout and feather the edges of the join to give a good #150 sanded surface on both sides. Trim to the 14½” x 9¾” finished dimension.

Inlay the Cross
Cutting the inlay slots for the cross is a little tricky. You’ll need a fence on your table router and a pair of stop blocks to limit the cut. I used a ¾” straight cutter, you can use another size, but you’ll have to adjust your measurements to compensate.

The top of the box has a flat part and a sloped part. The inlay is sized to give a 1” margin on the sloped part. But since the two pieces are still one, we have to adjust the routing dimensions for the still-attached top part. The actual routing operation isn’t that hard, but the setup is fussy. I started by routing the arms first. In order to set things up we need to do a little ‘cipherin. The top is 9¾” wide. Allowing 1” on either side says we need to route a slot that is 7¾” wide. Since our cutter is ¾” in diameter this means that we need to set the distance of our stop blocks to 8” on either side of the cutter. Our route area is 7¾” wide, less the width of our cutter which is ¾ leaves 7”. But we want a 1” margin so we add that to our block spacing for 8”. Attach the blocks to your router fence and measure from the tip of the cutter to get the spacing dead on.

The preceding sets us up for the limits of the width, we also need to make the slot offset from the base of the top by 6¾”. This allows for the 5¾” for the leg of the cross and the 1” offset from the bottom lip of the top.

Now all that is left to set is the depth of the cutter. Using the inlay wood as a thickness guide, set your router to just a hair UNDER the depth that you need. This will insure that the inlay will be slightly proud of the surface of the top and you’ll be able to sand to a perfectly flat surface easily. If you accidently cut the inlay too deep you’ll have to bring down the entire surface of the top to match.

The actual cut requires some steady hands an a little nerve and you have to drop the piece onto the already rotating router bit as a plunge. Triple check all of your measurements on the stop block spacing and the offset from the bottom and spin up the router. Holding the piece at an angle relative to the top of the router table, place the bottom edge of the top (face down) against the fence between the stop blocks. Pivot the panel down onto the router bit and while holding it tight to the fence move the panel between the stop blocks to route out the first part of the arm inlay. Instead of trying to lift the piece off the router with the blade turning, I just shut off the router and allow everything to come to a stop before lifting the piece.

Without changing the location of the stop blocks, move the fence and additional ½” away from the cutter. This should give you a spacing from the fence to the near edge of the cutter of 7¼”. Repeat the cut at this new dimension. You should wind up with a slot that looks like this:

Rounded ends will be chisled square…

Now we’ll have an almost identical setup for cutting the leg of the cross, but this time the stop blocks are unevenly spaced to allow for the extra 3” on the top end. Set your stop blocks at 12¾” and 9¾” from the cutter and the fence at 4¼”. The bottom edge of the panel will be toward the 9¾” block as you cut. Again you’ll have to do a plunge cut in the same manner as you cut the arm slot. Once you have cut the first part of the leg slot you’ll again have to move the fence out an additional ½” to 4¾” to make the last inlay pass.

Having cut both the inlay slots you’ll notice that the ends are rounded instead of square. Get out your square and draw out the corners. Using a really sharp chisel square off the ends of the arms and the leg. Now if you wanted to be different you could leave the corners rounded and only cut away the small triangle between the two arcs. I chose to square off mine, but you can leave the corners rounded. This will require you to sand off the corners of the inlay to fit.

While the width of the inlay recesses should both be the same — 1¼”, reality dictates that sometimes things don’t work out exactly as planned. Measure the actual width of the slots and rip the inlay wood to match. Cut both pieces a little long. I initially cut the leg to 8½ and then trimmed it down to a 2½” piece and a 5¾” piece so that the grain would match across the arm. You may have to fuss and sand a little at this point to get the inlays to fit correctly.

Once the inlay pieces are ready it’s time to glue them down. Use regular Elmer’s “carpenters yellow” glue in a thin coat on both the bottom of the cutout and the inlay. You want full coverage, but not a thick layer.

I cut some small pieces of scrap about ¾” wide and about ½” shorter than the arm and top and bottom of the leg. Once you’ve inserted the inlay, center these scraps over each of the inlay pieces and then use another board to cover all of the small pieces. Use C-clamps to apply pressure to the resulting sandwich. This will put pressure on the inlay pieces and not on the surface of the top. Apply moderate to strong pressure and let this set, clamped, for at least 24 hours. Although in ‘normal’ gluing situations you can remove the clamps after an hour or overnight, I’ve found in this particular situation (especially with an oily inlay wood like bacote) that you should leave the clamps on for 24 hours to insure a good bond.

Once the inlay comes out of the clamps lightly sand to remove any glue residue and, if necessary, use some colored wood filler to fill in any small gaps between the inlay and the top.

Complete the Top and Bottom
Print out page #3 from the drawing package and cut out each circle on the indicated lines. Spray the backs with spray adhesive and attach the templates to each of the four corners of the top and bottom. Using the templates as a guide, use a belt sander with #80 belt to round the corners. Tip! Trim the tips of the corners off on the TS at a 45° angle and there will be that much less to sand. Sand down to the curve of the circles.

Set up a 1/8”R rounding bit in your router and route both sides of the top and bottom pieces. Do the bottom face of each piece first with the router bit set to give a smoothly rounded edge. Adjust the cutter to give a 1/16” lip before routing the top face of each piece. This will give a fine detail on the top.

After all of the routing and sanding is complete cut off the top 3” from the inlay piece. The inlay should start 1” below the cut line.

Make the Body of the Box

Get out your taper jig and let’s get ready to rumble!

Start with two pieces of 3” wide stock. Cut them to 13½” long. While the taper is 1” over 11½” you can easily approximate it by setting your taper jig to 1” per foot. This will leave the narrow end just a hair wider than you need, but this actually works well.

Mark the start of the taper 3” down from one end of each side piece. Project the mark around the thin edge. Place you taper jig on the table and the piece into the jig with the marked end away from you. Rough position the jig so that the start mark is against the leading edge of the blade and bring the rip fence over until it contacts the jig. With the jig tight to the fence and the workpiece tight to the jig carefully align the bottom of the start mark with the leading edge of the blade where the blade disappears into the table and lock the fence right there. Cut both tapers.

Cut the back of the box from a piece of 3” wide material and the front from a piece that is 2” wide. Gang cut both pieces to 8¾” so they’ll match exactly.

Now it’s time to cut the box joints. You can do this in any of several ways depending on what equipment you have. If you don not have a box joint jig you can get the plans for Lynn’s Box Joint Jig or you can use a commercial jig. Myself I cut these with my Incra TS-III fence and my router table with a ¼” straight cut router bit. No matter how you cut them, be sure to start with a pin on the bottom (straight) edge of the sides. You want to cut the box joint fingers and trial assemble before cutting any of the interior pieces to insure that the fit will be tight.

Having made the box joints, the next step is to cut the slots for the interior divider. This slot is located 2¼” from the tapered end and is both ¼” wide and deep. I cut mine on the router table since I already had the ¼” bit mounted from cutting the finger joints. You have to remember that you’ll be cutting on opposite sides of each board as you need a left and right piece. To make sure this came out evenly I put the pieces together with the long straight edges in contact. I then placed the wide end of the pair against the router fence and cut both as a set. I set my router fence at 11” from the cutter and the depth to ¼”. Again you can use the TS or some other method to cut this slot.

Make the Interior Pieces
Dry fit the outer frame of the box together. Lightly clamp so it won’t fall apart as you handle it. Measure the spacing between the bottoms of the two divider slots. Cut a piece of 2” wide, ¼” thick stock to this dimension (nominally 8¼”) for the divider. Round the top edge of the divider off on the belt sander to approximate a 1/8” R.

In a like manner measure the side to side spacing at the front of the box and use this as a guide to cutting the piece of 1¾” x ¾” stock for the tray. Once you’ve cut the blank for the tray move to the router and install a 1” diameter grooving bit. Set the fence ¼” from the edge of the cutter and the depth to 3/8”. Then run two passes, one on each side. This will hollow out the tray. You may have to fiddle with the tray to get get rid of any ridge left by the two passes.

Take some of the ¼” thick stock and rip two pieces that are ¾” wide and about ¼”—½” shorter than the tray. Use the sander to round off one side of one end of both pieces to an approximate ½” R. This forms the tray support and being both shorter and rounded allow you to press down on that end of the tray and have it pivot up. When you install the support be sure that they are installed so that the square end is tight to the side of the box and the rounded ends have sufficient space. You should dry fit these components to be sure that everything will work properly.

The last piece to be made is the book stop for the front lip. This is made by cutting a cove profile into the edge of ½ stock. Due to the small nature of this piece the safe way to cut it is to rout the profile on the edge of a wider piece of stock and then rip the profile off. This prevents having to try and rout an aggressive profile on a piece of thin stock. Cut this piece to 7¾” after the routing is complete.

Sand everything to a #150 level.

Now that all of the pieces are ready to go it’s time to build the basic box. Use Carpenters Yellow glue to hold the finger joints together. Assemble the basic box first. Be sure to get the glue down into the bottom of the joints and 100% coverage on both sides of the fingers. Have a damp rag handy to clean up the glue squeeze out. Assemble all four pieces and use clamps and clamping blocks to put the box under tension. Be sure to check the fox for square at this point. Remember that the slots in the tapered sides face the inside of the box.

After the glue has set on the box, remove the clamps and resand the exterior and interior to #150. Use a belt sander to round the box joints to ½” radius. Once the radii are established continue sanding to the #220 level.

Attaching the box to the base poses an interesting mechanical problem. Since the box spans a wide panel, expansion is a possibility. I attached my box to the base using just two biscuits, one at the top and one at the bottom. I didn’t put biscuits on the sides so if the base expands or contracts it won’t be stressed by the biscuits.

Once you have cut the biscuit slots in the top and bottom, glue the box to the base with less glue on the sides than on the ends. Be sure that the box is centered in the base and clamp until the glue has set.

In a like manner attach the top 3” piece to the top of the box.

Lay the movable portion of the top on the sloped portion of the box and use your small square to project a vertical line on the side of the lid right where the hinge goes. This bevel can be most easily made with the belt sander and will insure a correct fit when the piano hinge is installed. While you’re working on the lid, attach the book stop with a biscuit ½” up from the bottom edge. The flat part of the stop should face uphill and the cove portion down. The edge of the stop should be approximately even with the bottom of the inlay cross.

Glue one of the tray supports to the inside of the front of the box. Clamp and let set. You should do this PRIOR to installing the divider as this makes it easier to get your clamp in place. The tray support should be positioned so that the square end is tight to one corner. The rounded end should have a gap between it and the other corner.

Glue the divider into place. Be sure to only glue the ends and not the bottom edge so the divider won’t fight expansion of the base.

Once the divider has set, glue the other tray support in to match the first.

Finally, install the piano hinge to the fixed part of the box first. A self centering punch is a real handy tool for this operation. I used stainless steel screws instead of the supplied brass screws for this. The screws are not normally visible and the jatoba is such a hard wood that brass screws tend to shear. Be sure to drill pilot holes for the screws and lube the threads with soap or wax before attempting to drive them. After you have at least two screws in place, have a helper use the self centering punch to mark the holes while you hold the lid in place. This is a four handed job! Drill and install the remaining screws in both the lid and the base.

Install four, ¾” diameter self adhesive non-skid feet 1” in from the edges on the bottom. Press these down firmly as you want them to really adhere. They have to go on before the finish.

The jatoba and bacote are both rich, red woods. There is no need for stain as this would be like guilding a lily. Additionally, the bible box is not a piece that will normally see heavy handling or use so a hard finish is not required. For these reasons I use a simple finish of Boiled Linseed Oil and several coats of Johnson’s paste wax.

I oiled the entire box, top and bottom, inside and out in a single go. This helps prevent warping in case the box gains/looses himidity while being finished. Leave the oil on for several hours or overnight and then wipe off any excess. Let dry for a day or so and then coat the box with paste wax. DO NOT WAX THE BOTTOM OF THE INSIDE! This will interfere with the installation of the felt. Buff. Repeat for at least three coats to insure that all of the box is waxed.

Cut a piece of stiff felt to fit the inside bottom of the box. Once the fit is correct use spray adhesive on the felt to attach it to the box. Spray the felt only and do so well away from the box or other wood supplies. The spray adhesive is pretty smelly stuff so outside is a good idea. Once the adhesive has been evenly applied to the felt, stick it down in the box. Put a book on it for weight and let it sit for an hour or so with the lid open. Then remove the book and let it sit for another hour, again with the lid open.

As a final touch (as this is a presentation piece) we had a small brass plaque engraved with the family name and date and added it to the front of the box. It really dressed up the piece and makes it a showpiece in any parlor setting.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

1 comment so far

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5 posts in 93 days

#1 posted 12-28-2020 04:27 AM

Exceptional craftsmanship sir. Very clean looking piece


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