Mathildes Japanese inspired jewel box #1: Drawing, inspiration and making the box.

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Blog entry by mafe posted 05-31-2014 10:11 PM 6021 reads 4 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Mathildes Japanese inspired jewel box series Part 2: Wood springs and nailing it... »

Mathildes Japanese inspired jewel box
Drawing, inspiration and making the box.

My inside out beautiful daughter Mathilde is now fourteen and in Denmark it’s tradition you have your confirmation at this age if you want to become a member of the Christian church.
We are not particularly religious and honestly only goes to church at weddings or once in a while at Christmas, but she decided to follow the family tradition and become a member of the Christian church.
(Pay church taxes when she grow up – lol).
She as most other teens were wishing for a MacBook, jewelry and other wonderful pling stuff of our consumer world, so yes she got some green for that, but I found that I needed to make her something with my hands, something my head had designed and that I could put my love into.

So knowing she has a soft spot for delicate boxes, likes little secrets and was wishing for jewels, I thought it must be the right thing to make her a jewel box.

By the time you read this, the box is actually made and the confirmation over, but I will blog in order of photos taken and so we will get to the finished jewel box later.

Hope you get a nice tour, this is not a step by step how to, just a peek into me trying to put love into some wonderful wood, while thinking of my sweet Mathilde.

I have had my inspiration from many sides, Japanese joints with bamboo nails, Chinese travel beauty boxes with build in mirrors that stood when the box was open, Japanese boxes for tea, calligraphy and finally from my own build of a Japanese tool box, where I worked in the ways of Japanese cabinet makers.
(Here a few photos from the web showing some of the types that I have had in mind).

First things first, I usually work without a fixed plan, but this time I set out to make a set of drawings, this to know if I had enough wood and also to be able to play with the design a wee bit before making shaves.

The main wishes:
Less is more!
It should be a as simple as possible box when closed, like a crystal.
No visual hardware.
Finger joints and bamboo nails.
Maximum exposure of the wood.
When opening it should be like entering it, and it will review it’s inner, step by step, like a ritual.
At least one secret room.
Golden ratio as rule of thumb for the proportions.

So I made drawings in full scale.

Here on one of the work shop walls.

The wood.
Some years back I found a old broken apart oak cabinet in the street.
Noticed some of the boards had a beautiful grain and so I brought it home with me, so it could one day find a project to become.
The boards had been dovetailed by hand and had the old rough planning marks from a hand plane on the back, so I am sure we are talking at least 100 years old and so I liked the thought to bring life back again.

Started by planning all the boards, they got a few passes in the thicknesser and my ohhh, do I love that tool!
It was quick and easy with the digital read out I have mounted.
Yes I used a power tool, I am still no hand tool fanatic, still work by the rule: ’if you can do it by hand, you are allowed to use a machine, if you like to do it by hand, enjoy while you do it’.

Rough cutting to sizes, while choosing the best boards for the most visual important places.

Bring out life with a scraper plane.
Here you can see this old board came from a drawer and the old joints.

Matching them up and giving them names.

Then I had to decide the finger joints layout.
I made a story stick for that.

Just marks with a pencil.
So it was easy to transfer to all sides.

Then I could start playing with some hand tools and bring some life into the piece.
Marking the fingers.

Sawing them, here with one of my Veritas saws, but actually that was not the thought, I was supposed to use mostly Japanese tools.
What it did, was to make me realize how bad I stood at my bench when cutting like this…

Here you see the story stick and how I transferred the marks.

So marking the finges with the cutting gauge and in this way avoid tear out when removing the wood.
(Not my fingers).

But since it night, I decide to glue up the wood first and come back tomorrow to work on the fingers.

So the wood are clamped up for the night.
Here in wonderful Japanese clamps.
Please enjoy the wood!

Next visit to the shop it is time to chop some wood.
Holding it with my beautiful antique French quick release hold fast, I love that tool!
Putting a scrap piece of wood under to save the bench.

First a single hard stoke with the chisel.

Then turn and work from other side.

Working my way in.

A good deep hit to finish up on the back side.

Then back to the front removing the last part.

And we got fingers, quick and easy!

Quite crisp, so I am happy.

Once we have them cut out, we can mark up the other side.
I use a sharp marking knife for this and send a thought to my friend Poisson.

With a small square transfer to the sides.

Like so.

Cutting gauge in use again.
Make sure to cut the right side, pencil mark the waste also.

Decided these boards will be for the lid.
They have a beautiful grain and goes from sap to heart wood and there by gives it some beautiful lines.
So they are glued up.

So back to fingers…
Marking for the saw cut, this little mark made with the chisel will make all the difference in your sawing.
A straight cut down and the a triangle to the waste side.
In this way you have defined where the saw will go.
Trust me, you will never do it differently once you have tried.

That’s better MaFe san, now with a Japanese saw.
Still hopeless place to work, with that vice in front of you…

The long fingers I pre cut a little with a jewelers saw, this to avoid the wood from tearing.

Once again chop out the waste.
Also realizing I am standing too low with my work, so my back is making complaints.

Now all four sides have fingers and we can see the first signs of a box.
Think it’s time for a beer.

Not too bad.
(Yes I have adjusted the table saw blade now, if you did notice the burn on the cuts… lol).

Lid cut roughly to size.

Ohhh yes, it starts to look like a box.
Time to put down the glasses and take a break.

To get as deep a bottom drawer as possible I use thin wood for the box bottom.
So I need to make a stopped rabbet on the box back.
This time to save some time I use the table saw.
Perhaps to brave, but I do it freehand without stops.

Ok no problem, the rest will be done by hand.

The sides I can just cut, since the front will be inside and the back hidden by the back board.

With a chisel I remove the waste.

Like so.
No rocket.

The bottom now cut to size and fits right in.

Here in the front inside the box.

Now time to work on the inside of the box.
There will be two levels and so we need a partition.
You will understand later… So just sit back and watch.

Trimming the pieces, since I now know the exact sizes inside the box.

Since I am too lazy to drill all the holes with a Japanese conical hand drill, I use a conical drill bit on a accu.
Then place bamboo nails to hold it in place for the dry fit.

Conical drill bit – that’s a sexy beast!

Bamboo nail in place.

Marking for the other side.
Do not try to understand yet. ;-)

Again dry fit.
Now we have the inside.

Here in place inside the box.
You can see the two levels here.
Now you hopefully get it… Sorry to keep you waiting.
We are now half way in the first of three blogs.

Now I can drill from the outside to fasten the inside.
I have decided to make visible bamboo nails, since I think it will add a touch to the outside of the box.

While I was in town I was looking for a mirror for the lid.
Decided to go for a round to give it a little change in the straight lines.
Found a makeup mirror in right size and split it apart, so I could use the mirror.

Also I spend a little time to improve on my work positions, so I made a bench top bench .

This is a Japanese hand drill.
If you want to know more you can read about this in my Japanese toolbox blog .
The glasses are actually also Japanese, bought them of E-bay and had glasses fit in Denmark.

That’s a much better place to stand and cut finger joints, happy I am!
Here for the inside tray.

Also a little square to keep them up right while sawing.

Like this.

Get it?

Again using a marking knife to get perfect cuts with no tear out.
Now sending a thought to my friend Bas .
Thank you for the mail also.

Time for some hand cut rabbets, we don’t want to get rusty.
I love that 43.

The stopped I clean up with a chisel.

This made it possible to avoid tear out in the sides.

Starts to look like a jewel box!

The little tray are put in on the left side.

Bottom of tray.


Now with a mirror and a monkey with a camera…
Made a little divider that will support the mirror so I need no hardware.

Now time to start working on the big drawer.

But first I had a visit in the shop by a friend Yves, French, he helped me fix my old Vespa, so now I am on wheels again. It’s the little red lady in front of the shop.
150cc 1962 Vespa GL, had her for 28 years now and she is still running fine.

Back to the shop MaFe, the confirmation is soon up!

Marking up the fingers of the drawer.
I love my ruler stop .


Yes it is on purpose I cut too wide, I want the look to be hand made.

Marking, think you know by now my way of doing that…

The little trick.

Now sawing in a wonderful position with my Japanese saw.
I have so much more control of the saw cut now.
It was a good investment of time to make that bench top bench.

Removing the waste.
Since I made the top of ply I don’t care to cut into the top.
(Does someone notice a alien here)?

That’s better a DIY hold fast.
(Read more in my bench top bench blog).

Now the other half of the finger joints can be marked.






Notice I cut a little into the line…
This will need a small fix later.
Training makes master, still not there.

Drawer frame dry fit.

In the box and with the drawer front in place.

So time for the side drawer.

Dry fit.

Both drawers in the box.
Now it is really starting to come alive.

With lid down.

Time for drawer bottoms.

Ohhhh yes and made more holes in the bench top bench so I could use it with my Festool clamps also.

Box with no drawers.

I have a weak spot, where the side meets the front, only the two pieces of wood meeting holds it…
So I will make a hidden support.

Have to make a hole 45 degrees down the side here.
Now sending a good thought to my friend Jim dam you Jim, that awl is so sexy.

Set a square behind to make sure I was on 45 degrees.
Also when I drilled I used that as a reference.

So then I could put in a small piece of brass rod to give strength to that tricky corner.

Like this almost hidden.

So time to split up the blog, time for me to go to bed here.
I will continue soon on part two and three and post the project once the blog comes to a end.

Thank you for reading my ramblings, hope it can inspire.

I can tell you this much; we had a blast of a confirmation party.

best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

21 comments so far

View siavosh's profile


674 posts in 2875 days

#1 posted 05-31-2014 10:34 PM

This is going to make a beautiful gift, looking forward to the next part.

-- -- Discover the most interesting woodworking blogs from around the world

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4308 days

#2 posted 05-31-2014 11:02 PM

fantastic blog, i knew she would get the best her dad could make, lots of work here, blog and gift, thank you…:)

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Roger's profile


21051 posts in 3808 days

#3 posted 05-31-2014 11:17 PM

A fantastic blog and picture build Mads. Very awesome.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View ksSlim's profile


1304 posts in 3894 days

#4 posted 05-31-2014 11:35 PM

Awesome, nice work, wonderful blog.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View lew's profile


13308 posts in 4760 days

#5 posted 05-31-2014 11:45 PM

Thanks for the photo journey, Mads. Mathilde will love it and cherish it forever.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 2804 days

#6 posted 06-01-2014 12:14 AM

What a great illustrated build! Well done Mafe!! An heirloom for sure.

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3543 days

#7 posted 06-01-2014 12:19 AM

Can’t wait to see it come together. I’m sure she will love it!

-- I never finish anyth

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 2634 days

#8 posted 06-01-2014 01:00 AM

Amazing project, way of working, and presentation. BRAVO !!!
I noticed three things …
1. Your home appears to be what we would consider a storefront in America. Is that correct? Love it !!! No grass to mow.
2. You have the ever-popular Corbu eyeglasses.
3. You draw and letter like a freakin’ architect. Takes one to know one, :)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

25896 posts in 4110 days

#9 posted 06-01-2014 01:26 AM

Great project and great gift for a very lucky girl!! Thanks for the detailed build process too!!!

See you later, my friend!!..............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20239 posts in 4680 days

#10 posted 06-01-2014 01:47 AM

Great blog. Probably more work than the project ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View CL810's profile


4107 posts in 3992 days

#11 posted 06-01-2014 02:09 AM

Inspiring build Mads.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3938 days

#12 posted 06-01-2014 03:52 AM

Great Blog Mads. Will be waiting for the next one.

Congratulation on the confirmation.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4580 days

#13 posted 06-01-2014 04:34 AM

Very nicely done my friend.
All the photos certainly make following along much easier.
Congratulations on the confirmation.
And I love the red Vespa.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4338 days

#14 posted 06-01-2014 08:42 AM

Great blog Mads. A lot of learning points for the uninitiated. I liked your ruler stop a lot too. I’m sure Mathilde loves the wonderfully designed finished box with all it’s different features. I know she will treasure it for the rest of her life. How could she not? Please give her my congratulations. Our youngest grandson Vidar was confirmed a few weeks ago. The kids here are confirmed when they are 15 yrs. old.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View jinkyjock's profile


488 posts in 2579 days

#15 posted 06-01-2014 10:06 AM

Awesome blog.
The old saying “Every picture tells a story” could never be more true.
Have a good confirmation,
I have a feeling your gift will be received with the same love you have lavished on it’s construction.
P.S. I have just bought the same Veritas dovetail saw but haven’t used it yet.

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