Boxguy Builds A Train Set?

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Project by Boxguy posted 02-10-2016 07:20 AM 3039 views 16 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks: I appreciate your clicking in and will try to reply to your comments, suggestions, questions, and critiques. I especially appreciate all of you who take the time to “have your say.” It is your feedback that makes these postings fun for me to do.

Apology: I don’t usually post projects this closely together, but I’ll be taking a short break and wanted to get this one posted while it was new to me.

Pictured: A candle box (11” x 8 3/4” x 3 1/2”) with a Sapele Pommele veneered lid quarter-sawn White Oak sides, and Black Walnut splines. This box is designed to hold 91 dominos and some accessories for the game Mexican Train, hence the title of this post. My plan was to make and sell a complete set. All the dominos, small engines, starter hub, and tile holders; everything you would need to play the game. The accessories are these:

.....small tray to hold colored engines (White Oak with Black Walnut splines)
.....divider that also acts as a pencil holder
.....Brazilian Cherry veneered game starter (7” x 6”)
.....7 Black Cherry tile holders (11×4 1/2×3/4)

Story: My sister called from Kansas. She has been playing Mexican Train with some neighbors and wanted me to make her a box to hold dominos. We talked a while and decided that a box with a sliding lid would be ideal so you could just “dump” the dominos out for the start of the game. A hinged lid would probably get in the way. I haven’t made a sliding lid box for years, so I thought this would be fun.

I sent off for a set of dominos so I could get the sizes right … Amazon is sort of magical that way. I hoped to have a complete set to sell, and a box and accessories to send to my sister. I was not impressed with the plastic starter hub and decided I would make one of wood. It was easier to make the center square if I split the hub and inserted rare earth magnets in the two halves…so I made this.

The tile holders have four 1/2 inch dados set at 10 degrees.

Technical Tips:

Dominos are heavy. I didn’t want the lid to slide open at the wrong time so I inserted rare earth magnets in the handle end and screwed a piece of iron in the 1/8” space left after cutting away the handle. The magnets grab the iron and keep the lid closed. The iron is the gold strip to the left in this picture.

I drilled through the handle down to the metal. Then inserted the magnets in the holes on the bottom and dropped super glue from above. Before it could set, I tapped the walnut dowel into the hole and down to the magnet with the lid closed. The magnet was set into place, the dowel was glued, and the dowel goes through the oak through the lid and back into the oak which reinforces and strengthens the handle that gets pulled. This makes it nearly impossible to pull the handle off of the lid.

Note: From time to time, I am fortunate enough to get some scraps from our local veneer mills. The sliding top and glued-in bottom are made from a commercially manufactured product. It is veneer on a Masonite base so it won’t warp, change, or swell. It really works well here…and is beautiful.

Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

24 comments so far

View Jerry's profile


3237 posts in 2124 days

#1 posted 02-10-2016 07:57 AM

This is really interesting and beautiful. I think it’s one of your best.

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

View Brit's profile


7784 posts in 3318 days

#2 posted 02-10-2016 08:43 AM

Who wouldn’t enjoy playing that Al? Great job. It looks like it will survive for years to come.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Tichomir Toth's profile

Tichomir Toth

88 posts in 1518 days

#3 posted 02-10-2016 11:34 AM

An interesting idea, wonderful colors and impeccable craftsmanship. Congrats!

-- Tichomir Toth, Slovakia,

View becikeja's profile


1009 posts in 3289 days

#4 posted 02-10-2016 11:38 AM

Thanks for the detail. I have never heard of this game, but the elegant representation of the game now makes me want to see what it is all about,

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View Redoak49's profile


4135 posts in 2464 days

#5 posted 02-10-2016 12:15 PM

This is great…my grown kids love this game.

Please do not apologize as I love seeing your projects!

View Boxguy's profile


2846 posts in 2743 days

#6 posted 02-10-2016 01:12 PM


Jerry, thanks for the compliment. This did turn out well. There was a surprising amount of design work on this project. Everything from the size of the box to the magnets to the mechanics of making the tile holders work to the shape of the starter hub. This project took some thought.

Brit, I would like to think that this has been made to last. It has to be made strongly because the dominos are heavy. It is going to cost a fortune to mail unless I can get it to fit into a fixed-price box at the post office.

Tichtot, good to hear from the Slovakian contingent of Lumberland this morning. You are right, the woods in this project are beautiful.

Becikeja, Mexican Train seems to be especially popular in the Midwest at the moment. It is simple enough for children to play, but can have some strategy at some points.

Redoak49, thanks. Always good to hear from a fellow Hoosier again. I especially liked seeing your grandson projects.

-- Big Al in IN

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2988 days

#7 posted 02-10-2016 01:13 PM

What a great box Alan, I’ve heard of this game but have never played it.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View jeffswildwood's profile


4028 posts in 2453 days

#8 posted 02-10-2016 01:17 PM

Very nice! A beautiful box to store the pieces in and for game play. I bet your Sister was thrilled to receive this! Nice use of magnets, I need to start using them in my projects.

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View Bobsboxes's profile


1369 posts in 3139 days

#9 posted 02-10-2016 01:39 PM

Great box, I have never heard of Mexican Train, but will look into it. Thanks for sharing.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2483 days

#10 posted 02-10-2016 01:56 PM

Never heard of Mexican Train before but it does look interesting. No doubt your sister will be the Belle of the ball when she shows up with this custom set ! Nicely done !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3779 days

#11 posted 02-10-2016 02:45 PM

what a great job you did here, i love making sliding top boxes, ive made a few and always enjoy making the sliding top, ive used some spalted woods that look just great, but yours turned out really nice…

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

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3342 days

#12 posted 02-10-2016 04:22 PM

Wow! Al, this is so nice and you’re craftsmanship and design is superb. My whole family loves to play Mexican dominos. On down the road I would love to build three of these. One for my wife and I, and 1 each for my two daughters and sons in law. They would love one of these. Would you mind is I used some of your ideas on this since I wouldn’t be selling them?

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View JimInNM's profile


324 posts in 1692 days

#13 posted 02-10-2016 04:39 PM

You never cease to amaze us. Wonderful functional project and of course beautiful wood. Thanks for sharing

-- JimInNM........Space Case

View Boxguy's profile


2846 posts in 2743 days

#14 posted 02-10-2016 05:17 PM


Blackie, Mexican Train is a fun game. You might be able to sell these.

Jeff, I orders a bunch of rare earth magnets on line…they are not cheap. I have found they are a great way to hold box lids closed. You can always add more to make the catch stronger. The way I have detailed in the posting is quick and makes them very easy to install.

Bob, I had forgotten how nice sliding lid boxes can be. Notice I chickened out and just put in two splines per corner so I wouldn’t have to fight cutting two splines in two at the open end. The magnets solved the main drawback I have to these lids, since the magnets keep the lid on and in place when you move the box or shut the lid.

Joe, I am hoping she will show the train set off and perhaps generate some sales too. I liked making the box, but the tile holders got to be a real chore and were pretty repetative. I made 25 for my sister and her friends. Got really tired of putting 4 coats of finish and rubbing that out on 25 boards.

Grizz, always nice to hear from you. I sure had some nice wood to work with on this project. I looked again at your shoe shine box with the sliding lid. It is a beautiful job. I especially like the bent wood handle and the stripes.

Charles, help yourself to any part of the posting. I doubt that we would be in any competition for sales. If I can help you when you are building yours, just let me know. Keep boxing and keep posting.

Jim, thanks for the very nice compliment. I do have fun puttering in the shop and my main enjoyment is solving problems about constructing boxes. It is my kind of play.

-- Big Al in IN

View Boxguy's profile


2846 posts in 2743 days

#15 posted 02-10-2016 05:19 PM


-- Big Al in IN

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