Boxguy Thinks Less Is More

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Project by Boxguy posted 03-08-2016 06:23 AM 2841 views 14 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks for taking time to click or tap on this box. I especially appreciate those who take the extra time to “have your say.” Your comments and questions are what make these postings fun for me to do. I do try to respond to all your comment and questions.

Pictured: This is a basic box (12 1/4” L, 6 1/4” W, 4H”) with a quarter-sawn White Oak top, corner splines, and bottom. It has Black Cherry sides.

Story: I set out to make a box that was minimalistic. That is to say, I wanted it to have simple, uncluttered but elegant lines and let the wood speak for itself. Link to my other posted works.

The sides have about a 5 degree angle for almost three inches, then they are flat for 3/4”, then the bottom is rounded over with an 11/16 bit. The rounded bottom and the horizontal line of the rounded oak board makes the box seem to float. The angle gives it eye appeal.

The top is actually 1/4” smaller than the flat section of the sides and stands 1/4” proud of the top of the sides. The slope and the size of the top make all the difference in the stance of this box. To me that is what gives it eye appeal.

Technical Details:
To keep this simple I mortised the hinge in the bottom and surface mounted it to the top. Basically, this box was made with a router table and a 10” table saw. I used 1/8” 1/2” and 11/16” bits for the edges.

Steps For Making The Angled Sides:

Start with a finished board 5/4 (1 1/4”) thick and 43” long and 2 3/4 wide.
Cut the board into lengths for sides.
Finish sand the side of the board that will become the inside of the box.
Cut the 45 on the 8 corners of the boards. (This way the grain will match around 3 corners)
Glue the corners and use tape and then a band clamp to clamp the boards.
Now is the time to cut in your corner slots for the splines, before you cut the angles to make the sloped sides of the box. You want to work with square edges. It is very difficult to cut spline slots into an angled side.

Edited in shot of the inside of the box. Notice that the inside corners are square.

So, now you have an 1 1/2” cherry “frame” or carcass that is 12 1/2 on two sides and 8 1/2” on two sides. You also have very deep spline slots cut in the corners.

Glue in your splines.
Glue on the bottom using a board with some extra overlap.
Trim off the excess spline material and the extra overlap on the bottom board.
Set your saw blade at about 5 degrees.
You want to leave some board thickness on the top edge of your sides.
With the top of the box down on the table saw top, angle all four sides.
Round off the bottom of the box.
Mortise and attach the top to the sides.

Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

21 comments so far

View Tichomir Toth's profile

Tichomir Toth

88 posts in 1930 days

#1 posted 03-08-2016 06:40 AM

Is simply elegant. Fantastic contours. As always. :) Thanks for sharing.

-- Tichomir Toth, Slovakia,

View recycle1943's profile


4794 posts in 2510 days

#2 posted 03-08-2016 09:36 AM

Beautiful and thanks for the tutorial. There are so many things to imitate but so little time and the nice thing about this site is the LJ’s that WANT to share the process of making what could be a difficult project.

btw – this is one of those projects that I will probably imitate

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 3400 days

#3 posted 03-08-2016 12:10 PM

Another great box Alan, I like how you did the shape with the bubbled out bottom. Thanks also for sharing the details on how it was made.

I can’t wait to see the frontal draw box you questioned be about. :)

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

View BB1's profile


1689 posts in 1736 days

#4 posted 03-08-2016 12:15 PM

Very nice. I really like your thought process and appreciate the “how to” insights. I have yet to make the angled side for a box but have it on my list. Is there a particular wood thickness that you recommend when using that technique? Likely it depends on the box size?

View R_Stad's profile


430 posts in 2731 days

#5 posted 03-08-2016 12:49 PM

Real nice Al. Very pleasing to the eye. Subtle elegance.

-- Rod - Oregon

View Boxguy's profile


2884 posts in 3155 days

#6 posted 03-08-2016 01:19 PM


Tichtot, it is always a pleasure to hear from you again. You have put Slovakia on my map. This box has a kind of Eastern quality of being a classic form with a touch of zen or Wabi-sabi thrown in.

Dick, you have struck a chord with me. Part of the fun of boxmaking is figuring out how to do something with the tools at hand. I have learned to think through my tools. If you have a new tool you soon learn to have a new think. But I have discovered that there is a joy too in helping others understand how to follow your path or travel in a similar path themselves.

Blackie, isn’t it fun to share ideas and techniques on this site? You are in your new shop in Texas. I am toiling away in Indiana. We have never seen each other; and yet, we have shared ideas and techniques about building boxes and helped each with that pursuit for years. What an interesting age we live in.

BB1, good question. I don’t know that there is an ideal size for the side boards. Starting with thicker sides lets me keep the angled side process much more simple than cutting complex angles for the corners and forming intricate sides. The inside stays 90 degrees. The thicker the boards you start with, the more angle you can put on the outside of the box. You are right, this technique works best with boxes that are not too tall.

I built this box out of 5/4 stock because it is what I had on hand. Though I have used thicker material and cut the angle with a band saw, it is much smoother and more efficient to use the table saw. My tablesaw has a 10 inch blade so I can make a 3 inch cut. I wanted to have about a half inch rim around the top of the sides. Those factors determined the angle for the outside. Starting with thicker sides left the inside of the box square which makes having dividers or trays much easier too.

Rod, thanks. I do think this box turned out especially well. This was the forth or fifth I made as part of a series using this basic technique. They all sold well. It is a little tricky sanding a box this shape. You have to smooth over the different angles and blend them together while keeping the sides straight. I used a random orbital sander for that.

-- Big Al in IN

View wood2art's profile


34 posts in 3735 days

#7 posted 03-08-2016 02:29 PM

Great looking box. Sometimes simple is best. I have to try your method of cutting splines soon.

-- Jim, Minnesota

View dalepage's profile


387 posts in 1729 days

#8 posted 03-08-2016 03:36 PM

Boxguy, I don’t see the piece that matches this quote: “So, now you have an 1 1/2” frame.”

The inside front corners of the box seem to have a radius instead of right angle. If so, how did you cut that?

Thanks for the time you take in sharing your techniques and expertise. Just seeing how you glue the bottom on instead of insetting a panel into groves was worth the read. I appreciate it.

-- Dale

View DonSol's profile


249 posts in 2130 days

#9 posted 03-08-2016 05:00 PM

Really nice box Al. I like everything about it. Do you pin the bottom to the sides as well as gluing it?

-- Don Solomon, New Castle, IN; Quality is not an act, it is a habit. Aristotle

View dalepage's profile


387 posts in 1729 days

#10 posted 03-08-2016 05:20 PM

Boxguy, I don’t see the piece that matches this quote: “So, now you have an 1 1/2” frame.”

It appears that the inside front corners have been routed. Is that right?

Thanks for your time and expertise. I appreciate it.

-- Dale

View Boxguy's profile


2884 posts in 3155 days

#11 posted 03-08-2016 06:56 PM


Jim, thanks. Even simple can have some tricks to it, but I tried to keep this box as simple as I could and get the results of an angled side. This is a link to how I cut the spline slots and a jig to cut spline slots. and a jig to make splines. This is a series of tips on setting up for spline cuts.

Dale, Thanks for your perceptive questions. The previous steps lead you to making the carcass of the box. In this case the cherry parts of the box before you add splines, or angle the sides. This box starts out by building a four sided “frame” 1 1/2 inches thick. Thanks to your questions. I have reworked the original post to try to make this part more clear. See if it now seems clearer or not. Thanks for the help there.

Wow, another great question. In retrospect I should have taken a picture of the inside of the box looking downward. I’ll try to edit that into the post this evening. The rounding you see is done by passing the inside of the box over a half inch roundover bit after the box is assembled and angled. I round this top rim over so it is not a sharp when you reach into the box.

Your second post is right on, since the bearing on the bit doesn’t reach into the very corner, it appears to be a rounded corner. However, it is still 90 degrees on the inside edge. I rounded over the back edge and sides as well, but the back edge was mostly cut away by the mortise for the hinge.

Dale, thanks for the great questions. They will help me improve this posting. If you have more questions or if I have not cleared up you earlier questions, please help me by asking more questions.

Don, great question, thanks for asking. Since the four sides are 6/4 or so thick on the bottom, I though that would be enough glue surface to hold the bottom on. I made a box this same way 6 years ago and so far I see no problems with it. I know it may eventually have problems with the bottom wood expanding and contracting, but that is one of the reasons I went with quarter-sawn oak for that part. It has minimal movement. Time will tell.

-- Big Al in IN

View ravensrock's profile


513 posts in 2530 days

#12 posted 03-08-2016 09:20 PM

Thanks for the detailed write-up and for sharing this beautiful box. I really like the angled sides. Will have to consider that for a future project!

-- Dave, York, PA, Wildside Woodworking

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4035 days

#13 posted 03-09-2016 01:07 AM

Simple, elegant box, with your signature flair!

I like the idea of gluing up a thick, flat-sided box, then cutting the beveled sides. Seems much easier to execute than cutting compound angled miters, and achieves much the same look. Also keeps the inside of the box at 90, which utilizes the space more efficiently.

And you’re right, that oftentimes less is more. Reminds me of a quote from Montgomery Scott in Star Trek III: “The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View Boxguy's profile


2884 posts in 3155 days

#14 posted 03-09-2016 04:02 AM


Dave, I like the lines on this box. I hope you have as much fun making one with angled sides as I did. Over all it is a fairly simple build. I like the workbench you posted. It is a nice design.

Dean, my favorite quote in this realm is Occam’s Razor…”The simplest is best.” It has helped me on many projects. Whenever I arrive a multiple ways of doing something, I try always to keep that in mind and strive to use the simplest solution. In this case, the simplest was to use a thick board and cut an angle on the outside with my table saw.

-- Big Al in IN

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4463 days

#15 posted 03-09-2016 05:15 AM

You see more & more complex boxes.
It’s nice to se something in the other direction once in a while.
Especially from a guy that we all know can knock out the complex ones, and just took the opposite direction this time.
Nice work pal.

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