Exposed Box Joints

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Project by Don posted 12-28-2006 01:16 AM 4607 views 4 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This small box is one of my favorites, because it represents my move away from ‘reproducing’ the design of others.

I’ve always loved the work of Greene & Greene. These American craftsmen pioneered the idea of the ‘exposed joinery’ trend of the Arts & Crafts movement. Today this tradition is carried on by people like Darrell Peart.

My humble rendition of this concept is shown here. The primary wood is NSW Rosewood (Dysoxylum fraserianum) AKA Rose Mahogany. It has a sweet floral fragrance. The finish is a few coats of pure Tung Oil. I chose this as Rosewood’s tendency to gum seepage can interfere with other types of finish.

My tribute to the G & G style is box joints that stand proud of the surrounding surface. I beveled each ‘finger’ with a chisel to give it the look of a button. The brass rod running between the two wooden hinges was later removed because I decided it did not contribute the the design. The center veneer lid panel is American Walnut Burl.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

8 comments so far

View Gary's profile


1508 posts in 5562 days

#1 posted 12-28-2006 04:19 AM


Nice design; great execution.
Lovely box. ;-)


-- Gary, Florida

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 5552 days

#2 posted 12-28-2006 06:41 AM

I’ve seen some of their houses…beautiful stuff. Nice box joints.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 5549 days

#3 posted 12-28-2006 02:46 PM

I like the wooden hinges and hope to try making them myself one day. Did you cut the finger joints by hand or did you use a router or tablesaw? Rose Mahogany, where did you get it? It’s a nice looking wood. Great work, Don!

-- Jesus is Lord!

View Obi's profile


2214 posts in 5475 days

#4 posted 12-28-2006 03:09 PM

Love those hinges. I found Rockler sells a wooden hinge crafter machine. I plan on purchasing one.

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5415 days

#5 posted 12-29-2006 12:09 AM

The Rose Mahogany comes from Queensland. See more on this wood here. I purchased it at our annual woodworking show, but I can’t remember the name of the seller.

As for the box joints, these were cut on my router table using an Incra Jig. The hinge was made using an Incra Hinge Crafter. The Hinge Crafter is, in essence, a drilling guide for drilling the axle hole after the hinge has been milled using the router table. There’s a fair amount of precision involved, but I imagine anyone with a well made router table with an accurate fence could cut the fingers as described in the above link. Like any hinge, the real challenge is mounting it to the project piece so that it opens smoothly and squarely.

I prefer to do this by hand rather than using a router. My preference is to use a marking knife, a good square and a very sharp chisel. I think this gives more control, and doesn’t take much longer than setting up a router to do the same thing.

I scribe the outline (width/length/depth) using a Veritas Saddle Square, a Veritas marking knife and a Veritas Wheel Gauge. I then carefully place the chisel into the lines scribed by the knife and holding the chisel at ninety degrees to the surface, with the bevel facing into the mortise, tap the outline of the mortise. Then, holding he chisel at about sixty degrees to the surface with the bevel up, using a mallet, tap a series of cuts from one end of the mortise to the other about 1mm apart. When I get close to the second end, I turn the chisel and do the last two cuts. I then carefully remove this first series of cuts with the same chisel. It usually only takes two or three rows of cuts to get very close to the depth required. Then I clean up the mortise with the chisel using it like a plane to smooth out the bottom and straighten up the sides.

I use a self centering drill bit to drill the pilot holes using the hinge as the template. I then take a steel screw the same size and thread as the brass screw and coating it with some paraffin, cut the thread in the pilot hole. This does the hard work of cutting into the timber which is especially important if using our Aussie hardwoods, and lubricates the thread to reduce resistance for both the steel screw and the subsequent brass screw which I also coat with paraffin wax. I’ve never had a brass screw failure since using this method.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View BobR's profile


136 posts in 5223 days

#6 posted 07-04-2007 01:13 AM

Nice looking box Don. I like the way you have finished off the dovetails rather than just sanding flush. I have seen a few boxes with wood hinges – must give it a go one day. Yours look great. Interesting to note that you are “just down the road” from me given that we are sitting on a U.S. based forum.

-- Bob

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5398 days

#7 posted 07-04-2007 01:16 AM

I love how the hinges are joined together. Beautiful box

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 5415 days

#8 posted 07-04-2007 01:43 AM

Thanks Bob & Debbie.

Bob, the corner joints are box joints, not dovetail joints, perhaps a little hard to tell from the pictures.

If you make box joints, this style is an easy adaptation of the standard flush joint. Simply set the router bit to cut a little deeper into the wood when cutting the fingers (about 2.5mm greater than the wall thickness of the wood). Then take a sharp chisel and carefully bevel the protruding fingers so that one edge of the bevel is flush with the side walls of the box.

Yes, Bob, although just down the road from you, I won’t be walking over for a visit. LOL I posted for many years on a large Aussie based woodworking forum, but became tired of the drivel and sniping that most threads deteriorated into. Finding LumberJocks was a breath of fresh air!

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

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