Boxguy Gets Bogged Down

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Project by Boxguy posted 11-16-2016 05:57 AM 3060 views 13 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks for looking. The best part of these postings are the comments that readers add to these projects. Thanks especially to those of you who take extra time to comment and ask questions or offer advice.

Pictured: This is a six-sided jewelry keeper (7×12 1/2×4 1/2) made of American Walnut and Bog White Oak. (I’ll explain the “Bog” part later.)

The Sliding Tray: (8×5 1/2×1 1/4) also has walnut corner splines. I wanted to post this today because this set of three is sold and to be delivered soon. I really like having the box in front of me when I am writing about it, so today was the day for posting the second in this series. I have saved the best for last and will be posting the third box in the series in the future.

The Wood: The American Walnut top and corner splines came from a tree that grew in Galena, Indiana and was blown over by the tailwinds of Hurricane Ike in September of 2008. The sides are made of Bog Oak. It was a White Oak tree that sank to the bottom of the Mississippi River over a century ago. The old growth tree may have been hundreds of years old when it was first cut. A few years ago, this tree was dredged up, cut into quarter-sawn boards and dried out slowly. This box weighs a ton! That is because it is dense, old-growth timber and has mineral deposits that soaked into this wood during its century at the bottom of the Mississippi. This also makes the White Oak a little darker brown.

The Look: I especially like the way the grain flows around this box. It seems like the wood is just wrapped around in this shape. The grain pattern matches exactly at each corner joint. The grain in quarter-sawn oak features “flakes.” These are cross- grained, lighter spots in the wood of this ancient tree.

The Story: I made a series of three of these boxes for a friend to give to his wife and two daughters for Christmas. He wanted them to be similar, but not alike. I also had a couple of buddies who liked this shape and wanted to come to the shop to make their versions of this box.

Now that I was making or helping on six boxes, I thought it would be a good idea to have a pattern as a time saver and a teaching aid for my buddies. So I simply cut a 1/4 inch off the top of my first box and marked the dimensions on the pattern.

The Construction: Starting at the lower left corner, the sizes are 5 inches, 2 7/8 inches, 8 7/8 inches, 2 7/8 inches, 5 inches and 13 3/8 inches.

It takes a board 5/8 of an inch thick, 4 1/2 inches wide, and 39 inches long to make this box. The extra inch is to allow for cutting across the board 6 times to get the length of each of the six sides. Cutting the board into lengths and then cutting the angles on the six pieces means the grain will match exactly at five corners. This pattern will make a box that you can divide with Venetian blind slats into a tea box too.

Fitting the bottom in a six-sided box is difficult so when I finally made one that fit well, it became the pattern that made quick work of cutting the six bottoms that I needed.

The Liner: This simple jig is used to cut the bottom cloth liner for these boxes. It is two pieces of Masonite joined with strap tape. I just hold the jig inside the box and tape the two pieces together.

Then I can cut around the jig and have half or so of a cloth liner for the bottom. I measure and flip the jig over. Now, it becomes the pattern for cutting the other half of the cloth liner. It is a simple jig, but it saves a lot of time cutting liners for a six-sided box.

The End: This is a final look at the finished box. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

24 comments so far

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2918 posts in 2078 days

#1 posted 11-16-2016 09:33 AM

Getting the ball rolling on the superlatives: Stunning;
Fantastic...(Have at, Buddies.)
I’ve made a couple of boxes with grain-matching that went all the way around. Only four sides, though. Re-sawing does the trick for that, of course. Never attempted to wrap my brain around matching the grain on six sides. You got five sides matched – a feat I find bewildering. Is six possible?

-- Mark

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7903 posts in 4368 days

#2 posted 11-16-2016 09:56 AM

Beautiful Work!
It’s extra special knowing the origin of the wood’s that go into a project. Great story to got along with a great looking box.
Like you and Mark and many others I also have made some matching grain boxes and I believe it kicks up the beauty of the box a few notches; the effort is well worth it and the proof right here on this page; well done as always!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3282 days

#3 posted 11-16-2016 10:04 AM

Mark, nice question. The short answer is NO, it is not possible to wrap the grain around all six sides because this box is not symmetrical. After you have resawn the board, you put the matching, inside ends together and lay out your pattern starting at the mid point of the pattern. The problem is that the two sides don’t come out evenly. That is to say you would use more from one of the resawn boards than the other so the two ends would not match. A complete wrap is only possible when the figure is completely symmetrical or you use the same length from each board.

In this case you would start laying out the sides at the point where the front meets the right angled side. Starting at this point, lay out half the cuts on the left half of the book match point and half of your length cuts on the right hand side of the book match point. You would use 2 7/8 +5 + 13=20 7/8 from one board, and 8 7/8 + 2 7/8 +5 = 16 6/8 or 16 3/4 from the other board. So, one board is about 21 inches long and the other is about 17 inches long and those numbers don’t match and the two end cuts would be at different points in the grain pattern.

-- Big Al in IN

View Tooch's profile


2013 posts in 2891 days

#4 posted 11-16-2016 10:48 AM

Al, this is such a beautiful pattern, and the execution of craftsmanship is second to none. Thanks for the pattern and explanation of cuts, it will be helpful for anyone attempting to build one of their own.

Can’t wait to see the third of this series!

-- "Well, the world needs ditch-diggers too..." - Judge Smails

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3282 days

#5 posted 11-16-2016 10:53 AM

Tony, you are right. Historical wood lends itself to boxes. inside each of my boxes, I include a one-page description of the wood and the construction of the box. It is a sort of “brag sheet” for my customers so they can tell others about the box they bought. It takes some time, but each description is written just for that box. It is not uncommon for customers to read a number of these descriptions and to choose a box based on the history of the wood used to make it. It helps me sell boxes.

-- Big Al in IN

View croquetman's profile


137 posts in 4336 days

#6 posted 11-16-2016 01:46 PM

I noticed you changed your hinge to the more conventional from your favorite use of piano hinges. Any good reason why in this case. By the way, I love this box. A nice challenge.

-- Whatever

View observer100's profile


476 posts in 2125 days

#7 posted 11-16-2016 01:49 PM

I like making small oak or walnut rectangular wooden boxes of various dimensions for the neighbors and relatives. This is an appealing alternative to the typical rectangle. The drawback is that I previously had to worry about making 4 perfect corners (for a rectangle) but now I will have to worry about making 6 perfect corners!

I also have to mention your photography/lighting skills. The photos show the beauty of the project very well and increase the appeal.

-- Seeing is believing.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

6899 posts in 1597 days

#8 posted 11-16-2016 01:56 PM

Re: matching the grain, wouldn’t it be possible to match if you book-matched the front and back, putting in two extra seams / joints, but then giving you equal lengths between those two extra seams? At least, that’s what I’d try if I wanted to try to match all the way around on an asymmetric box.

That said, beautiful work, and a heckuva piece of wood to work with.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View wood2art's profile


34 posts in 3862 days

#9 posted 11-16-2016 02:15 PM

Beautiful use of salvaged wood.

-- Jim, Minnesota

View GR8HUNTER's profile


8311 posts in 1727 days

#10 posted 11-16-2016 02:33 PM

a very nice box …... nice flowing grain also …..... splines on inset box …..... WOW ….... GREAT JOB

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3881 days

#11 posted 11-16-2016 03:16 PM

Al, I love the design of these boxes. This ‘look’ just jumps out at you and they are wonderful eye catchers. As always, these boxes exhibit a high degree of quality and craftsmanship, a number of outstanding details, and beautiful wood and finish. After all is said and done, you are the one and only Boxguy. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Jerry's profile


3488 posts in 2663 days

#12 posted 11-16-2016 05:28 PM

really gorgeous box box guy you keep outdoing yourself Great job!

-- 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 Diggerjacks's profile


2329 posts in 4153 days

#13 posted 11-16-2016 05:02 PM


Awesome as usual

Thanks a lot for alll the explications

I will try to make one in the next month..

How many time did you need to make a box like this one ?

Thanks for sharing

-- Diggerjack-France ---The only limit is the limit of the mind and the mind has no limit

View DocSavage45's profile


9043 posts in 3857 days

#14 posted 11-16-2016 05:10 PM


Something I have to shoot for when I get in the shop. Nicely done. I’m leaning toward keeping with local grown lumber in my work as part of my inspiration. Like your story and that you share your learning.

Top 3? Hmmm who’d a thunk it. LOL! Congratulations.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3282 days

#15 posted 11-16-2016 05:48 PM

Replies to Comments:

Tooch, always glad to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words. Like most teachers I feel compelled to pass on knowledge, no matter how basic.

Croquet Man, I haven’t changed. I am still using my much maligned piano hinges from Rockler. Maybe I should have included this shot.

Observer, thanks for the mention of the photography. My equipment is pretty basic, a 20 year old camera, two flood lights, and the back of a piece of vinyl flooring. Nothing that anyone couldn’t do with a little practice.

The secret to getting good joints is to use two band clamps and pull the pieces up snugly. The band clamps tend to average out the gaps around the box. This is a link to how to make $5 band clamps that work.

I also use a shop-made jig to cut my angles on the table saw.

Dave, you are correct. Book matching the front and back would work: however, you would have the added complication of 2 additional joints in the box and no way to clamp them with a band clamp. Cutting the front and back in half and joining those together first would make the box symmetrical. Good thinking!

Jim, almost all of the wood I use is recycled material. I am lucky in that I have high class scrap to choose from.

Tony, thanks for the compliments. You have picked out all my favorite parts of this box.

Charles, thanks for the affirming comments. If you have a whole bunch of oblong boxes on a shelf, these really draw the eyes of customers.

Jerry, always good to hear from you. Thanks for the kind praise. The humidors you have made lately are pretty stunning. Keep boxing and keep posting.

Digger, great to hear from your part of the world. Let me know if you have any problems with your six-sided box. I will be glad to help. It is not fair to compare times. I have a shop set up for making boxes and have already made the pattern, jigs, and tool set ups. I have also done this before. My first one took me several hours and I made some mistakes along the way. I am looking forward to seeing your take on this style. Keep boxing and keep posting.

Doc, take note of the clamps referred to above and be patient. My first go at this involved mistakes and some pieces thrown in the scrap barrel. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

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