Sophie's Inlay Box

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Project by XrayJay posted 01-27-2017 02:22 PM 1111 views 4 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is one Walnut board wrapped around to make a box, so it’s not a board divided up into sections to make it continuous grain pattern. It is Walnut with ¼” Maple inlay, the top is reversed Maple with 1/8” Walnut inlay, the inside is compartment is Cherry. I’ve never done inlay before and haven’t read up on wood movement and inlay so I just dove in and hope it works. Two coats of wipe on Poly and a coat of paste wax. The dimensions are:
O.D. 11 3/4” x 10 1/2” x 6 1/4”
I.D. 10 1/4” x 9×5
Inner box ~ 8 3/4” x 5 1/2”

I may be applying the inlay totally backwards, so any criticism/comments are welcome.

My cousin asked me to make this box for her daughter last Christmas. Her birthday was in March and unfortunately I didn’t have enough time, so I made this one a year later. I mention it because I can’t be the only one who is asked to make something in a very short amount of time with no way to get it done. Thanks for taken a look.

-- Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might,... because there is no work in the grave...Ecclesiastes 9:10

14 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3259 days

#1 posted 01-27-2017 03:27 PM

This is a beautiful box and nicely done.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2736 days

#2 posted 01-27-2017 03:30 PM

very nice box

View majuvla's profile


14532 posts in 3260 days

#3 posted 01-27-2017 05:40 PM

Interesting and nice how inlay follows sides.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Ken90712's profile


17671 posts in 3581 days

#4 posted 01-27-2017 08:59 PM

Well done, Looks great.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Mean_Dean's profile


6966 posts in 3540 days

#5 posted 01-27-2017 11:32 PM

Great looking box—I love the inlay! I’ll bet the young lady loves it!

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

View AJ1104's profile


792 posts in 2052 days

#6 posted 01-28-2017 01:41 AM

I love the inlay, it’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

-- AJ

View BenDupre's profile


716 posts in 881 days

#7 posted 01-28-2017 01:58 AM

All the grain is going same direction so you should be okay on movement. Nice box.

-- The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred. – George Bernard Shaw

View BB1's profile


1381 posts in 1241 days

#8 posted 01-28-2017 02:52 AM

Wow. Very interesting design with the inlay and contrasting wood types. Looks great!

View Boxguy's profile


2823 posts in 2660 days

#9 posted 01-28-2017 06:10 AM

Jay, great job. I like the look. The contrast in the bottom and the top is especially interesting. Lots of nice miter work in this box. You have done a nice job of paying attention to the inside of the box. Well done.

You could solve some of your problems by rounding the corners to about 3/4 of an inch.

I can’t tell from the photos, does the stripe match up on all four corners? If not try this…start with a thicker board (say 3 inches) and do your band saw cut and sandwich the wood the way you have here. The thicker board is actually easier to do as it does not want to fold up like thinner boards do. It does require good, threaded clamps that can produce enough pressure to bend your stripe material.

Next, cut your sandwiched board along the length into three, one inch slices. This gives you more material for other projects. Face match two of your sliced boards so that the ends meet with the adjoining cut edges facing upwards. The stripe should now meet in the middle.

When you lay out your box start from the center. For an oblong box you would have a long side, short side, meeting point of the two boards, long side, short side. Cut the four side boards to length and then carefully cut the 45s for corners taking care not to shorten the boards with your 45s. This method will let the stripe meet on all four corners of the box and the stripe will show on the inside and outside of your box. The third piece will make a nice top for another box.

Don’t make sharp cuts when joining the stripe in the board. The stripe won’t bend sharply. Don’t let the stripe run up to the lid. Any horizontal slice for cutting off the lid will offset the stripe if it has the least angle.

If I have time next month I’ll try to do this process with pictures.

Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View Peteybadboy's profile


736 posts in 2342 days

#10 posted 01-28-2017 03:03 PM

Very cool. I may borrow the idea.

-- Petey

View XrayJay's profile


263 posts in 2372 days

#11 posted 01-29-2017 12:44 AM

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you everyone for your kind and encouraging words! Boxguy: “I can’t tell from the photos, does the stripe match up on all four corners?” Yes it matched all four corners, I was off a 1/16th of a inch from the beginning to the end. The only thing that saved me was thinking about it for a month before starting it I realized it would have to start and stop on the same plane so I drew a line down the middle on the MDF to show me where to line everything up. I’ll try to do your suggestion in the future and thank you for taking the time to try to help me.

peteybadboy: you are very welcome to use the idea. I’m still concerned with wood movement primarily on the lid. If you (or anyone) do please feel free to message me and I’ll give you as many tips as I can, I’ld be honored.

-- Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might,... because there is no work in the grave...Ecclesiastes 9:10

View Peteybadboy's profile


736 posts in 2342 days

#12 posted 01-29-2017 03:17 PM


I see from the mdf template that you brobably used a rounter to cut the space for the inlay. How did you cut the inlay itself, insuring you would have a fit that matched the width of the hole for the inlay? I too was wondering how you matched the “last” corner. That looks to be “precise” measuring. Maybe if the inlay “flatend” out at either end, then you would have more room for error when cutting your miters? I probably would look to build a jig. (will think about that) Re wood movement in the top. My tops fit into a groove alowing for 1/8” or a little less for wood movement in the top. If you are asking about how the inlay will move vs with wood its inlayed in? Don’t know. I think if the two woods are similar in density, you would be ok. Really like it.

-- Petey

View XrayJay's profile


263 posts in 2372 days

#13 posted 01-30-2017 01:25 PM

peteybadboy: I’ll try to go over the steps to the best of my memory:

1. decide on the length of the front and the side keeping in mind that in the end you could be 1/4 to 3/8ths off do to cutting the board down to size.
2. after deciding on the length of coarse double it to give you 2 sides and a front and back for you total length.
3. You can find youtube videos on how to do curved “inlay” by using a router and bandsaw to cut through the whole board. Some of this process is similar BUT DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH. I wanted to use a single piece of inlay NOT several strips to fill the gap.
4. get a piece of MDF (MDF is cheap and works well but I suppose any board will do) and making sure it’s longer than the board draw some curves from one end to another. Start and stopping points don’t really matter on the MDF but don’t get too crazy or tight with the curves. I used a flexible measuring curve ruler

5. cut and sand the curves in the MDF smooth remembering that any imperfections in the MDF will be transferred to your finished board/box.

6. The most important thing to pay attention to is your start and stopping point. They have to be as close as you can get them. I used a marking gauge all the way down the hardwood board but you can just measure the same points on either ends. These will be where the 2 ends and inlay will meet. You can’t see it in the picture above but there is a pencil line all the way down the board.
7. Lay the curved MDF board (that you have left enough of MDF for the router to ride on) and move your pattern up and down and side to side until 2 points of MDF touch your stopping and starting points. Draw some reference marks on the MDF to show, where to line things up, side to side.
8. Now the tricky part, I used double sided tape to go back using my reference marks and tape the MDF to the board where it needs to be because this is how my router will cut/route and travel on the board to cut the curved groove.
9. Use a 1/4” flush router bit (any wider and you will not be able to bend the wood without steaming or wetting) and a router guide bushing and use step cuts and and route out your groove. I stopped about 1/3 the thickness of the board.
10. Use your inlay wood and cut out on the table saw a exact width to fit in the routed groove. This is trial and error with a lot of test fits. Belt sander can be used if you have one. I did not.
11. Glue and clamp your wood inlay in the groove. The height doesn’t matter because you can plane and sand it down flush.
12. The fun part is next, cutting you miters without screwing everything up. haha. Two things to keep in mind, use scrap to cut out and try out a small test 4 sided “box”. if your miters aren’t 45 degrees now is the time to find out. The other thing to keep in mind is if you board is wide enough you can move the boards up and down and plane or cut flush later. lining the inlay up, up and down isn’t that hard, it’s the miters.
13. After you have your miters 45degrees cut your box out using stop blocks for accuracy in length of sides to cut you miters. I can’t explain it well but be as sparing with your miter cuts as possible. The more wood you take out the less the grain and inlay will line up. The start and stopping points at the ends of the board will show most of the mistakes.
14. After that cut you grooves for the top and bottom of the box and glue your box up. I dove into this box by just thinking about the steps for about a month. The main thing is the 2 ends matching up which you make sure of with your reference marks. everything else just lines up.

You’re right. I think wood movement will be fine, my main concern is the lid. I left room for wood movement too. I bookmatched the wood and the inlay runs perpendicular. This may be a mistake after a few years. I hope since it is recessed it into the the “frame” of the lid it will hide any inlay that may pop out of the sides.
Good Luck, if you need help let me know.

-- Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might,... because there is no work in the grave...Ecclesiastes 9:10

View XrayJay's profile


263 posts in 2372 days

#14 posted 01-30-2017 05:33 PM


-- Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might,... because there is no work in the grave...Ecclesiastes 9:10

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