Frame-and-Panel Toybox with Splined Miters

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Project by JohnMcClure posted 02-04-2017 09:08 PM 1486 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I started building this toybox for my son months ago. I missed the deadline (his 3rd birthday) by a couple days.

Other than the hinge and anticipated lid supports, there are no screws or nails in this box. The box is lightweight but rugged enough that the owner can sit on top or inside. Overall dimensions are about 32×18x18”.

The frames are dimensional pine, ripped down to 2.5” width, and held together with stub tenons. The panels on sides, front, and back are ¼” maple ply, with classic warplanes decoupaged on to them. The bottom is ½” sandeply which sits in a dado. The frames are then joined together with long-splined miters, and since the stiles and rails are reversed, this means there is zero end grain visible.

The side handles, and cutouts for feet, and anti-finger-slam in the front, were all cut on the scroll saw, then rounded over.

The lid frame is mitered, with very attractive spline keys. I may regret not using a darker wood for the keys, but if you look closely enough you’ll see them. I believe they are a good complement, visually, to the exposed end of the carcase spline. When the lid is open, you can see both.

The lid panel is ¾” Baltic birch, with my son’s name engraved and painted with interior paint. This was my first raised panel and I think it came out great – after rabetting the edges, I used a cove bit to raise the panel. I would have preferred a larger diameter cove bit for a more noticeable raise, but all the locally available big ones had pilots and I was up against a deadline.

The lid panel cost more than the rest of the wood put together – $50 for a sheet of BB about 32×36”, whereas the knotty dimensional pine and other sheet stock is very cheap.

Finish is Minwax “Natural” stain (which has almost zero effect on color) and a few coats of wiping varnish (3 Spar to 1 MS). On the front and sides, it was important to use enough coats that the decoupage cannot be scraped off by a curious fingernail. In retrospect, perhaps I should have done a few coats of shellac first – I spent a lot of time waiting on coats of poly to dry, and with shellac, I could have put 4 coats on in an afternoon.

I have not yet acquired the necessary soft-close lid supports – I foolishly purchased some from HD and they are a disaster. Luckily I didn’t try to install them and leave screw-holes.

For those curious, the decoupage was accomplished by carefully cutting the image out (regular printer paper), then gluing it carefully to bare wood with Mod Podge. Then apply several coats of Mod Podge until the paper is completely sealed. Previously I had experimented with “photo transfer”, and had great results transferring an image – no paper, just the colorant – to wood. I wanted to do that here, but the maple ply is less porous than what I had practiced with and it didn’t work. Needless to say a good part of the time for this project went to practicing photo transfer and decoupage, and many square feet of plywood were wasted.

Gluing this up was interesting. I made two pair of corner strap clamps for this very purpose, and they were indespensible. In the future, I believe I’ll use a lock-miter router bit instead of the spline.
And of course, once I had cut the miters for the lid, I learned that my miter 45 was slightly off. I managed to correct by shimming the miter gage and re-cutting half the joints to the complementary angle. That was tricky but it worked out.

It was a hit with the whole family!

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

6 comments so far

View Woodchuck2010's profile


745 posts in 1874 days

#1 posted 02-04-2017 09:33 PM

Love it! It looks kind of “plane” though. hehehe. I love WWII aircraft. Nice touch with the decals. Very cool style. Clean look. Way to go!

-- Chuck, Michigan,

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 3359 days

#2 posted 02-05-2017 03:19 PM

great build

View JFred's profile


230 posts in 2561 days

#3 posted 02-05-2017 03:19 PM

Very well made without using nails or screws, looks like you may need to plan on making another one….... soon

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3882 days

#4 posted 02-05-2017 05:46 PM

This really looks nice and very practical.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Mas's profile


72 posts in 3278 days

#5 posted 02-06-2017 03:10 AM

I like the frame and panel design. From my experience you’ll only need a few more of these to try and corral all the toys.

View Ivan's profile


16636 posts in 3883 days

#6 posted 02-06-2017 07:47 AM

Very nicely and proffessionaly made box / joinery. I like those planes.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

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