Soft Dovetail Box

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Project by MrWolfe posted 08-11-2019 04:24 AM 1123 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Number 16 in my 2019 Box Build.
This started out as a regular handcut dovetail box made of pine and cedar. I have been wanting to shape the boxes lately, to add some curves to the straight sides and surfaces. I did this using mostly a few rasps including a very inexpensive “hand stitched” chinese rasp that the manufacturer supplies to a German company. I was impressed and it cost about an 8th of the cost of a name brand rasp. I went back and bought a second one. I also used a set of Grizzly gouges.

I wanted this one to have feet and this may be a first step towards a “ball and claw” foot to come later on in a different build. I had fun with this one.

It wasn’t without issues though.

I tend to design on the fly and not really plan out my boxes beforehand. This leads to many “mistakes” that also need to be fixed on the fly. The lid was originally very different, more of an intarsia design with three different woods. Due to a lack of planning it had a different orientation to the box and was a little bit too large.

That lid will be used in number 17 which I am currently working on.

The finish is an oil blend of tung/b.l.o. and oil-based polyurethane followed with an amber shellac then wax. Maybe followed a little too soon with the shellac. I spent a week letting it dry and trying to fix the finish. In the end, a week later and after a little whiskey, I’m calling it “perfect”.

Perfect in the sense of the latin origin of the word meaning complete and not necessarily without flaw.

“Perfect- Middle English: from Old French perfet, from Latin perfectus ‘completed’, from the verb perficere, from per- ‘through, completely’ + facere ‘do”

And honestly, I still will put hinges on it and update it later with a finished finished piece.
I am working on a few other things at the moment and really want this piece out of the shop.
I have a few new ideas of things I’d like to try and this piece has been a great learning experience. Some of what I’ve learned is what not to do.

Pics of the bottom

and a pic of the feet

And with that, more whiskey now.

9 comments so far

View DeLayne Peck's profile

DeLayne Peck

669 posts in 3422 days

#1 posted 08-11-2019 04:28 AM

Very unique!

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

View Ivan's profile


16971 posts in 4088 days

#2 posted 08-11-2019 05:03 AM

Realy interesting shape. Corner joynery look fantastic.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8297 posts in 1803 days

#3 posted 08-11-2019 07:43 AM

Interesting! How thick were the walls when you started?

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View splintergroup's profile


5763 posts in 2443 days

#4 posted 08-11-2019 02:14 PM

Looks 100 years old! Really fantastic shaping job.

View SMP's profile


4755 posts in 1126 days

#5 posted 08-11-2019 03:17 PM

Wow, looks very “organic”. Really nice design

View MrWolfe's profile


1668 posts in 1344 days

#6 posted 08-11-2019 04:13 PM

Thanks for the compliments on this piece.
It was really fun. I had a pretty basic idea about how I wanted to shape it and I started with the box and then the bottom platform that the box sits in. One thing that happened is after I had the base and feet shaped, the box itself was still square. I started having doubts about whether or not to shape the box. I started getting attached to the whole project and didn’t want to mess it up. I finally decided to save the lid for another piece and to just start shaping the sides.
That was one of the design elements that I was after when I had started. I felt that even if it didn’t work that was what I had wanted to do. I’m very glad it worked. I also think I might not be so hesitant in the future. That will probably lead to mistakes but I’d rather regret something I have done than something I haven’t.

Dave, I forgot to put any dimensions so here they are:
9” long by 6” tall and its about 4 1/2” deep so its another tiny box.

The walls were a very uniform 1/2” thick and at the thinnest I got them down to 1/4” on the corners.
I could easily see the thickness of the boards as I worked them because of the endgrain of the dovetails.
The sides aren’t really curved completely across, more like dished out the deepest at the corners and that shallows and blends into the middle of each side. That gives the box a little pot like shape.

The last few boxes I’ve made seem more like small mockups or prototypes for much larger pieces.
I’m not sure if and when that might happen but I’m building a larger moxon that will let me make dovetails on boards up to 18” across.


View therealSteveN's profile


8683 posts in 1795 days

#7 posted 08-11-2019 04:16 PM

My Uncle would have called you a wood bender. Someone who takes that ages old, flat, rectangular, or square wood, and only uses the parts he sees his final project in.

Keep seeing those curvy shapes Jon, they are usually the most interesting.

-- Think safe, be safe

View leafherder's profile


1986 posts in 3173 days

#8 posted 08-11-2019 11:26 PM

Cool box, looks like something that a pirate would keep his treasure in. Thanks for posting

-- Leafherder

View jcees's profile


1079 posts in 5019 days

#9 posted 03-15-2020 05:33 PM

Like that a lot!

-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

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