First (Incra) box

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Project by Nils posted 02-28-2008 09:22 AM 5634 views 2 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As I mentioned in some earlier posts, I had asked Santa for an Incra Precision Positioning jig for Christmas. Santa came through for me, and I have finally completed my first project made with the jig. My goal was to practice creating some dovetails and otherwise learning to use the jig.

Before I could use the jig, I needed to put a router table extension onto my old Craftsman 9” table saw, and install the insert I bought almost a year ago. So I finally got that done in January.

Router table and insert (and my Incra Miter 1000SE miter gauge!)

Then I could start using my new jig.
Incra Precision Positioning jig - before its first use

As I said, my main goal was to create some sawdust, but I thought I might as well exercise some design sensibility. The first thing I did was come up with some dimensions that I thought would look good, remembering the “golden ratio”, or for the purposes of this box, 8” x 5”. That meant my stock should be 5” wide. And based on the dovetail router bits I had, part of a big Ryobi set, I was limited to making half-blind dovetails in 1/2” stock. Since I don’t have a planer or a working jointer (another project that has to be done eventually), I depended on Big Orange for my lumber – luckily they had 1/2×5 1/2” red oak lumber, and that’s what I used for the sides. The top and bottom are 3/4” stock, also 5 1/2” wide.

The bottom is joined to the sides with a simple rabbet, and I made a small chamfer around the edge to give it a bit of decoration. The lid is rabbeted to fit into the opening of the sides.
Making sawdust with my Incra jig and router

Since I was already thinking about making the box look reasonably nice, even though it was just for practice, I wanted to make good handle for the lid. My grab bag of pen blanks from Woodcraft happened to have a piece of purpleheart that was just not the right size for a pen. But it would be great as a handle. I was imagining a sinuous shape, something like a breaking wave, that would contrast nicely with the very plain and square lines of the box itself. I traced out my ideas onto the purpleheart, then used the bandsaw to cut it roughly to shape.
Purpleheart handle blank with layout lines

As I started in with the rasp to finalize the shape, I realized I really hadn’t cut off enough, and went back to the bandsaw. I did a lot of the overall shaping with a block plane as well. (When my wife first saw the handle, she said it looked like something the dog left – happily, she liked it when it was finished.)

Bandsawn handle blank

The finish is two coats of clear water-based polyurethane on the purpleheart handle, with “Walnut” Danish oil followed by amber shellac on the box itself.

I definitely learned a lot in this first project. Probably the most important thing was how critical the dimensions of the stock is. Especially the width of the stock, especially when using an Incra jig for the joinery. Because of the way you cut the joints, you’re always working from the same side of the stock, which means that after making four joints, you have multiplied any dimension problem by four. I believe stock varied by between 1/64” and 1/32” in width along its length, necessitating some serious sanding to get the side assembly to lie flat on top and bottom.

-- Nils Davis, Menlo Park, CA

19 comments so far

View grovemadman's profile


556 posts in 4256 days

#1 posted 02-28-2008 09:47 AM

Very good for a first project Nils! I mean really goooood. Nice workmanship. How did you Like working with the Purpleheart??? ; .) Tough stuff isn’t it?

-- --Chuck

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4289 days

#2 posted 02-28-2008 11:24 AM

Nice box Nils.
As you comment – precise dimensions are really important with the Incra.
I’m using the same jig as yourself. I’ve made 5 boxes so far, then run into problems with the cutter.
Hoping to get them resolved before too long.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4306 days

#3 posted 02-28-2008 12:42 PM

Very nice box, Nils. This incra jig has been on my wish list. I just haven’t convinced myself to spend the money yet. This definately helps me tip the balance in favor of committing to buying this jig.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Jiri Parkman's profile

Jiri Parkman

953 posts in 4296 days

#4 posted 02-28-2008 01:10 PM

Beautiful box. And good presentation.

-- Jiri

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4283 days

#5 posted 02-28-2008 01:12 PM

looks good. I have thought about this also.. I decided to stay with my leigh for dovetails… What real advantage do you see for this over standard dovetail jigs?

-- making sawdust....

View Paul D's profile

Paul D

2131 posts in 4232 days

#6 posted 02-28-2008 03:44 PM

Really nice box Nils. I have the Incra Jig Ultra that I bought probably 8 years ago. You can definitely make some nice things with these Incra jigs.

-- Paul D - Lawrenceville, Georgia

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 4737 days

#7 posted 02-28-2008 03:47 PM

Very nice box! And I don’t think that the purple heart handle looks like doggy doo at all :-) !

You have motived me Nils. I’ve got the Incra TSIII with the positioning attachment, but so far, I’ve been using it mostly as just a tablesaw fence. Now, I’ll have to dig out the templates, and have a go at some dovetails and box joints. Thanks for the tip on the Incra’s fussiness over exact dimensions, I’ll keep that in mind.

-- To do is to be

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4535 days

#8 posted 02-28-2008 04:23 PM

nice project and thanks for the pics of the progress.

-- Hope Never fails

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4472 days

#9 posted 02-28-2008 04:29 PM

Looks like you suceeded! Great looking bok.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View herbr's profile


141 posts in 4552 days

#10 posted 02-28-2008 04:45 PM

Very nice box-great for a first project with your new jig!

-- Spread love with our work

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 4418 days

#11 posted 02-28-2008 04:50 PM

Those incra add-ons look like they help to make some great projects. Maybe someday I’ll take the plunge, too. Nice work! I like how the handle turned out; you were right in your design assumptions that it contrasts well with the square lines of the box.

-- Robb

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4369 days

#12 posted 02-28-2008 07:37 PM

Nice post I have the same Incra jig but have yet to use it.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4702 days

#13 posted 02-28-2008 08:37 PM

Nice box, and a nice setup you’ve got there.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View lance's profile


170 posts in 4472 days

#14 posted 02-28-2008 08:40 PM

All around A+. Keep up the great work.

-- Bob Lance, DE

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4358 days

#15 posted 02-29-2008 01:10 AM

Hey Nils, I’m glad to see you’ve got your Incra up and running. That box looks great, man! I haven’t even tried using it for dovetails yet. The only template I’ve used are for box joints. Excellent shaping of the handle. You’ve done a GREAT job of creating sawdust! All around very nice first box.

-- Happy woodworking!

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