Boxguy Tops The Scales

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Project by Boxguy posted 12-10-2012 10:39 AM 4101 views 13 times favorited 37 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Pictured: A jewelry box with a laser cut, interwoven dragon scale top. In the top the lighter wood is Japanese Sen. The darker wood is figured Etome from Ghana. The sides of the box are African Mahogany from central Africa. The corner splines are New England Rock Maple salvaged from very old flooring. The sliding tray sides are made of Macore from western Africa. The bottom of the tray is veneer from a Californian Redwood burl. The dividers in the tray are salvaged wooden Venetian blinds. How is that for a collection of scraps?

Links: These are links to some of my various posting and blog articles on topics relating to building this box and other boxes. These links will answer some of the most frequently asked questions on these topics. Just click on the topic and scroll down through the posting. Finish... Hinges... Band Clamps ...Splines... Gluing

Story: I can’t claim any credit for the laser work on the top. This was done in a local veneer mill and is beautiful, precise work. I am fortunate to have friends who give me such wonderful scrap pieces to work with. Most of these woods were once-upon-a-time crating.

Focus: Recycling exotic wood into boxes is my way of extending the lives of these wonderful trees. I seldom buy wood, preferring to scrounge around for material. Of course, I am really fortunate to have some wonderful wood to scrounge through and friends to help me look. No matter where you live there is probably some source of wood scraps. If I can just find a board 2 to 3 feet long, 4 to 6 inches wide, that will plane out at 5/8 of an inch thick, I can make a box from that board…so can you.

Thanks, to all of you in Lumberland who take the time to look. A special thanks to all who take time to write remarks or ask questions. I will respond on this posting to all your comments over the next couple of days, so check back here to see my rejoinders and answers.

-- Big Al in IN

37 comments so far

View JoeyG's profile


1275 posts in 3906 days

#1 posted 12-10-2012 10:50 AM

Nicely done Al. I was admiring the lid and then the next pictures show the insides and WOW. I think I like the inside of the box even better.

It’s been a while since I have felt truly inspired to move in a new direction with my boxes, and you have done it. Thanks for sharing this with us.

-- JoeyG ~~~

View WoodenFrog's profile


2737 posts in 4193 days

#2 posted 12-10-2012 11:06 AM

Beautiful box Al !!
Really nice work! Great job on the save of such pretty wood!
I wish I knew were to go to save some scrap, I do collect whatever I find.
I like the using the Venetian Blinds! :)

-- Robert B. Sabina, Ohio.....

View Bradford's profile


1434 posts in 5103 days

#3 posted 12-10-2012 11:29 AM

awesome pieces, truly inspirational explanation, fantastic pictures. Thank you for posting such tremendous works of art.

-- so much wood, so little time. Bradford. Wood-a-holics unanimous president

View sedcokid's profile


2738 posts in 4879 days

#4 posted 12-10-2012 12:57 PM

Al, What a gorgeous box!! I don’t have another LJ buddie that gives a better explanation of their project then you, it is a pleasure to read about your projects. Do you make your boxes for sale? Do you do craft shows? With all the boxes you have made how do you dispose of them….......... maybe dispose isn’t the right word, please don’t be offended by it. You say you have friends that help you with finding wood, do you get it is the form of old furniture? However you get it your boxes are outstanding!! You sent me your process for finishing and I will be posting a box today with your finishing process and it is really easy…....The hardest part is the wait between coats of finish.

Thanks again for all your project posts!! This one is fantastic!!


-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 3688 days

#5 posted 12-10-2012 01:17 PM

On a box this beautiful, if you have to ask—”How much is this?”—you cant afford it! This is absolute perfection in every aspect of it. The burl bottom on the tray is just amazing. Thanks for all the link listings too.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View Jim Sellers's profile

Jim Sellers

519 posts in 3615 days

#6 posted 12-10-2012 02:02 PM

Ah ha! Now we get it. The use of a laser cutter. Now how can us poor folk with a handsaw and pocket knife compete with that. Seriously though, beautiful, outstanding work Al.

-- J.C.Sellers, Norcross, Ga. Just cut it right the first time. The best carpenters make the fewest chips.

View shipwright's profile


8760 posts in 4078 days

#7 posted 12-10-2012 02:47 PM

Very nice Al,
The laser cut top is well done.
You should do more veneer work. of your best.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View DocSavage45's profile


9070 posts in 4123 days

#8 posted 12-10-2012 03:02 PM

Wabi Sabi in action! Nice!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3529 days

#9 posted 12-10-2012 03:12 PM

I love the finger pull. I’m still waiting on a quick write-up as to how that is done :)

I know you mentioned it was done with a spindle sander, but there has to be a trick or two involved that i am overlooking


View jbschutz's profile


615 posts in 3972 days

#10 posted 12-10-2012 03:28 PM

Al, one of your finest. The box is great, but the details are what sets this one apart. I was ready to go a little gaga over the scales on the lid, but the use of the burl veneer in the bottom of the tray is another wow factor. Beautiful!
You are having way to much fun.

-- jbschutz

View a1Jim's profile


118296 posts in 4857 days

#11 posted 12-10-2012 03:40 PM

Beautiful work Al a super box.


View Boxguy's profile


2904 posts in 3548 days

#12 posted 12-10-2012 03:48 PM

First Set Of Replies:

Joey, you make a nice box yourself. How is the next step on your bedroom suite project coming along?

WFrog, thanks. Just keep looking around. Recycling works especially well for boxes. How is the sander campaign coming along?

Bradford, thanks for such high praise. I really liked the serving tray you made for your mom a while back. Nice design.

Chuck, thanks for the nice comments about my posts and boxes. “Dispose” is a good term. Once you have given all your family members two or three boxes each you are forced to find another plan if you want to stay married and don’t want to trip over all the boxes on the floor. I sell my boxes through local galleries. They take 40% or so, but I am not sitting in a tent in the rain or lugging heavy boxes around all day. So, I am glad to give them the money. I’ll look forward to your next post. I agree patience is a difficult skill to learn.

Jay, thanks for the high praise…it is a lot to live up to. I sold this for $215 through the gallery.

Jim, if I had a hand saw I would probably cut it up with a laser. The commercial laser they use in the local veneer plant is a wonderful tool.

Shipwright, I am really lucky to have several veneer mills in the area. They do some amazing work for private jets and large buildings.

Doc, wabi-sabi, Kimosabe, wabi-sabi. Always nice to hear from you.

Joe, about the finger lift indents…in words…the trick is to make a wooden saddle (left on the top) with a wide side and a narrow side that fits over the guide to let you space your three cuts. Time is the master of all, but I will do a full write up probably in January. Here is a mini-blog.

This is a Jet spindle sander the top has been expanded and I have attached a straight edge clamp for a guide, and drawn a guide line at 90 degrees to the center of the spindle. Angle the top. Set the guide with the saddle over it. Put the narrow side of the saddle toward the sander and the spindle centered on the box.

Sand the center indent. Now remove the saddle to sand the smaller far side indent. Next turn the saddle around with the wide side toward the spindle. Sand the indent on the far side. It will look like this.

-- Big Al in IN

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 3793 days

#13 posted 12-10-2012 03:52 PM

Big Al another beauty, I always enjoy looking at your work there’s always a new view around each corner :)

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4584 days

#14 posted 12-10-2012 03:52 PM

wonderful wonderful…this is a real beauty al, all of the woods sure do create a beautiful box, and it looks just great, what is your finish on this one, it sure looks great..

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Ethan Harris's profile

Ethan Harris

300 posts in 3425 days

#15 posted 12-10-2012 04:17 PM

Been doing some box building for Christmas gifts this year. I can really appreciate the work that goes into this. Great job!

-- Ethan, CT: Check out my Small Business at & also follow me on twitter

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