Boxguy Betrays His Etome

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Project by Boxguy posted 12-20-2012 04:13 AM 3324 views 16 times favorited 37 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Pictured: This jewelry keeper ( 11 1/2 x 9 x 5 ) is made from two trees that grew in Ghana, Africa. The top and corner splines are made of figured Movingui and the sides are figured Etome. This keeper features rounded corners, mortised piano hinges, an attached top, corner splines, a sliding tray, and dividers made of a wooden Venetian blind. It is finished with tung oil and wipe-on poly.

Focus: I would love to know what you think, but here is my view. I think too many of us are neglecting to build the insides of boxes. My goal as a wood crafter is to make long-lasting, useful items that are a joy to touch, a pleasure to see, and a delight to use daily. The best boxes are purpose-driven…that is to say they are meant to do some job, or make some task easier. For that reason I design most boxes from the inside out...size the stuff you want to put into the box and then build the box around that.

Not all, but most of the boxes I see are just boxes. In this economy buyers look at pretty boxes, but buy pretty boxes that will actually do something. Even if you are making a box for a family member or loved one it should be something that is useful and purpose-driven. Give some thought to what the box can do when you build it.

Trays are just boxes with no lids. I want my tray to look every bit as nice as the box itself. Size it so that it slides easily. Mine slide on “rails” that are closely fitted slats on the front and back side of the inside of the box. Generally speaking rails are half the height of the inside (top + bottom) space of the box. This box has a deeper than normal lid to allow larger items to be placed in the top tray.

Tray Sizing Hints: The best trays are 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep. Don’t have your tray run the full length of the box. Let it slide and leave room on the side to easily insert your hand and lift the tray out of the box. Customers say this is much easier than reaching for a handle, it uses the space well, and lets them use either hand to lift out the tray. If the tray is not clearly longer than it is wide…make the tray square so you can put it back inside without worrying about how you picked it up. Since I use a stop chain, there is a rubber bumper on the chain side that spaces the tray away from the inside edge so the tray does not hit against or entangle the chain. Without this bumper the tray could get dumped out as you opened the lid.

Thanks: As always I appreciate all of you who take time look at my postings. I especially appreciate those Lumber Jocks who spend the extra time it takes to make suggestions or ask questions. I respond to all comments in batches later in the same day they are posted, so check back for rejoinders and answers.

-- Big Al in IN

37 comments so far

View Randy_ATX's profile


881 posts in 3495 days

#1 posted 12-20-2012 05:11 AM

Stunning. Can you go into as much detail as you are able to with your finishing process?

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View socrbent's profile


1040 posts in 3322 days

#2 posted 12-20-2012 05:14 AM

I like your suggestions and love the beautiful box. Well Done!

-- socrbent Ohio

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4630 days

#3 posted 12-20-2012 05:15 AM

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20631 posts in 4729 days

#4 posted 12-20-2012 06:29 AM

Awesome as usual!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3321 days

#5 posted 12-20-2012 07:44 AM

Early Replies:

Randy, glad to help with the finish details. Thanks for asking. Please click on the word “finished” in the first paragraph for details on the finish process I use on all my boxes. This is a link to an earlier posting. Just scroll down a bit past the first pictures and you will see the process detailed there. If I can help you further please don’t hesitate to ask.

Soccer Bent, thanks for the nice comment. I am on a bit of a campaign to get the Lumberland crew to include interior parts in their box builds. I liked your grandpa projects…especially the yo-yos.

Jim, thanks for the nice compliment. Always good to hear from you. Up late again I see.

Bob, thanks. I liked your “Grandpa I need a … ” series.

-- Big Al in IN

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1126 posts in 3365 days

#6 posted 12-20-2012 09:19 AM

Well fitted and purpose designed trays always go down well with the recipient. of any box. Trays that just float down on to their supports are always impressive. I call it a vacuum fit.
Do you always use a chain to stop the lids of your boxes over rotating? I think that they would be even more spectacular if you used a stopped hinge or some other mechanism to give a cleaner interior space. IMHO.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View prattman's profile


447 posts in 3171 days

#7 posted 12-20-2012 09:53 AM

This box is simply Stunning, the beautiful wood selection and the master craftsmanship inside and out. Truly a treasure.

-- Everyone calls me Ed or Eddie , mom still calls me Edward if she is mad at me.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 3566 days

#8 posted 12-20-2012 10:10 AM

Another nice box and write up Big Al,

A question on the lift out tray, why couldn’t the new owner just lift the tray out by way of grasping one of the partitions / dividers? Take my last posted project the round cupcake box for example , there is no sliding option since it’s round, only by way of the partition, I leave all of my trays lift out by way of grasping the partition, though on my trays the partition is part of the tray not glued in due to the tray being cut with a bandaw I’m thinking perhaps that might be the difference? Most all of my trays though are 1” – 1 1/4” depth even the open top trays on my men’s valet boxes I keep them around 1” depth. As for as my square boxes go, I’m not able to provide a chain on the boxes with a false bottom feature as it would be in the way of the door, I discovered this during trial and error but the the tray does rest on the door itself, as for as a self stopping hinge that JR45 suggest would not work for me either since I’m using the hidden pen hinges, only other option for me would be the change the box design so that it could house the self stopping hinges.

A side note: Along with the new forums that were just created here on LJ’s and since we have so many that build boxes of all kinds along with teachings such as yours, I’d like to see a forum created and dedicated towards box building for all of us here on LJ, I think it would be a great asset especially with the knowledge you provide along with others..

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

View ruddy's profile


550 posts in 3992 days

#9 posted 12-20-2012 10:13 AM

Your finish and detailed trays are a standout. I agree that when you open the box there should be another feast for the eyes. Well made trays with nice accents and a good suede lining is my preference.
I agree with JR45 regarding using chain as the hinge stop.

-- And my head I'd be a scratchin'

View UncleStumpy's profile


745 posts in 3366 days

#10 posted 12-20-2012 11:02 AM

I agree with your opinion about the insides of alot of boxes are neglected. If not a tray, then a real nice finish or contrasting stain or some flocking etc.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

-- "They don't want it perfect - they want it SPECIAL"

View gepatino's profile


217 posts in 3177 days

#11 posted 12-20-2012 12:56 PM

Thanks a lot for the details about how and why you make your boxes like you do. I’ll have to reread this post before doing my first box.

One quick question:
What’s the regular/recomended thickness for the box sides and top?
I find it difficult to find wood less than an inch thick (well, I’m starting on this, don’t even know good wood shops), do you resaw the wood for all your boxes?


View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3857 days

#12 posted 12-20-2012 12:56 PM

Gr8 explaination Al. Another super jewelry keeper. Beautiful and full of fine details.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View croquetman's profile


137 posts in 4374 days

#13 posted 12-20-2012 01:39 PM


-- Whatever

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3321 days

#14 posted 12-20-2012 01:43 PM

Responses to the Second Batch:

Jim, thanks for the thoughtful response. Chains are a function of economy. Most of the boxes I make are for sale. My market is in the $150-$250 range. At that price, and the way I make the rest of the box paying around $40 for a good extruded brass hinge would eat up too much of my profits. Cut-down piano hinges and chains give long-lasting service and are simple to install. All that said, I will certainly admit that it is a trade off in appearance.

Ed, thanks for the high praise. I really enjoyed looking through your projects. You have made some really amazing cutting boards. Nice work.

Blackie, what an all-out response. Thanks for being so thorough. Where to start… Since I have a bottom board that I have to insert in my trays, it means that a 1 1/2 inch tray is often less than an inch deep. I like to have my dividers removable to make cleaning easier and to allow customers to re-purpose the use of the box.

Your forum idea is interesting. I like being able to integrate ideas as I post projects too. I really admire the way you are integrating jointed boxes and bandsaw boxes. It is a great concept.

Ruddy, I really like the appearance of the boxes you make and the idea that the inside should be “a feast for the eyes” is a nice turn of phrase. Suede does make a great and practical bottom, but in this case I just couldn’t bring myself to cover the beautiful wood underneath. Thanks for the turn of phrase and the comment.

Stumpy, thanks. Good to hear from you. I feel that when I have finished the box my job is only half done and the box doesn’t have a job to do yet.
Your boxes with legs are a good idea and I especially like the design of “Art Fair Box #3.”

Gepatino, thanks for giving my post such a thorough read. May I suggest you look here for practical ideas for making boxes? Click Always nice to hear from the South American contingent of Lumberland.

Roger, thanks for the comment on the details. Enjoy your Christmas.

-- Big Al in IN

View balidoug's profile


523 posts in 3532 days

#15 posted 12-20-2012 01:49 PM

Great piece, and some great pointers. am certainly guilty of your assertion that some of us pay too little attention to interior details. Thanks for the inspiration.

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

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