Dovetailed School Box

  • Advertise with us
Project by TDog posted 01-06-2013 06:09 AM 3096 views 4 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Dovetailed School Box

I built this box using the plans for the 1839 School Box from The Joiner and The Cabinet Maker. I took some liberties in the lid and trim scale on the bottom. I still may add a few pieces of trim to the top edge after I determine the fit and finish of the top on the overall box.

I made this school or keepsake box from a few pieces of maple I salvaged out of a remodel job on a museum type room from the Mississippi Petrified Forest and it’s old cases which were being removed in order to make room for larger display cases for more artifacts.

Picture 1: This shows the original condition of the maple boards when I pulled the old cabinets apart several months ago. There was some white paint in some spots and some old glue residue here and there. Getting the boards into shape was a lot of fun. It gave me an excuse to use all my Stanley hand planes I had reconditioned and sharpened a while back.

Picture 2: This shows a freshly hand planed and smoothed panel ready to be cut to size for the school box. The maple looked amazing after hand planing especially after taking the No. 4 smoother plane to it. It was not a huge board so that kept it from totally exhausting me as was the case with hand planning the panels for the 6 board chest (see my projects for that one). I placed one of my chisels in the picture to help with scale. Wow, maple looks great all dressed up and smoothed down, without finish especially, in the natural.

Picture 3: Now this lid was a booger for sure. I made a frame and panel lid with more of the maple. It took a long time to get the grooves and mortise and tenons right. I built it without a plan and went by trial and error. I still have plenty to learn and get better at. If you look close you can see some of my joints are off and out of square. It was still fun and looks good overall for a personal box. This box is currently serving as my Bible and journal box.

Picture 4: This is just an overall shot of the maple boards finally dovetailed and joined without a top or bottom. I placed my tape measure and sliding bevel in the photo for scale and I thought it kinda added to the character of the picture. I am passing all this stuff to my son, one day after I’m gone hence the dovetails. I thought the angle of the picture was good also to show an overall photo of the box.

Picture 5: This picture really shows the black hardware handle and the trim (by this time I had run out of maple). The bottom trim pieces are cut from solid pine. I got the handles for about $3.00 each at our local big box home center. I tried to go rugged and old school, a black iron kind of look.

Picture 6: This picture shows the Finished Dovetailed School Box with the Custom Frame and Panel Lid. I feel the lid is somewhat out of scale for the box. That is why I cut the bottom trim pieces thicker than the usual plan sized pieces to balance out the lid and overall look of the project. I have a separate temporary lid on it for now until I decide for sure if I want to stay with the lid in the above picture or not. I have to buy some new hinges to attach the frame and panel lid properly.

The project was great. I would encourage anyone to tackle it and build as much of it as possible by hand based on your time available. I built this over a period of 3 to 4 weeks on weekends and some of the Christmas break. I hand cut the dovetails and hand planed all the maple on the box. However, I did run the lid panel through my delta planer as I was running out of time before my “real job” started back on Friday. I basically made the frame and panel lid because I did not want to glue up two pieces of maple for the top as I did not have a remaining solid piece of maple to span the width of the top. The frame and panel lid actually took just a bit longer than all the dovetail work. The project was very enjoyable and “therapeutic” I did most of it in my garage workshop area (you may view workshop on my workshop page of my lumberjocks site). It was great to use a lot less power tools and my son spent lots of time with me in the workshop. He’s 5. When I use power tools, he usually avoids the noise during my build time. Give the school box a try if you have not, The Joiner and Cabinet Maker book has great plans for it:

The modified 1839 Dovetailed School Box.

I wil be building one of these projects next in the near future:
I will post it when it’s completed…Now to get more wood…..(gasp)
A) Large Trestle Style Table Desk with a bank of small drawers on top
B) The secretary/slant top desk with book case from book Furniture in the Souther Style (I recommend this book highly).
C) Building a maple or cherry customized closet

Here are some Great Books If You Love To Build Furniture:

The Joiner and The Cabinet Maker (Red Cover)
Furniture in the Southern Style (by Robert W. Lang and Glen D. Huey)
The Shaker Legacy (By Christian Becksvoort)
How To Build Shaker Furniture (by Thomas Moser)…there is a preview of the book at this link
Feel free to share any comments especially if you have built this or something like it.

Awesome Fine Furniture Maker Website is

-- "So many little time..." Psalm 23

3 comments so far

View Dave's profile


11435 posts in 4180 days

#1 posted 01-06-2013 08:18 PM

Wow Tdog, very well done. Looks like a lot of galoot going on. Your blog is very detailed. I love to see the re-purposing of wood. Maple is a hard wood to manipulate by hand tools. My hat is off to you sir.
Keep up the good work!

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View deborelli's profile


81 posts in 3573 days

#2 posted 01-06-2013 10:35 PM

WOW, thanks for the awesome information, detail, and resources. I love period furniture as well as trying to use the techniques to create them. Great job, and thanks again.

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 3450 days

#3 posted 01-06-2013 10:46 PM

Thomas would be proud!

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics