First Decent Box

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Project by SFLTim posted 03-13-2013 11:03 PM 2395 views 7 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first attempt at a jewelry/display type of box. Dimensions are 7-1/4” x 5-1/2” x 3-1/2”, and wall thickness is 0.45”. I really enjoyed developing this idea, it just sort of came together in my head without plans. The main structural elements of the box are pieces of salvaged Mahogany, which I had rescued from numerous dumpster diving episodes while working at high-end construction jobs. It’s amazing what trim carpenters will throw away… The top and bottom floating panels are milled from a cutoff log of a Sapodilla Tree, which is a somewhat rare South American tree from which chewing gum has been traditionally made. I resawed some nice planks from the log and fell in love with the lustrous walnut-like color, but mostly with the awesome figure in the grain. I knew this would absolutely pop when the finish was applied, and it did not fail to deliver. I learned one important lesson while constructing this piece: Know which hinges you plan on using before milling the pieces to less than 1/2”. I ended up having to use 5mm barrel hinges which are a real bear to locate and drill, especially with my aging eyes. Probably best to keep future work at no less than 1/2” thickness.

The Mahogany was finished with 3 coats of wipe-on poly, sanded with 400 grit paper and/or 0000 steel wool between coats. I completed with 3 coats of paste wax buffed out by hand. The Sapodilla top and bottom were finished with multiple coats of Danish Oil, followed with the poly and paste wax. I’m very happy with the rich luster of the finish on both species in this case.

Thanks for looking. I appreciate any critiques.

15 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3079 days

#1 posted 03-14-2013 12:43 AM

Absolutely beautiful wood. Sopadilla is new to me but I’m craving some! You did a great job from build to finish. One of the nicest poly finishes I’ve seen!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View DaveDelo's profile


86 posts in 3283 days

#2 posted 03-14-2013 01:01 AM

very nice job. finish is ourstanding and love the spline work.

View The Box Whisperer's profile

The Box Whisperer

678 posts in 2459 days

#3 posted 03-14-2013 02:02 AM

no critiques! awesome box, build more please!

-- "despite you best efforts and your confidence that your smarter and faster than a saw blade at 10k rpm…. your not …." - Charles Neil

View SFLTim's profile


59 posts in 2370 days

#4 posted 03-14-2013 02:20 AM

Thanks for the nice comments. I’m tough on myself when it comes to my results, so I see all the little flaws and it slows me down a lot. I was pretty happy all in all with this one. Got some cool tropical woods like Mango that I’m going to do my next project with. Stay tuned!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30350 posts in 2727 days

#5 posted 03-14-2013 03:09 AM

Beautiful box, very nicely built

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Boxguy's profile


2822 posts in 2656 days

#6 posted 03-14-2013 09:58 AM

Tim, I like this build. You have more than succeeded, you have mastered box building. How is the top fastened to the sides? You mentioned it was a floating panel. Did you use a spline arrangement in the top, or a tongue and groove arrangement? Your proportions look great too, and the finish is superb. This finish should hold up well to the touching and use that a box gets. Some kind of lid lift might be useful if it doesn’t detract too much from your great look.

I would have used a stained plywood bottom or some lesser wood and saved the Sapodilla for another top. The box might be more useful for jewelry if it had thin dividers inside.

Your barrel hinge arrangement is well done. You may consider this alternative hinge, though it works better with a 5/8 side thickness. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View stefang's profile


16705 posts in 3723 days

#7 posted 03-14-2013 10:46 AM

Very nice craftsmanship and wood choices on this handsome box. Congratulations on making one you are satisfied with and proud of. That is an important milestone.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View dan81's profile


48 posts in 2375 days

#8 posted 03-14-2013 12:50 PM

Looks great Tim. I would certainly be proud of it. I encourage you to not worry about the “flaws”, but possibly embrace them as the added human element a machine can never achieve. I realize that’s awfully optomistic thinking, but in reality you’re probably the only one who will notice them.
Great job on the finish too. It’s harder than it looks!

-- Glue-up is still the stage when everything that was perfect in dry-fit goes horribly wrong, but I'm working on it.

View 489tad's profile


3602 posts in 3400 days

#9 posted 03-14-2013 01:00 PM

Tim thats a very nice box. the woods and finish are pretty awesome.
I use a drill jig to locate barrel hinges. Usually a scrap of plywood drilled (barrel drill size) to the location I want the hinges. On the sides of the jig attach pieces to register from the sides and back of the box. Jig on bottom box edge, drill for hinges. Without flipping the jig put it to the lid of the box and drill. The holes now line up. I hope this helps if you ever use barrel hinges again.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16283 posts in 4607 days

#10 posted 03-14-2013 02:23 PM

Very nicely done!

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

View SFLTim's profile


59 posts in 2370 days

#11 posted 03-15-2013 02:41 AM

Boxguy: The top and bottom are fitted into the sides with tongue & groove joinery. This allows for some expansion with changes in humidity. I thought about the lid lift and kept going back and forth on using one. I finally decided that for this particular box, and with the smaller than average dimensions the best choice was just to keep the lines as clean as possible. Thanks for the piano hinge tutorial, I will definitely make use of that.

489: I love to build jigs and love to make use of them. Yours sounds like a must-have. Do you have a post which shows this particular jig? any photos?

Dan81: Thanks, you are right. Your philosophy and thoughts on imperfections did rattle thru my brain through the process, and in the end it allowed me to be okay with everything. The more I look at it, the more you are right: without some flaws it would just be another stamped out factory piece.

Monte, Stefang, Charlie: Nice comments, I appreciate them and this forum gives me confidence when fellow woodworkers give me a positive nod.

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2564 days

#12 posted 03-15-2013 08:48 PM

Gorgeous box! Like the great build and joinery, amazing wood and finish. Great work!

View 489tad's profile


3602 posts in 3400 days

#13 posted 03-15-2013 11:27 PM

Tim this is an example of the barrel jig. One side is marked lid and the opposite side is marked box. Working off the same corner of the box and lid the hinge holes will line up. Clamp with a small c-clamp I use my drill press and make sure everything is square.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View SFLTim's profile


59 posts in 2370 days

#14 posted 03-16-2013 04:13 AM

Dan, thanks! I will bookmark this and use it the next time I install the barrel hinges. Appreciate it!

View Josh's profile


1234 posts in 2958 days

#15 posted 03-16-2013 04:14 AM

You done good. It’s really nice. Grain is flippin’ sweet.

-- Tree, wood, and box lover from Pennsylvania

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