Exposed Finger Joint Box #3: The Lid

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Blog entry by splintergroup posted 02-22-2017 08:28 PM 2935 reads 6 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The base Part 3 of Exposed Finger Joint Box series no next part

The lid is the most “visible” part of these boxes. I’ve been making mitered frames with panel centers. Some times a mirror on the inside, other times I use veneer.

Options would be to make a panel similar to the base or choose another arrangement that draws the eye.

For this box, I chose a veneered panel with a mitered frame.

As with the base, the dimensions of the inside of the top frame are identical to the dimensions of the box body interior (6” x 8”). This makes for easy hinge installation

A dimensional drawing can be found here

The Panel
The lid is 1/2” thick. I like to use a groove of about 1/4” deep to hold the panel, therefore I need a panel approximately 6-1/2” x 8-1/2”

I’ve just recently begun experimenting with veneers and have recently built a Venturi vacuum that uses my air compressor.

Not sure why I didn’t just get a vacuum pump, but it works well.

The lid has a “waterfall” bubinga front and a lacewood rear.
First thing was to flatten the bubinga. I used a solution based on propylene glycol to wet the veneer, then some flat weight and absorbent towels to level it out.

A proper layer of glue applied with the Rockler silicone glue spreader (Love this thing!) is applied to the plywood core…

...and the veneers are then positioned for the vacuum press.

With the veneering complete and sanded smooth, I can measure the with required for the frames groove.
As with the other parts of this box, I pre-finish this panel while it is easy to sand and buff out.

Begin the frame

I prep the frame stock by ensuring the parts are sanded and dimensioned equally (1/2” thick, 1-1/4” wide)
A well positioned stop block and backer board on my miter gauge gets me 45 degree corners that fit nicely.

Using my box joint blade set for a flat bottom groove, several cuts produce the correct width groove for the veneered panel to fit snugly.

I use a feather board for consistency and the dial gauge technique shown in part 2 to zero in.

The inside edges are then chamfered and finish applied to the bevel.
I install the panel (cut to size) and use stretched masking tape on the miters to pull/hold the corners together.
Blue painters tape is then carefully applied to the panel to protect it when I glue up the miters. Note the notations so I can re-install it correctly after gluing things up. The miters are epoxied so I have plenty of panic/stress free time to get everything aligned before clamping. The panel has PVA glue along its perimeter in the groove. Together this makes for a stable unit.
Masking tape is again stretched over the joints (on both sides) to clamp them together.

I then clamp the corners down to my small granite surface plate for a flat glue up.

The splines

Miter joints are weak, end grain glue ups. Splines with the long grain perpendicular to the joint line provide excellent strength. I typically use a FTG (flat top grind) rip blade and my spline jig to cut slots. The 1/8” slot has a flat bottom and I can use my drum sander to dial in perfect fitting splines.

Again with epoxy, the splines and slots are coated on both sides. Splines are slid into place and clamped to ensure they stay at the bottom of the slots. I have maybe 1/4” extending out which gets trimmed later.

Remember that the frame pieces are 1-1/4” wide? I leave an extra 1/8” on each piece so I can trim things square later. Here I am trimming the excess spline away. The thin board riding along the fence allows me to reference against the frame and not the spline stubs. The veneer showing in this picture is the lace wood.

The panel is square and the frame pieces are 1-1/8” wide all around. Next is to get the panel flat again by surface sanding on my 20” disc (180 grit).

Hinge Install
My previous boxes had surface mount hinges, this time I decided to mortise them in.

A simple jig and trim router (with the same mortising bit used for the base) provides the required accuracy for these solid brass hinges.
This is the base being mortised.

I then only need to center and square the jig to mortise the lid.

Mortise depth is about 1/2 the folded hinges thickness at the pin. If you go too deep, the lid will bind on closing. Too shallow, the lid will have a visible gap at the rear when closed. The only cure for too shallow is to cut deeper, for too deep, you can add paper or thin cardboard shims which stay hidden. I tend to either nail the depth exactly of go slightly deep.

The hinges are test fit. I use a vix bit to drill the holes and steel screws for this test. The steel screws pre-cut the threads so when I install the brass screws, they shouldn’t snap off as easily 8^).

Same for the lid.

These screws are #4×1/2” Since the lid is only 1/2” thick, I cut the tip off of the screws with a pair of dykes. You don’t want hinge screws poking through your lid!

Lid profiling
I want the lid to lay back at about 95 degrees when opened. In the above photo you can see that the hinge pin sits a small amount back from the box wall. This will provide a bit of that lean back for the lid to keep it open. I have copper rivets with large heads that will also direct how far the lid may be opened and these rivets counteract the hinge pin offset. I still need a way to allow for that lid lean back.
The solution is to run a taper along the back bottom of the lid. This serves two purposes, allow for the lean back and remove the hinge mortice from the rear where it can be seen and serves no purpose.

This photo shows the under side rear of the lid. You can see one of the hinge mortises. I know that the box wall is 5/8” back from the edge of the lid. I mark a line showing this position on the lid.

I angle my table saw blade (about 10-15 degrees) such that the taper begins on this line and leaves enough material next to the spline. This photo shows the underside of the lid after the cut. It’s difficult to see, but if you look at the hinge mortise, you can see how it “disappears” towards the rear of the lid.

This picture shows the effect from the side view with the hinges installed.

You might notice a tiny chip on the corner of the spline in this photo. That will disappear when I route the chamfers on all edges of the lid.

Finishing up
I apply the same finish to the lid after profiling the edges and remove the tape.
For the final box, I added some trays. You’ll see these when the project is posted.

I apply the finish to the top edges of the box and buff this out after it dries.
A coat of wax on all surfaces is applied and buffed out before final hinge installation.
The inside of the box was waxed before the felt bottom was installed, much easier to keep wax off the felt this way!

The hinge screws in the lid pass close to the slot cut for the panel. To better secure the screws here, I place a dab of epoxy in the screw hole before tightening things up.

That’s it! Thanks for the comments and following along 8^)

10 comments so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3501 days

#1 posted 02-22-2017 10:15 PM

Beautiful box and excellent commentary. I greatly appreciate your attention to detail. Thank you for sharing.

-- Art

View splintergroup's profile


5864 posts in 2466 days

#2 posted 02-22-2017 10:44 PM

Sure thing Art!, thanks for the kind words.

View Mike_D_S's profile


797 posts in 3458 days

#3 posted 02-22-2017 11:59 PM

I don’t know, you better send me that box for disposal. Wouldn’t want that old thing cluttering up the place…..

Looking very nice and I really like way the finger joints and veneered too came out.

-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View BB1's profile


2449 posts in 2092 days

#4 posted 02-23-2017 12:42 PM

Thank you for the details on a great looking box. Am adding this to my favorites for future reference!

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4048 days

#5 posted 02-23-2017 12:48 PM

That veneer is gorgeous.

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

View splintergroup's profile


5864 posts in 2466 days

#6 posted 02-23-2017 02:41 PM

Thanks people!
Sorry Mike, with UPS rates I’m better off just burning here in my yard 8^)

View JimYoung's profile


426 posts in 2831 days

#7 posted 02-25-2017 03:24 PM

Thanks for the “how to” on a beautiful box.

-- -Jim, "Nothing says poor craftsmanship more than wrinkles in your duck tape"

View Duff's profile


187 posts in 1762 days

#8 posted 06-12-2017 03:57 PM

Not only a beautiful box but a fantastic tutorial! Thanks for your advice on how to try and overcome my finishing issues.

-- You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven - Jimi Hendrix

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4110 days

#9 posted 06-13-2017 05:18 PM

This top is an outstanding piece. That wood insert is a wonderful eye catcher.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1495 posts in 2536 days

#10 posted 01-04-2018 04:23 PM

That’s a beautiful box. You have all the great tools. I started wood working a few years ago and projects like yours really help.

-- James E McIntyre

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