Back to Work on My 2 Year Project...

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Blog entry by Todd A. Clippinger posted 09-27-2009 05:45 PM 2836 reads 8 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A Great Breakfast

Rita and I had a great breakfast and visit with Dave Mitchell and his wife. They are passing through Billings and stayed at the campgrounds down the street since they are pulling their little camp trailer.

We had a nice visit last night. I gave him the shop tour and showed the few pieces that we have been able to keep over the years.

Now they have left it is time to get back on this little project for Rita.

A Recap (Short Version)

I started making this project in Oct 2007 while in Ohio. I worked on it again in December 2008. Now I am finally finishing it up September 2009.

You are probably thinking, “Wow, that must be some complicated project.”

Well not really. It is just a small box cabinet with drawers sized to fit spices or tea bags. The cobbler’s rule applies here; The cobbler’s children never have shoes.


Woodworking Details

The drawers have mitered corners and I wanted to add contrasting black walnut keys. To do this safely the best thing to do is make a little jig or sled to hold the boxes and slide them over the blade held at a 45°. This is a simple project.


You have to be sure and set the blade depth so that it does not cut too deep into the corner of the box. To set the depth just place the jig with the drawer or box next to the blade and raise it to the desired height. There is no need for measuring instruments to do this.

Keep in mind that the deeper you cut, the longer the key will be. This may be important to determine how long is aesthetically acceptable for your project.


The best blade to do this would be one that plows a flat bottom groove in the wood. For instance, a high alternate bevel blade without a raker tooth would not be a good option because it leaves a very distinct “V” groove profile in the wood.

I use a glue line rip blade that leaves a very flat bottom groove. It is not quite as flat as a dado blade would leave but close enough. So that means if you do not have a dado blade this is possible to do with another blade. A combination blade may suffice but it may leave little bat shaped ears on the left and right of the groove.

Next you set the fence on the table saw. I set it to cut keyways at 1/4” from the edge of the box. Now I am able to cut all the top and bottom keyways by turning and flipping the box without moving the fence.

Then the fence is reset to cut in the middle of the box.


Making the Keys

Use the saw kerf as the guide to mill the key material to thickness. I determined that the kerf was almost 1/4” deep so I ripped strips just over 1/4” wide.

The jig for the table saw comes in handy for holding the boxes while I glue in the keys.


Once the key material is glued into place it will need trimmed off. A small detail or dovetail saw works good for this. Cut close but do not try to cut flush to the box because you will stand a good chance of scarring the wood with the teeth of the saw blade.


You can leave some excess sticking out like this.


To clean up the excess use a good sharp chisel. You can pare off the majority of the excess then go in for the final pass. When you go for the final cut, get the chisel to ride on the sides of the box and it will cut the key flush to the surface.

In this photo I have already cut the key in the middle and am working on the left one.


Work Done So Far

I have all of the keys installed in the drawers. Next I need to finish sand and ease all of the edges.

It is amazing how much work is in something this small. There are so many pieces to handle. So many edges to detail. I can make a full size table in the time it takes to make a project like this.

The benefit of this project is that you can make it out of wood that you probably have lying around the shop as I did.

Well, it is time to get back out to the shop and work on actually getting this thing finished up.


Share the Love~Share the Knowledge

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

17 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4878 days

#1 posted 09-27-2009 05:58 PM

Todd, this is a nice blog. Not only did you manage to update us on your progress but you also managed to include a tutorial as well.

Thanks for “sharing the knowledge”.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View gbear's profile


540 posts in 5155 days

#2 posted 09-27-2009 06:13 PM

Love the tutorials. Nice job on the alignment of all the splines.

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4326 days

#3 posted 09-27-2009 06:35 PM

I was just perusing this months issue of woodsmith…and they have boxes with splines similar to the ones here. I was thinking of making a few gift boxes and this method makes for a nice stable box with the ability to contrast the woods. In the past I have made box joints with a contrasting key….but this looks to be quicker and much easier….

I am sure your better half is happy to see the conclusion of this project…LOL…..mine is always grateful…knowing that my time is very limited. The contrasting wood here is beautiful…the grain crossing through the drawers really gives it some character. I’ll bet this piece lasts a very long time to come.

Thank you for the instructive blog and the inspiring piece.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4729 days

#4 posted 09-27-2009 08:06 PM

Nice work, Todd.

View johnnymo's profile


309 posts in 4262 days

#5 posted 09-27-2009 08:21 PM

good job on your project, and good job on the tutorials.

-- John in Arizona (but it's a dry heat!)

View cabinetmaster's profile


10873 posts in 4614 days

#6 posted 09-27-2009 08:39 PM

Very nice tutorial on the boxes. I’m getting ready to build some new kitchen cabinets and my wife wants small boxes like that. Might have to look at incorporating something like those into the kitchen.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2659 posts in 4582 days

#7 posted 09-27-2009 09:24 PM

Your project is wonderful and each time I view your blogs I learn a great deal about woodworking! Thnak you!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Karson's profile


35271 posts in 5456 days

#8 posted 09-27-2009 09:28 PM

Todd: thanks for the tutorial on cutting the splines and trimming them off. Some great looking boxes.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5018 days

#9 posted 09-27-2009 11:04 PM

Good lessons here, thanx, Todd

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7158 posts in 4250 days

#10 posted 09-28-2009 04:41 AM

Mighty fine,Todd, mighty fine. It don’t get any better than that !

The jig you made is slick,too. I really like making jigs for the shop. Fun, fun, fun!

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View jim1953's profile


2744 posts in 4898 days

#11 posted 09-28-2009 04:48 AM

Great Lookin Job Todd

-- Jim, Kentucky

View Napaman's profile


5534 posts in 5133 days

#12 posted 09-28-2009 05:45 PM

awesome photos…in my favorites already…thanks for the details…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4776 days

#13 posted 09-29-2009 12:26 AM

Thanks for posting. It’s very inspiring.

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

View dustyal's profile


1322 posts in 4531 days

#14 posted 09-29-2009 04:02 AM

Thanks for taking the time to post the detail. I did my first spline miters just recently. Your review would have helped in “lessons learned.” For example, it was by chance that my flattest bottom saw blade was in my table saw and not my miter saw. I noticed the issue on my first spline, but it was close enough.

I chose to dry fit the spline stock, pencil in a cut line and use scroll saw to cut out. That is a “safer” method for me. Then, minor trim after gluing. Hint, can’t dry fit again after cutting… too tight and not enough room to pull it out to do the glue!

Maybe I should try a similar tea box cabinet for my tea drinking Mrs. Thanks for the design and tips.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View Roz's profile


1707 posts in 4842 days

#15 posted 09-30-2009 05:04 PM

Thanks for this one Todd. This is very clear and helpful. Nice views of the inside of your shop too.

-- Terry Roswell, L.A. (Lower Alabama) "Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans."

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