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Keepsake Box In Walnut

author-gravatar Clock_Man Dec 24, 2018

Keeping in Christmas tradition I'm making boxes. Mostly because they're small and easy to build, but also to try out new techniques. I wanted to do some inlaid banding around a top panel which required making my own veneers for the lid. Overall this was a really great learning experience and I'm looking forward to trying these techniques again this upcoming year. 

Boxes provide such a great way to build skill and finish projects. They are small so material consumption is small, but that also means that you can't hide mistakes like you can on a large project. I also like the versatility in the build.

Just like always, these projects seem to start at the bandsaw. I'm really happy I picked up a new bandsaw this year, it's such an underappreciated tool in the shop. The table saw is seen as the workhorse of the shop and by all means it is, but I don't know what I would do if I had to give up my bandsaw....well, other than buy a big handsaw to do the same thing.

So here I thought I was finally going to try the all corner grain wrap trick on this box. I had the sides mapped out correctly as you can see below, but I forgot a critical step.....swapping the boards. (In the correct steps you resaw a board in two, then take the two pieces and swap them. That way the wrap is continuous because you're working the grain that was split internally so the two corners at the end of the boards match along with the inside ones)

Pieces cut....still wrong

Now you see how the box is formed from the one plank.

This whole time I thought, man, the outside looks alright but that inside grain looks really good too. *Facepalm*

 Mark your miters. Always mark your miters or you'll eventually cut a / / instead of a / \

Looks ok. I still haven't realized how dumb I was.

Miters were bang on. Again, notice how the interior grain is looking really good.

Aaaaand here's the moment of reckoning. I knew something wasn't right so I went to re-check and sure enough, you need to swap the board orientation. 

Easiest solution for the best result was to just reverse cut all the corners and literally flip the box inside out. I lost some size, but it was nbd as I'm not going off a plan here.

Eyeing out how the fir veneer is going to look on the top of the box.

Cut to size.

I've never done shop made plywood before, so this was all a first. I made up a small veneer press and sandwiched the two fir pieces around a piece of 1/8" cherry ply. I left the outer veneers thick and planned to take them down more at the planer once it was done.

Thick wood sandwich

First you can see how I took the layers down in thickness for the final job. Then I made sure to cut the groove in the box. I got a really great fit on this.

A good fit is one that will hold the piece of joined wood in place but doesn't require a mallet or great force to seat/unseat the material. 10/10 on this joint.

With the grooves dialed in, I cut them across all 4 pieces.

Bottom panel is in and fit.

The top panel required some more work for what I was planning to do for this box. I needed to put a rabbet in so I could have a floating panel that I will later wrap with some banding. I left the tongue as fat as I could without compromising the strength in the side of the box with the groove. It also has the top of the panel flush with the sides. 

Since the panel is plywood, I can fit it as exact as I want, but it doesn't really matter as I'll be routing out a banding groove in a minute.

Glue up prep, not a big deal when using liquid hide glue.

Band clamps ftw.

I didn't get any shots, but you can see that I routed a shallow 3/32" groove on the perimeter of the panel. I was careful not to route into the box walls themselves.

You can see here how the banding will fit in the end result. All this work was very tedious.

Fitting these was very difficult. I was using a scrap piece of curly maple and had to do a lot of hand planing to get it snug in the groove.

Clamping a plane in your vise is a great way to carefully plane down thin strips like these and be able to see what you're doing. I did this for each of the strips so they fit snug in the groove but didn't leave a gap.

I believe this is after I glued the strips in. The hide glue does a great job. I will plane those down flush in a moment.

I cut and glued some miter keys in the sides for strength because....miters.

I waited to clean up the top until I had the keys glued in so I could do both operations at the same time to save time.

I like using the walnut for splines here. Kind of incognito and fits the box. 

Cutting the lid off at the bandsaw is such an easy operation with a good blade. Little cleanup is needed.

I cut the liners from the same material that gave me the top and bottom panels. Fitting them is just a matter of sneaking up on the miters so they nest exactly inside the box sides. This can be done with a miter shooting board if you have one, or a miter sled like I used. I find a miter sled to be better than just using your miter gauge because the board is riding in the sled and it is more of a situation of the blade moving to cut instead of moving the material. (From the perspective of the material itself)

Dry fit looks good.

Liner was nice and tight. I feel like I'm really getting the hang of these.

I slapped on some shellac and it really darkened up the walnut to contrast against the maple and fir.

The grain wrap is on the outside, where it belongs. :)

I really like the clean even lines of the douglas fir. Probably my favorite softwood.


Looks great and the banding looks so sharp!

Love, Love, Love this piece.

Great job Scott!

Fantastic work, Scott! I love that fir top. Works perfectly with the walnut and the curl of the inlay pops against it.

I was really worried about how the maple would look against the fir, but it did turn out well! I really want to look into making my own banding for some cool patterns and whatnot.

@Kevin0611  said:

Looks great and the banding looks so sharp!

@Timmy2Hands  said:

Love, Love, Love this piece.

Great job Scott!

Thanks Tim, always appreciate the kind words!

That looks great Scott. I was going to ask about what method you use for cutting your miters but you said you cut them on a sled.  Do you ever end up shooting them too or are you able to get them crisp enough straight from the sled? Also, do you wax after shellac and with what wax?  Just johnsons or something like that?

@firewoodmaker  said:

That looks great Scott. I was going to ask about what method you use for cutting your miters but you said you cut them on a sled.  Do you ever end up shooting them too or are you able to get them crisp enough straight from the sled? Also, do you wax after shellac and with what wax?  Just johnsons or something like that?

I find that with my sled my miters are good enough to look crisp on my boxes. The walnut on this actually warped a little because I was rushing and didn't let it sit long enough after resawing, but otherwise I've never had too much of an issue. I want to make a shooting board for miters, but time is the enemy for this. 

I don't wax after shellac, mostly because I'm lazy/don't want to try new things. I like the ability to refresh a finish without having to worry about a wax layer to mess everything up. To be fair, I have waxed a turned piece, but never my boxes.

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