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Pill Box

author-gravatar Timmy2Hands Jan 02, 2018

Working really small is a way to challenge your skills and build your attention to detail. Small mistakes will show up in a really big way.

This little pill box is 2" wide, 1 1/4" deep, and 1" tall

I'm not sure what species it is, but I know it's a Brazilian hardwood. The liner is made from pine and the alignment inlay is quarter sawn maple.

For me woodworking is not about the thing I'm making, it's about the making itself. That's why I choose a hand tool only method. It's quiet and relaxing work and I always end up with something beautiful.

A while back I was given about ten of these hardwood flooring sample sheets. Each sample is a different species like Brazilian Tiger, Angelim, Tiete Chestnut, and Brazilian Cherry. This one was unmarked but does have "product of Brazil" printed on the back of each board.

The tongue and groove boards are just hot glued to a backer and I was able to pop them off pretty easily.

I tried card scrapers and cabinet scrapers to remove the glue but it just kept gumming up. The best way i found was just using a thick knife blade as a scraper.

The thick polyeurethane was also a challenge, card scraper - no go, 60 grit - too much dust and too much time. Back to the knife blade, works like a charm.

Once the glue and poly were removed I used my #3 hand plane and a card scraper to smooth things out.

I got out my shooting board to remove the tongue and groove from either side.

The boards are about 1/4" thick but I want this pill box to be really petite so I glued a 1/8" thick paint stick to a piece of hardboard and added a cleat to create a bench hook with a very low fence. This #4 has been converted to a scrub plane with a heavily cambered iron and a wide open mouth. I thicknessed the piece down to 1/8" thick.

So now I've got a board that is 7" x 2 3/4" and 1/8" thick to get my box pieces out of.

I ran a guage line 3/4" away from the edge, clamped the piece down to the bench and used my dovetail saw to cut off the piece that will become the box sides.

With a board this thin the high tooth count and small teeth of a dovetail saw really help to not break the piece when you are cutting it.

I cut very close to the line but never cross it.

The shooting board cleans up the cut and brings it to size. I also clean up the off cut because it will be used to get the top and bottom pieces later.

I set two adjustale squares to the lengths I'll need for the sides of the box.

2" and 1 1/4"

I want the grain pattern to wrap around the sides of the box so I mark in 1 1/4" from the right for the right panel, saw it off and shoot the end to clean it up, shoot the sawn end, and mark in 2" for the front piece, and then another 1 1/4" piece, and then the final 2" piece for the back.

This was all the waste from the 7" long board.

In order to ensure a square glue up your long pieces and short pieces have to be exactly the same size.

To cut the miters I installed my "donkey's ear" on the shooting board. It holds the workpiece at 45 degrees to the sole of the plane.

I work my way down till the miter just touches the corner. I have a thin paint stick against the fence as a sacrificial backer to prevent chip out.

I put the pieces together and wrap with blue tape to check that the miters fit together without gaps.

If everything looks good open it up and apply glue to the joints and re-tape to dry.

I used Tightbond Liquid Hide Glue for this project.

The next morning the glue is dry, but with thin side walls and only end grain to end grain joints I keep the tape on until I'm ready for the top and bottom panels. I take a few minutes to even up any inconsistency by rubbing on some 150 and 220 grit sandpaper glued to a piece of glass.

Move in a figure eight motion to keep from uneven sanding.

I want to add a marker to help show which way the lid goes on. I decided to inlay a lighter piece of wood that will span the gap when I cut off the lid. I need to chisel out a recess that is 1/8" wide, 1/4" long, and 1/16" deep to accept the inlay.

As it sits this little box is too fragile to hold in the vise so i had to improvise.

A long walnut strip is held down to the bench top and overhangs the edge by about 3/4". The box lays on top and is pressed against the side of the bench and a smaller piece of walnut is clamped on top to pinch the box in place. This allows me to do the chisel work without adding pressure to the glue joints.

For the inlay I went through my maple scraps and found that the edge of this cut-off had a really nice quarter sawn grain pattern. I marked out a 1/8" x 1/4" area and used my dozuki saw to cut close to the lines and then just popped the piece out with a chisel.

The inlay piece is worked on sandpaper until it just fits the recess.

I'm not worried about it sitting proud of the surface, I'll bring it down flush after it's glued in place.

Once the glue is dry it's back to my clamping set-up to clean it up.

Now for the top and bottom panels.

I made sure to get the lid piece from the area directly adjacent to where the front panel was. The bottom panel is not as important.

Both panels are cut slightly over size and glued in place.

Now that the glue is dry the box is strong enough to remove the blue tape. I take the box to the shooting board to flush-up the top and bottom panels.

When I make bigger boxes this is the point that I get out my smoothing plane and get the final finish on the outside of the box before I cut off the lid. This box is way too small for that, so I hand sanded this one with 150, 220, and 400 grit.

I marked a line all the way around the box 1/4" down from the top and again used my thin kerfed dozuki saw to cut off the lid. Then the mating surfaces are worked on sandpaper until they come together without any gaps.

Remember, figure eights.

The lid is going to be held in place by the box liner. I could use just about any species here, but I like the smell of unfinished pine.

I use paint sticks all the time in the workshop for all kinds of tasks. These are the higher quality ones that Home Depot sells for $1 a pack. I looked though some untill I found one with nice tight straight grain. They are right at 1/8" thick but I planed it down to about 1/16"

I trimmed them down and used the shooting board to get an exact fit for each of the four sides.

They are marked to keep them in the right position and then I miter the edges just as I did for the box sides. I will not glue these in, the friction and the tight fit alone will be enough to keep them in place and if one gets damaged somehow i can replace them.

The finish is as simple as it gets, wipe on Watco Danish Oil. I keep the surface wet until the wood stops soaking it in and then wipe off the excess. I did not apply any finish to the inside of the pine liner, just the top edge.

I'll let it cure for about a week and then I'll apply some funiture wax and buff it out.

Thanks for following along, I hope you found it enjoyable if not useful.

If you have any questions about my tools or techniques please leave a comment below and I'll be happy to answer.


Very impressed twohands. I might just have to take you up on the challenge of making one myself.

Wow.. Amazing work Tim! I bet that took some patience and finely tuned tools. Thanks for sharing

@Sean  Don't tell anyone, but I just started this box Sunday afternoon.

What is this, a box for ants? Seriously, very impressive work. I'm sure it takes a lot of patience to work on this scale.

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