Once I had finished making my Box-joint Jig, I needed a project to test it with. I had just received a couple of router corner templates from China,

so I decided to make a box for them. They fit together, one on top of the other, so I decided on a square-shaped box. They formed a square of exactly 80mm so I based all my measurements on that.

First I ripped and squared some 10mm Maple to use for the sides.

I decided to make a box using the sawn-off lid technique, so I arranged the box joint fingers leaving a larger finger where I could saw the lid off without getting too close to a joint line.

I intended to use some Wenge for the lid and base of the box

.. but when I came to plane it square on my shooting board, I found it almost impossible to work with. After much trial and subsequent internet research (which confirmed the difficulties I was having), I decided to give up!

I found some quarter-sawn oak instead. You shouldn’t normally glue a piece of solid wood in place as a box bottom because movement of the wood, due to varying humidity over time, would likely cause the glue to fail and the joint to pull apart. However, quarter-sawn timber is extremely stable across it’s width and would be unlikely to cause any problems on a piece of this size.

I first cut a square for the bottom using my Radial Arm Saw (RAS), slightly oversized

.. and then trimmed to exact fit using my shooting board

I used the router table to create two stopped slots in the base of the box to accommodate the raised parts of the corner templates and allow them to lay flat in the box

The top of the box was also from quarter-sawn oak and would be recessed into the lid. I set up a stop block on the RAS fence

and then cut the rabbet on all four sides

I could have used the router table for this but I invariably find it easier to use the RAS. I ‘crept-up’ on the final dimension by moving the stop block by extremely small increments and re-cutting until the top was a tight fit in the lid (that was the theory – in fact I cut it fractionally too small – DOH!)

I then used the belt sander to round over the edges of the top to give the look of a cushion

Next it was time to glue the sides and base together, after sanding the inside faces and giving the base a coat of sanding sealer.

Glue squeeze-out was not really an issue on the outside (which would be planed and sanded), nor the inside (because it would be covered by the oak inserts to be fitted later.

Once the glue had dried I trimmed the box-joint fingers flush using a block plane

.. and then sanded smooth on the belt-sander

Next I cut the lid off using the bandsaw, cutting midway through the larger finger

I cleaned the two parts with sandpaper. Then I stained the top part of the box.

The stain really ‘popped’ the medullary rays of the quarter-sawn oak

In an effort to accentuate the line between the box and the lid, I used a block plane to form a very small chamfer around the edges where the lid meets the base

Using a 4mm bit, I drilled the holes for the magnets

Then I used the bandsaw to cut some thin (approx 2.5mm) strips of oak to be used for the inserts.

… which I trimmed to length and then mitred using my ‘Donkey’s Ear’ on the shooting board

.. testing the fit periodically

I found that the fragile sharp edges of the mitred ends were breaking out while planing so I used a backing piece underneath to limit the problem

Once I’d cut and mitred all four inserts, I used a block of wood clamped to the shooting board to trim them all to the exact same width

Then, after sanding smooth and rounding over the top edges (to allow the lid to fit nicely), I stained them with the same stain used for the top and glued them into the box

Then I glued the top onto the lid

To allow the lid to fit nicely over the inserts I formed a shallow chamfer on the inside edges of the lid

Then I super-glued the magnets into their holes after marking the poles with permanent marker to ensure correct polarity. I arranged the poles such that the lid would only fit one way (the magnets would repel if the lid was the wrong way round).

There was a moment of panic when I pushed one magnet part way into the hole but couldn’t seat it fully because the glue had grabbed. I frantically looked round for something to push it in with before the glue set. All I found to use was a screwdriver, and in my haste I pushed the magnet down slightly too far and dented the wood.

I decided to also relieve the bottom edge of the box with a small chamfer, using the block plane

After a light sanding all over, I finished the box using a wax oil treatment. As I wiped the finish on I noticed it was lifting some of the stain I’d used on the lid. This was disconcerting and I had to be very careful to not let the now-stained cloth touch any of the very light maple. I have never had this happen before in all the hundreds of times I’ve applied finish. Maybe I’ve never used a wipe-on finish with stain before? Or maybe I hadn’t given the stain time enough to dry (although I’m sure I’d left it for a couple of days).

I’m pleased with the result and particularly like the cushion-shaped lid. The templates fit perfectly with less than a millimetre clearance around them.


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Tools used

  • Table saw
  • Box-joint jig
  • Surface planer (Jointer)
  • Bandsaw
  • 6″ Belt sander
  • Drill press
  • Router table
  • Radial-arm Saw (for lid rabbet)
  • 6 mm straight bit (router, for base slots)
  • 4 mm Bullet drill bit (drill press, for magnets)
  • 120 grit belt (belt sander)
  • Marples 12 mm bevel edge chisel
  • Record No 05 jack plane
  • Veritas Low-angle Block Plane
  • Veritas Shooting Board Plane
  • Shooting board
  • Various clamps
  • Permanent marker
  • Steel rule
  • Digital micrometer

Materials used

  • Oak
  • Maple
  • 4mm dia x 3mm N42 neodymium magnets
  • Brandon Bespoke Wax Oil Treatment
  • Colron Jacobean Dark Oak spirit-based wood dye
  • Gorilla wood glue
  • Super glue

Things that worked well

  • Box-joint jig! First test of the jig was a success
  • Using the band saw to saw the lid off the box
  • Orientated the magnets such that the lid only fits one way. If you try to fit it the wrong way the magnets repel.
  • Relieving the edges of box and lid with a very subtle bevel using block plane improved the look of the box
  • Using the Donkey’s Ear on the shooting board to trim mitres (especially when using a backing piece to prevent tear-out)
  • Using the shooting board to trim inserts to constant width (depth)
  • Using the RAS to rebate the edges of the lid
  • Using the digital micrometer to measure depth of magnet holes (once I’d found it!)

Things that didn’t work (and improvements)

  • I should not have used oak for the box inserts – it’s too open-grained for such small parts
  • I should have sealed the wood dye to prevent the oil dissolving it
  • Instead of stained oak I should have used walnut
  • I should have measured the depth of the magnet holes properly at the time of drilling; they are so tight that a deeper hole shouldn’t be a problem – they would be unlikely to disappear into the hole below the surface of the wood
  • When marking magnet holes I was lightly off centre resulting in part of the permanent marker still being visible after I’d drilled the holes. You can see a small black mark next to one of the magnets
  • Panicked when magnet wouldn’t go in smoothly – used screwdriver and accidentally marred wood. Should have had a small piece of wood to use to push the magnet down flush.
  • Cutting the lid off through the larger finger didn’t produce the even distribution of fingers I was hoping for. The kerf of the bandsaw wasn’t thick enough to give the effect I was after. I should have used a thinner shim on the box-joint jig to reduce the size of the larger finger.