MAKING SMALL TREASURE BOXES by C. J. Roy, woodworker
I saw the design for these cute little boxes in “Woodcraft Magazine” and knew I had to try making one. I liked the slanted sides, the small pedestal feet, and the domed top that add an elegance to the box. Also the box was joined with box joints, kind of unusual in a small box. I’ve now made about a couple dozen of them and am still pleased that people seem to be caught by them as I was.
Making small items that will be hand held is tricky. The fit and finish, the “feel” if you will, has to be near perfect or the thing is just firewood. A piece of furniture that sits across a room can have several small imperfections that will remain mostly unnoticed. A small box the comes to the hand is not so…any imperfection will be readily evident and unacceptable. These small boxes have quite a bit of hand fitting to ensure a wobble free top that indexes with the end ears, critical angles and curves that require extra care. And the box joint fingers must fit perfectly.
First one prepares the materials for the sides and ends by cutting them to size. For this batch of boxes I chose red elm for its bold grain, padauk for its rich red color, cherry for its elegance that will darken over time. Then the pieces are jointed in a box joint jig on the table saw. A slot is cut for the box bottom to be fit and the tops of the box ends are radiused and the pedestal feet are marked out and cut. Then the box is glued up. After the glue is set the ends are curve cut on the band saw, notice that is an irregular curve. And then the box sides are slant cut on the table saw.
Now for the tops. The tops are made from figured maple which adds an interesting and eye-catching element. I changed the design for the tops from the Woodcraft plan. The top has such a pleasing arch I
decided to continue that on the bottom of the top piece rather than leaving it flat. Incorporating a technique learned from another project I used the router table to route in flutes on that bottom rather than leaving a smooth curve. I think that makes for an attractive surprise when one opens the box to discover the decorative reeding. The arched for the top is marked on each end and after the side rabbets are cut to fit the top is placed in a vise and the arch is carefully cut with a hand plane. When you get close to the arch line then you sand to the final curve. It is not as time consuming as it might seem.
The little top handles are tricky, too. I lay them out on a long stick that is cut with the appropriate slanted sides and height on the table saw. The bottom of the handle is radiused to fit the arched top and before cutting out the individual handles, small holes are drilled for the attachment screw. The end angles are marked and cut with a fine-toothed hand saw. The handle’s top curve is completed by sanding.
Then careful sanding of the box parts through 400 grit to prepare for finish. The parts are finished with lacquer and then rubbed out when the finish is cured.
- C. J. Roy, woodworker
Box Dimensions: 6 ¾” wide, 3 ¾” deep, 3 ½” high (including handle)