Here’s an exploded diagram of the box we’ll be making. I’ve not included any specific dimensions. I’ve made boxes as small as an inch and as large as 10 inches using this style of box. Have fun! The only drawback I’ve sometimes found is there seems to be more interest in the box than the work in it. I wonder what they’re trying to tell me?
Begin by cutting two lengths of wood that are the same width. The easiest way is to set up a table saw and rip a piece of wood for the body that is thicker than the object to be stored in the box. Without changing the saw setup, rip a length of thinner wood that will be the top and bottom. The bottom will be the same length as the body of the box, while the lid must be about 25 percent longer. Cut the crosspiece from the piece used for the box body. It should be the same width, and square in cross section.
Cut out the shape, leaving a void. Test fit the object to make sure the object fits without jamming, making corrections as needed. Now is the time to sand the inside of the void to the extent desired. This will be more difficult later in the process, so do it now. If you want to line the edges of the void with leather, felt, velvet, etc, now is the time to do it while you can trim both top and bottom surfaces. Also, sand the top surface to final finish quality now, before the sides go on.
Carefully glue the bottom to the box body, making certain you’re gluing the bottom to the correct side. Listen to me, been there, done that…While I seldom use cyanoacrylate glues (superglue) for anything critical, I make an exception here since it makes the box making process so incredibly easy. I use the thicker, slower setting gap-filling glues for this. Once you have the bottom where you want it, squirt a little accelerator on the sides. DO NOT squirt it in the inside. Often the accelerator causes the instant glues to take on a white color. The outsides are going to be sanded so it won’t matter there, but the inside is much harder to deal with.
Now cut the sides. They should be of the same thinner material used for the bottom and top, and must be at least as tall as the combined bottom, box body and top. Their length should be as long as the top.
Here’s a front view. If you have a belt or disk sander, it’s alright if the sides are a bit taller than needed since you can sand all sides at the very last to bring everything into perfect fit. Glue the sides on, using accelerator on the outsides where you will sand, but not along the joint with the top of the box body – the white problem again.
Now assemble and glue the top and crosspiece. The crosspiece needs to be square to the sides of the top, and flush with one end. I like to drill through the top and the crosspiece and insert and glue dowels for extra strength. The dowels look nice if they are of a contrasting wood.
Fit the top and crosspiece into position. There should be some distance between the inner edge of the crosspiece and the end of the box body to allow for rotation of the crosspiece when opening the lid. Carefully drill trough both sides and the long center of the crosspiece with a drill bit the same diameter as the dowels that will be the hinge pins. I find 1/4 or 3/16 inch dowels sufficient for most hinges. Smaller may be a little too delicate, unless the box is quite tiny.
Using a good quality wood glue (not cyanoacrylate glue here) and a cotton swab, smear glue inside the holes in the crosspiece ONLY. Any glue getting on the sides will prevent the box from opening. Insert a dowel from each side. I find it is much easier to use two dowels, rather than trying to force a single long dowel through everything, gluing the wrong parts and possibly splitting the crosspiece.
The box is now ready for testing. The lid should swing easily about 300 degrees, finally coming to rest against the forward edge of the box bottom. With the lid down, the box will sit up as a display stand. Make certain it’s not too tippy and that the precious object inside can’t easily fall out.
The whole thing is ready for final trimming and flush sanding everything. I use a bandsaw for trimming and a belt and disk sander combination for flush sanding, then an orbital sander for final smoothing. As a nice little added touch, I carve or sand a small thumbnail depression in the end of the lid for easy opening. Use a good quality oil finish and your box is ready for show.