Wednesday 9 March 2016

Mid-Century Keepsake Box

I have planned to build some boxes this year.

Today I will report about the first one.

It's a Mid-Century inspired design.

At the beginning of this year I've tried to get my ducks in a row and planned some projects for this year.
Some boxes are on my list for different occasions. The first one shall be a birthday gift.
As it will be a gift and the person who will receive it, isn't expecting it at all I'm free in my design.
I'm a Mid-Century aficionado and this will be reflected in the first box this year.


Some design aspects:
  • Clean and straight lines
  • Floating effect
  • Colored (painted) lid
  • Mitre joints

Starting the Project

I had ambitious ideas regarding my boxes this year. I wanted to use some wood species I haven't used until now. I've got Ash in my mind. But actually I have a lot to do with the workshop makeover and I don't want to store additional lumber in my rare storing space.
So I browsed through my leftovers and found a nice piece of Red Meranti.
The box dimensions are based on the dimensions of the available material.
Actually I wanted the grain running all around the box perimeter. Unfortunately the available board is not long enough. So I decided to split the board in the center. With this two pieces I could build a nice case.

Box material trued and marked


As mentioned above I would like to have a floating effect when the box is placed somewhere. Therefore I will insert a massive board as bottom and I will need a groove to insert it.
On the other hand I would like to have an inset lid. Therefore I will do a rabbet at the top of the side and end panels.
Both elements, groove and rabbet, I have done before I cut the single pieces to length.
That made the handling much easier and assures that groove and rabbet are in the same position.
After the preface now back to work. Grooving at bottom and rabbeting at top of both boards along the full length.

Making grooves all along the boards

After I had done that, it came out with the following profile.

Board profile

I shot one end of both boards square. That's necessary for further measurement and layout.
Coming in 150 mm from the square end and scribing a line across one board. 5 mm space for sawing and additional 300 mm for the next pieces. The other board I've laid out the other way around, thus coming in 300 mm, space and 150 mm.
Now I cut all pieces to length.


Getting better. Right off the saw :-)

Shooting the Mitres

Now, with all pieces to length I started to shoot the mitres on my mitre shooting board. But right after the first edge I recognized that it is too much effort to do it that way.
So I decided to cut the mitres with the mitre box and to just refine the mitres on the shooting board.
I don't like to work with the mitre box, because it always ended somehow out of square in the past and so I haven't used it for a pretty long time. But with the skills learned in the meanwhile and some tips from Bob I have to say that the sawing result was not too bad.

Sawing the mitres

Refining the sawed mitres on the new mitre shooting board was a pleasure and I'm really pleased with the result.
Just one thing to mention. I have overseen that the edges of the groove and the rabbet can and will break on the shooting board. Fortunately I've done a test piece first (as ever).
So it came that I made some shims to insert into the groove and the rabbet while shooting. That worked pretty well.

Mitre shim

Refining the mitres

Test Fit

Look at this. It almost looks like a box. Painters tape is helping to keep the pieces together.

Test fit. Mitre joints are pretty close

The Bottom

I made the bottom out of Spruce. I've got always some Spruce in the shop and I have used what was handy for this project.
My groove is 6 mm, then I've got a 6mm rim and finally I need some height so that the box looks like floating.
That means I have to do a 12 mm high and 6 mm wide rabbet all around the bottom board.
Before I've done the rabbet I scribed layout lines with the marking gauge. That done I started planing to the lines.

Bottom profile

The Lid

The lid is pretty easy. It is a six sides square board fitting into the rabbet at the top of the box.
Because I wanted to paint it I haven't made it too tight fit.

Lid on top of the box

What's Next?

Although I've got enough to do, I started this little side project as distraction from dimensioning lumber and trying to flatten a bench top. Now I recognized that I've started it a bit late. The birthday is already Friday next week.
Here is what has to be done soon:
  • Fine adjusting and fitting all parts together
  • Install a lining to the bottom inside of the box
  • Glueing up case and bottom
  • Painting the lid with chalk paint (hope the postman will be bring me a packet soon).
  • Smoothing and finishing the case after glue up
  • Make a little handle for the lid and fitting it on top

I guess that is manageable within the next days.

So stay tuned to see the box of the month "March".


  1. Hi Stefan,
    do you have any thoughts on planing a bevel on the bottom panel? That would hide it a bit more and enhance the floating effect you want.
    On the donkey ear jig I would also put a scrap piece between the top edge of the board and the edge of the jig. I seem to get a bit of tear out there too on my jig.

    1. Hi Ralph,
      until now my plan was to have straight lines but I will think about your tip. At the moment the bottom looks at bit bulky, but most of it went into the case.
      Regarding the donkey ear. Yes you are right. And I will have an eye on in the future. Actually the stop blocks are completely unused and the plane didn't have touched them now. But as more as it wears out all more it make sense to use a scrap piece at this point too. For now all is good.