Introduction: Assembling a Laser Cut Plywood Box
This instructable on how to assemble and glue together a laser cut plywood box is written around the lasercut box craft kits I design and sell on Etsy. But the process is suitable for many wooden laser cut boxes with tabbed finger joint edges that are currently available on the web..
The boxes, in their component form are laser cut out onto 3mm thick plywood sheets, approx A4 in size, they have assembly instructions written onto the press out template that is shipped, but I thought it may be useful to provide a detailed step by step assembly tutorial as well.
Step 1: Components
Most boxes are made up of a base and four sides, plus a top and four top sides.
With my kit each plywood sheet has five components to press out, 5 for the top of the box, and 5 for the bottom.
Step 2: Assembly - Materials You Will Need:
- A clear flat work surface, protect this with some clean paper, (I usually just use a couple of pieces of A4 printer paper).
- A small amount of wood glue or PVA – this is a non toxic glue available from most DIY / Craft / Art shops. It is white in colour and dries clear. You will only need a small dab of this for each interlocking section. I’m talking less than a teaspoon in total for the whole box. This glue washes up with water.
- An old stiff artist paintbrush or just a strip of cardboard to apply the PVA glue. Unless you wash it immediately (and I never manage to) please be aware it will ruin your paint brush. You can also buy PVA in small pots that have fine detail applicator nozzles, which results in less over gluing (these are usually available in the Craft stores).
- A rag or a tissue or strip of card to wipe off any excess glue.
- You will also need your two templates with the press out box pieces.
Step 3: Releasing the Template Components
The box top & sides are held in position by masking tape – either peel the tape off from the back to release the pieces, or just gently push the pieces through from the back of the template.
Step 4: Make Sure to Identify Right and Wrong Sides
The wood usually has a right and a wrong side, this will probably be easy to see through colour or decoration, most boxes will have plain interiors (although there's always an exception!)
With my box designs it’s easy to spot the right side of the square top and bottom pieces as they have the design cut into the top one, and my logo on the bottom one.
Step 5: Get All 5 Pieces Together Ready for Glueing
Flip your template over (right side down) and lay out your pieces on your work surface in the same order as they appear in the press out template, each side sits next to the side it will connect to. Make sure you have the wrong side of the wood facing you, (the logo or top engraving should be face down on your work surface).
Step 6: Assemble the Box Base One Side at a Time
Dot glue along the first side you want to connect. The glue needs to be applied sparingly along the tabbed edge of the square box base, and the tabbed edge of the side it will connect to.
Step 7: Glueing the First Side Connection
The sides connect at 90°, so make sure all edges that will connect together have a bit of glue on them. Make one final check of the wood grain direction to make sure you are assembling the correct side to the base, and set aside, the side will probably stay vertical of its own accord.
Step 8: Glueing Side Two
The next piece will have glue along the long edge and along one of the side edges, plus the side edge of the piece already attached to the base, (are you still with me? - I hope so).
Step 9: Connecting Finger Tabbed Edges
The small edge tabs are quite delicate so try to ease the box together, don't force it or a tab may split off. I pre- assemble each box (without gluing) to check it works for you, so there shouldn't be any problems with it fitting together correctly. Wipe off excess glue with a brush or some card or a rag.
Step 10: Glueing the Final Side Pieces Together
Do the same thing for the last two side pieces.
Step 11: Glue Clean Up
When you add the last side, the box will suddenly gain its stability and rigidity, you will probably see some white glue blobs oozing out of the corner joints, simply wipe these away with a dry cloth or tissue, don't use a damp cloth as this will dilute the glue (it's water soluble in its liquid white state).
Remember this glue will dry clear - it can dry a bit shiny - so always best to wipe as much excess away as you can at this stage, but there will always be a bit of glue left in the recesses of the joins, these tiny amounts left are fine, they will dry clear.
Step 12: Drying
Set to one side, I place my boxes upside down so none of the sides with glue are touching my work surface when drying. I recommend a nice 24 hour drying time, just to make sure - though it will probably appear dry after a couple of hours (depending upon the temperature of course, on a 40 degree day here in Australia we can get a lot of glue drying done!).
Step 13: Box Top Assembly
Repeat this process for the box top, the sides are smaller and tend to be a bit fiddly- take your time, that's why I suggest making the bigger base first, to get your maker rhythm going. Remember to place the decorated lid face down on your work surface when drying.
Step 14: Extra Support for Drying
If you feel the box needs some support whilst drying you can wrap some elastic bands around the box, don't make these too tight or they will bend the wood, and the box top and bottom may not fit together as smoothly as it should.
Step 15: Completed Box
When your box is completely dry, place the lid on top of the base and enjoy!
I hope these instructions have been of use, please feel free to ask questions and I will try my best to answer.