I have made a few jewelry boxes before and my sister-in-law asked if I could make one for her birthday. The style of this box is going to be a fairly large oak box with an integral wooden hinge made from the lid and the back panel. I also wanted to add some kind of feature to make the box individual and stand out. Having thought of it for a while I decided to make the lid curve over one corner of the box.....I had done similar thing before but not something this confusing, I found it quite difficult to visualise exactly how I was going to achieve it.

In the end the dimensions of the box was determined by the amount of oak I didn't know the sizes of the panels until I had passed the wood through the planer/thicknesser (I knew I'd have snipe at both ends so didn't quite know how much usable timber I'd have to work with).


Oak plank(s)

3mm x 300mm brass rod

Leather to line the bottom of the box and trays

5mm Plywood


Oil for finishing


Table saw with sled

Router table



Step 1: Plan, Plane and Plan Again

I had two pieces of pippy oak, one was 1000mm x 400mm and the other was around 500mm x 140mm so by scribbling on the timber I knew I had to make a side panel from the smaller piece so the maximum height of the box was going to be around 140 and just looking at nice ratios for the side panels I decided that the width of the box would be 175mm. I therefore ripped the large piece of oak to around 200mm wide to give me a bit of trimming space. As both the edges of the oak were both waney I needed to create a straight edge so I could rip it safely - I simply did this by nailing an offcut of laminate flooring to the underside of the timber and removing once I had cut the wood.

Once ripped I passed the pieces through a thicknesser until they were uniform, they ended being 22mm thick.

I have included some pdf's and a dwg file of the finished box so if you lose you in all my waffling you should be able to work out things by looking at the photos and referring to the drawings.

I then sketched the parts of the box on the wood to determine my rough dimensions. Although I could have determined all of the dimensions here I didn't feel the need to, as I could still easily adjust any dimensions to suit say the depth of my mortises etc.I also wasn't sure how the lid was going to end up at this stage so the front panel was cut to the same height as the sides and back.

Step 2: Router Dados and Mortises

Now I had my sides, front and rear panel cut I started by cutting the dados for the bottom of the box. I used a 7mm straight router bit which would give me enough space for 5mm ply covered in leather and veneer. I used a straight bit of wood as a fence on my router table and drew on pencil marks to show me the start and end points of the rebates. I then cut them bit by bit raising the cutter a couple of mm each pass, this will give you more control and you'll be less likely to badly injure yourself. You will have to plunge the wood down on to the revolving router bit to cut the side panels but with light passes you can do this safely enough.

I then cut the mortises in the side panels for the front and rear panel tenons will fit in to. As the rear panel is full height and the front panel around 10mm shorter the mortises are different lengths on each edge of the side panels, just take your time, measure, think, measure again before you cut them!

Once the mortises are cut you can measure the final depth of them - the tenons want to be cut just shy of this depth to give room for any expansion. I changed the router bit for a wider one so the cutting width was the right for the tenons. Light passes are recommended here too and when you get close to the right width you need to raise the router bit by minute amounts and keep testing the fit. It's better to do 10 tiny raises and get a good fit that go little too far and having a really loose joint. Take your time!

The tenons now needed cutting to length. I marked the tenons and then trimmed them with a saw just shy of the bottom, I then cleaned the shoulders up with a chisel.

Step 3: Hinge

This is were this build starts getting a little more tricky and precise. On this box the hinge is going to be full length and made integral from the back and top panels, it is essentially finger joints with rounded edges with a hole through the centre where a pin/rod is inserted. The trouble with this kind of hinge is how to create a dead central hole through the centre of the hinge joints, I have seen professional jigs (with professional price tags to match) which help with cutting the joints and drilling the holes, but this is way out of my league. I didn't have a long drill bit and even if I did I don't think I'd be able to drill it in the right place all the way through the hinge. A couple of years ago I did see a couple of techniques that could be used to achieve this fairly easily. All you do is cut a slot with your table saw blade to the depth of the extreme edge of the hinge pin, insert the pin/rod in to the slot and glue in some filler pieces to cover the rod.

I decided that my hinge would be made up of 5 part 3 on the back and 2 on the front, as my width was 300mm each recess/hinge part would be 60mm. I first cut the slot in the two panels to house the central rod, on my first pass the slot wasn't quite wide enough so I turned the panels through 180degrees and cut again, this increased the slot by fractions of millimeters but was enough to fit my rod in.

I then marked up the rear panel. As these cut were going to be 22mm x 60mm I decided to cut the hinges on my table saw using a cross cut sled. This would enable me to see exactly where the blade was going to cut and would give me enough precision for this joint. I started by cutting the slots to each side of the hinge recesses followed by the waste in between. I then used the finished rear panel joints to mark up the lid joints and cut these the same way. Once they were both done I had to do a little bit of tweaking to get them to fit snugly.

I then put one side of both panels through the router table with a rounder over bit as this would only allow the hinge to open 90 degrees. As I wanted it to open a little more than 90 degrees I cut a small rounder over part to the other sides. I then tested the joint before I fixed the central rod in to the back panel with some oak fillers I had cut. The central filler part had to cut to the correct width but the outer filler pieces can be cut over-sized and trimmed later.

Step 4: Lid

Now I had the hinges cut on the lid I needed to shape the top to create a lip that went over one of the side panels. I started by cutting the lid to create the rough shape of the lip.

What I needed to achieve was a taper along the length of the box up to where the lip started to rise up, I then needed to turn the lid upside down and cut the underside of the lip! I first started by using a hand saw to cut the taper but after a while I decided that this wasn't gong to be the easiest or most precise method so I had to rethink. I came up with a method where I fixed a piece of timber along the hinge side (with double sided tape) which was the same height as the rise of the blade, around half the total thickness of the lid. I then put the lid in my crosscut sled and took multiple passes from the end up to the point at which I wanted the lip to start rising up. I then removed the sticky up bits by smashing them with a hammer, and then leveled it all up with chisel. I then started to lower the saw blade and made a few more passes to start the rise of the lip. I then flipped the lid over and used the same technique to remove the waste from the underside of the lip. I did however manage to cut a small chunk out of the edge of the box lid, which I needed to remove later. After a lot of sanding and a bit of chisel work I was happy with the shape of the lid so it was time to fix the lid to the rear panel. Just make sure that you are happy the shape of the lid as it will be harder to adjust once the hinge is put together.

I then put the hinge together and glued in the infill pieces.

Step 5: Bottom, Glue Up and Trays

For the bottom I would usually use 5mm plywood, but at the time I didn't have any. I had taken an old bookcase apart not long ago so I used some of the hardwood from the back of the bookcase, it was quite thin so I doubled it up.

To one side of the bottom I glued some recycled leather and then some veneer to the other side.

Before I proceeded to glue together I sanded all the surfaces that would be difficult to sand once it was all put together, which was almost everything apart from the outside of the side panels.

Now I had all my parts of the box it was just a case of gluing up. The only glue that's required went on to the mortise and tenon joints to the front and rear panels. Once glued I clamped it all together and left overnight.

The next day I released the clamps and made sure the lid still functioned as it should, which it did apart from a bit of creaking, which I never managed to get rid of! I then measured the inside dimension of the box so I could make the trays. It's good to make the trays slightly over-sized and then sand to size once they are put together. I made the trays out of some thin bits of beech I had bought as offcuts of ebay, I found a couple of bits that had some nice marking on and cut the sides to size using mitre joints. These a good joints for figured wood as you can make the markings run around the box, they are not too strong but I don't think they need to be for trays. If you are worried you can always add spines to reinforce the corners. Once cut I added some dodos from the bottom of the tray, cut some plywood to size, added some leather and glued up the trays using masking tape instead of clamps.

Next I cut a length of wood to make some thin strips (around 3mm) to act as support for the trays. Once cut and sanded I glued these to the bottom of the box. The trays were then sanded to size.

I then sanded the rest of the box and finished it all off with a couple of layers of hard wax oil.

Step 6: Finished Box

Overall I am very pleased with the results. The lip on the lid works pretty well and the hinge works and the lid stops opening in the right place. Hopefully my sister in law will like it too.

I have entered this instructable in the box making competition so if you found this useful/helpful/interesting please vote for me!!!

Thanks for reading.

Nice job. I love the hinge mechanism.
Thanks fella!

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a software engineer with a background in bridge engineering. After working in a design office and on site for 6 years I saw ... More »
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