I've been designing and making wooden boxes for several years. I designed this box to reflect the Steampunk aesthetic. Recently, I was introduced to Instructables and since they have the same mission of spreading knowledge, I thought I'd start sharing some of the projects I've done. Please use this project for personal, non-commercial use only.
Step 1: Materials/Tools List
- Cut file and Access to a Laser Cutter. I utilize a Universal Laser 50 watt laser using Adobe Illustrator, so the file I created is .ai format and color-coded for Universal's software.
- One 12" x 12" sheet of 1/8" (3mm) thick Craft Plywood
- Wood Glue or Superglue
- 120 Grit Sand Paper
- Masking or Clear Tape
- Orange Hand Cleaner
- An Old Toothbrush
- Paper Towels or a Shop Cloth
Step 2: Parts Inspection and Cleaning
You should have a total of six pieces: four sides, a lid (with faux screw heads) and a bottom (with my seal and copyright).
Lay all of your parts out and inspect them for problems with the material. I find that the parts are usually too sticky to work with when they are freshly cut and usually wait a day until the sap/resins dry.
I clean the laser burn and residual sticky goo (fancy technical term) off of the parts with a Shop Cloth or Paper Towel dabbed in Orange Hand Cleaner. The same can be used to clean the "recessed" frame etched into the surface. Any burn marks on the surface will be removed when you sand the parts.
The Hand Cleaner will leave residue behind, so I blot it off with a damp cloth or paper towel so the residue will not interfere with the finish later. Don't use too wet a cloth or it will cause the wood grain to swell and possibly warp your parts.
Step 3: Dry-Fit the Parts Together
Once you've cleaned all of the parts and they've dried, try dry-fitting them together. Dry-fitting shows you two things: 1) whether or not all of the tabs/slots and finger joints fit or need enlarging, and 2) If the parts fit together thickness-wise.
Even if the plywood is labeled as 1/8"/3mm thick, it is often times thicker, in my experience. By how much depends on the manufacturer. So dry-fitting will help you determine how much surface area you need to remove (if any).
Step 4: Sand, Baby, Sand
If you find that you only need to surface sand for appearance, you may now celebrate your good fortune :)
If you find that the material is a bit too thick and you have to sand the material thinner, REMEMBER to sand most of it from the back surface so you don't remove the etched design on the front.
Unless you have an orbital sander, steady hand and a very strong grip, you'll need to hand sand the surfaces. I find it easier to lay a whole sheet of sandpaper on a flat surface and slide the wood back-and-forth on it.
If you're sanding for thickness, make sure to keep checking the fit as you go.
Step 5: I'm Stuck on You!
When it comes time to glue the pieces together, make sure you've thoroughly cleaned all of the sanding dust off of the parts. This is where an old toothbrush comes in handy to clean any detail and the finger joints.
Note: I am of the school that wood should be glued with wood glue. Some people use Superglue to speed the project along, and that is perfectly fine, if that's what you have on-hand or what you prefer. But if you plan on staining your box later with wood stain, any drips of wood glue can be chipped off or sanded away after it dries; Superglue tends to spread into the surface and can act as a barrier that doesn't allow stain to penetrate properly. So if you decide to use Superglue, I recommend Thick or Medium, at the very least, to minimize the threat of soaking into the surface. Not to mention the threat of having the glue run everywhere and cause the parts to stick to your hand! Not that that's ever happened to me. But I've heard it happens. To other people. Not to me ;)
Start by gluing one of the sides to the bottom and using a piece of masking or clear tape to hold it in place. Now add the next, interlocking side and tape it to the bottom and the previously glued side. Repeat for the remaining sides, securing with tape to hold the pieces together while the glue dries. If you've opted to use Superglue, you will simply hold each piece in place until the glue sets (around 10 seconds). Remember not to glue the lid on if you want to use this box for storage.
Step 6: Assembled!
Now that you've completed the assembly of your Steampunk Cube, you can decide if you want to paint it, stain it or just varnish the wood and start using it! If this proves popular enough, I will add tutorials on different finishing techniques, from metallic faux finishes to stained and varnished wood finishes.
I've had people use this particular design for a Tea Light (battery-operated ONLY; no open flames!), Dice Box, Ring Box, general Trinket Box and the old reliable Shelf Dust Collector. What you do with this project is up to you and your imagination, just be safe and have fun with it!