Introduction: Log Card Box
Collect all the cards for your birthday, wedding, or other event in a rustic card box that's made from an old section of log. This card box is made from real wood, and is sure to capture the imagination of your guests. The log section was trimmed up and hollowed on a bandsaw. A swivel lid allows access to inside the log, and with a strategically placed magnet the lid will register back in place.
Here's a full build video showing how I made it:
At a glance this looks like a heavy solid log, but with the bulk of the insides removed this box has a manageable weight. After your event this storage box can have the lid removed and placed in your garden as a fun plant container.
Ready to make an amazing log card box for your next event? Let's make!
Step 1: Source Log
To make a log box you're going to need a largish section of log. Your needs will dictate the size of your source log, mine was roughly 18" (46cm) tall, and 13" (33cm) in diameter. The ends will be trimmed up to square the log, so chose a section of log that is longer than the final dimensions you are going for.
I found this log on the side of the road. You can usually find logs like in the free section in your newspaper or local listing, or maybe from the place where you get firewood. There was a variety of types of wood where I got my wood, I found a straight section of wood which turned out to be Black Acacia. This wood has a great dark heartwood and is very dense. The California Invasive Plant Inventory lists Black Acacia as invasive-limited, meaning "it may be a locally significant but not a state wide problem, or too little is yet known about it".
The log I used was 'green', meaning it has a high internal moisture content from not being dried. Green wood is any wood with an internal moisture content of about 12% or more. This is important as wood that has not been dried will start drying and reacting when you begin working with it, whereas dried wood is typically dimensionally stable when the moisture content has been removed. Wood needs to be milled into manageable planks in order to dry effectively, and even though my log appeared to be mostly dry it would be impossible to tell the moisture content until it was opened up.
Step 2: Find Most Level Side
For this project we want a long that can stand up straight when resting on its end. This assumes that the log you chose is mostly straight already and just has ends that are cut unevenly. Chances are the log you find isn't going to have an evenly cut top and bottom, but we can fix that.
The bandsaw is a great tool to square up the ends. To do this we'll need to find the flattest section along the side of the log. Once you've found the straightest section of your log roll the log so that the straight section is facing upwards.
Step 3: Attach to Plywood Sled
A squared scrap of 3/4" plywood was attached to the flattest and straightest section of the log. The plywood will act as a sled when we push it through the bandsaw and will be the reference point which we will square the log up to.
My scrap of squared plywood was slightly smaller than the length of the log, which will allow the sled to pass close to the bandsaw blade but not have the blade cut into the sled.
Step 4: Attach Mitre Track
The mitre track on woodshop equipment is a track that is set up parallel to the cutting blade. Mitre sleds are great for squaring cuts on the bandsaw or table saw, but for the log stock I am using it is far too large to fit into conventional mitre sleds.
I cut a scrap of wood the same thickness of the mitre track, ensuring the height of the scrap was level with the bandsaw table. I placed the log and sled assembly onto the bandsaw table with the end of the log in the path of the bandsaw blade, and then squared the edge of the sled to the edge of the bandsaw table, then nailed the scrap mitre track into the underside of the sled.
Step 5: Saw One End Square
Once the sled it attached to the mitre track the log can be passed through the bandsaw to square the end.
Step 6: Flip Miter Track to Square Other Side
After squaring one end I removed the scrap mitre track and rotated the sled to trim the other end.
Aligning the uneven end in the path of the bandsaw blade I square the sled with the table edge again and nailed the scrap mitre track to the underside of the sled. Then passed the log through the b
Step 7: Cut Squared Top Off
To make a top for the box we'll need to make an even cut from one of the squared ends. Reove the scrap mitre track and move it down about an inch, square up the sled, and pass through the bandsaw to make an even cut through the log and create a puck section of wood. This will be the top of the log box.
Set this puck section aside for now.
Step 8: Scribe Interior Circle
Using a compass scribe a circle in the center of log, leaving about an inch offset from the log exterior.
Step 9: Bandsaw Interior
The bandsaw I used has a throat of 16", so I was able to cut this log on the bandsaw with the guard moved all the way up.
Setting the log upright on the table I carefully entered the log on one side and slowly moved the log through the blade following the scribed line, rotating the log as it went through the blade.
Because of internal stress in the log the wood can bind against the blade. This can cause a lot of friction and seize the blade inside the log, or bind and snap the blade. I made some wedges from scrap wood and placed them along the incision to keep the log from binding.
Going slow to prevent any accidents, this cut took about 10 minutes.
Step 10: Remove Core
After cutting through the entire log, carefully back the blade out through the incision entry. With the wedges inserted the core should pop right out.
The log should now have 3 main components: The solid core, the top puck section, and the hollowed out shell of the log.
Step 11: Glue Bandsaw Cut Opening
To close up the hollow log section glue was spread in the entry incision then ratchet straps were used to close the gap. I used a long bar clamp to even out the ends which had deflected some due to internal stress.
Leave to dry overnight.
Step 12: Cut Bottom From Core
A one inch section was removed from the solid core, this will be used to seal the bottom of the log box.
Step 13: Glue Core Bottom Into Stump
The cut section from the solid core can be glued into the bottom of the hollowed log. To account for the wood removed from the bandsaw kerf a scrap strip of wood was used to shim between the interior of the hollowed log and the cut section from the solid core.
Step 14: Sand Top and Interior
Once all teh glue has dried I used an 80 grit sandpaper to smooth out the interior and remove any dried glue from the top and bottom of the hollowed log.
Step 15: Pivot Dowel Placement
To support the top of the box pivoting I added a dowel which will serve as the rotation axis. I marked on the top of the hollowed log where the dowel should go then drilled a shallow opening for the dowel.
Since I wanted the top of the box to be removable I did not glue the dowel in place.
Step 16: Drill Pivot Dowel Opening
Using a drill with a bit of the same size as the dowel I drilled a shallow 1/2" opening in the top of the hollowed log.
To transfer the dowel position from the stump to the top you can use a dowel center marking tool. These inexpensive discs are inserted into your opening with the pin pointing upwards, you align your pieces and press down on top of the pin which transfers the center onto the mating surface.
I'm pointing at the transfer mark with my finger in the last picture.
Step 18: Drill Dowel Transfer Opening
Once the location has been marked use the same drill bit to drill the corresponding shallow opening into the underside of the log box top.
Step 19: Cut Dowel to Length
The dowel was then cut to length, then inserted into the top. Leave both sides unglued for now while we work on the top.
Step 20: Test Top Swing Action
With the top on the box we can test the pivot action. By leaving the dowel unglued we can freely pivot the top when placed on top of the log box.
Ohh yeah, that's smooth! To help with rotation we'll be adding wax inside the opening later.
Step 21: Slot Template
A slot is added to the top section which will allow cards and other small well wishes to pass through.
I started by routing a pattern in thin plywood, then using this as a template on the top section of the log box. Since there wasn't much to clamp the template to without getting in the way of the router I used double-sided tape to affix the template to the log section.
Step 22: Router Slot
I routed the slot in several passes to reduce blowout and make a nice clean slot opening. I paused between passes to vacuum the wood chips and inspect the cut.
Step 23: Smooth Any Rough Edges
Place the top back on the hollowed section and check to see if everything operates smoothly. Then spend a few minutes sanding any rough edges and prepare the surfaces for staining.
Step 24: Drill Magnet Cavities
To help register the pivoting top I used two strong neodymium magnets.
A drill bit of the same diameter was used to make a shallow opening for one magnet.
Step 25: Transfer Magnet Cavity Position
Using the same dowel center marking tool, transfer over the magnet cavity position to the mating surface. My finger is pointing to the indentation left from the transfer.
Step 26: Drill Transfer Opening
Drill the corresponding magnet opening on the underside of the log box top.
Step 27: Epoxy Magnets in Place
To hold the magnets in place I used a 2 part epoxy.
Step 28: Sanding
Using a 120 grit sandpaper I smoothed all flat surfaces, you can work your way up the grits to make a smoother finish if you like.
Step 29: Sealing
After sanding I wiped on a few coats of Danish Oil to bring out the colour of the wood. Black Acacia looks a little dull when unfinished, with a few coats of Danish Oil I think it looks rich and stunning.
I wiped the top and bottom of the pivoting top, and all inside the hollowed log.
Step 30: Test Finished Action
With the magnets glued in place, and the coats of Danish Oil applied you can test the action of the top. You can see the top register in place when the magnets get close.
You can now glue the pivot dowel into the top of the log box. Leaving it unglued on the bottom will allow you to remove the top completely later, and rotate the top. To smooth the pivot action you can apply a small amount of wax to the unglued opening on the top.
Step 31: Heart Template
With the box functionally complete I moved onto decorating the outside. I printed a heart shape on my computer printer and taped it to a flat section on the outside of the log.
Step 32: Tape Template and Chisel
Using a sharp chisel I hammered away the outline of the heart. Once the outline was traced I removed the paper template and worked around the outline a few more times to separate the bark from the bare wood, then used the chisel to pry off the bark inside the outline.
Since my wood was still a little 'green' I let the fresh opening dry out overnight.
Step 33: Clean Edges of Cutout
Once the heart shape was completely dry I cleaned any rough edges with sandpaper, then sanded the heart shape surface smooth.
Step 34: Add Lettering
You can use any lettering or design you want inside the heart shape, I chose lettering to spell out names.
These letters were cut on a laser cutter, but stamped or die cut designs would also work well. I think anything with some depth definition will really work with this project.
Step 35: Glue Lettering
To glue my lettering to the log I used my favourite adhesive, E6000. This stuff bonds anything to anything, it's like magic.
A small dab of glue was applied to the backside of each letter, then carefully arranged inside the heart shape and left to dry overnight.
Step 36: Place Your Rustic Log Box
Your natural log box is done and ready to collect cards and well-wishes as part of your rustic wedding, or other event. This log box is sure to be a very attractive addition to your next party or summer wedding.
The top of the box pivots open to revel a very spacious interior. Maybe after the event the top can be removed and the hollowed section can used as a planter box in your garden? I'll let you know how I use my log box after it's had its big day in the spotlight.
Have you made your own log card box? I want to see it!
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