I wanted to make a small box for a project and I wanted strong joints. A mitered and glued box wouldn't be strong enough for what i had in mind so I tried box joints. 

There are all kinds of commercially available jigs and tools to assist in making box joints (or dovetails) but I made my own jig quickly and easily with the router table at TechShop and some scrap wood.

Tools needed:
Router table and a 1/4" straight bit
Compound miter saw or table saw
Belt sander*
Straight file
Some clamps

3-4" wide board
Scrap board

I made it at TechShop!

Step 1: Prepare the sides

Picture of prepare the sides
Plane your board to the desired thickness. I used 2.5" wide maple planed to about 3/8" thickness.

Cut four sides. Label each piece lightly in pencil: front, back, left and right. It helps to put the label at the top of each piece to aid in orientation later.

If it helps, lay them out in the way they will be assembled.

JuanG92 months ago

to avoid the glitch keep the pressure on the other side higher, so start routing with higher pressure on the back end and stop routing with higher pressure on the front end

TuckNRoll1 year ago

How has the joint held up over time?

This joint is nearly indestructible even with out glue that is why it is used in crate making.

trstark663 years ago
Nicely done! Anyone know how to do this "old school"???
When I did woodwork at school we were made to do all of our joints by hand (presumably just so it took us hours rather than minutes).

We did it by cutting several vertical lines between each finger to remove as much of the wood as possible using a backsaw then we chiseled away what was left.

It was laborious but pretty effective and I got some very tight and accurate joints.

Hope this could help.

The cutting of a joint that took hours is because of your inexperience at the time. You would not have produced a better joint using a machine. Joints are only cut in "minutes" if you do not count the set up time and testing for fit time. Nevermind the learning how to use the machine time. I can cut dados by hand faster than my students can do it with a machine. Machines only save time and effort when you need many repeatable cuts and are willing to lay out a lot of money for machines. Look up Paul Sellers for someone that addresses excellent woodworking on a tiny budget.

I use a scroll saw sometimes for this when I don"t feel like setting up the router table

If by "old school" you mean by hand, this has never been a hand tool joint. It was developed with the advent of machinery when wood crates were used the way we use cardboard boxes today. Anyone willing to go to this much trouble would use a dovetail joint.

The vikings and the celts used a much simplified version which only had one or two straight tongues but that is the closest you come to old school.
On the other hand, a dovetail joint is really easy to do by hand. If you want a great example, check out the Woodwright's shop, with Roy Underhill. On several episodes he makes dovetail joints and he makes it look so easy you'll think it's magic.

Though it is actually pretty easy to make them on your own, though you'll need practice to make it look as good as Roy.
CherB16 months ago

There is another site, with the same simple notch pin jig, that suggest to gang the two offset boards together and route both pieces at the same time. While this method is faster especially for bigger boxes, I found it created too many errors for the small boxes I was making.

I'm glad I read your technique because doing each of the four pieces separately saved me a lot of grieve, thanks!

jgeidl2 years ago
Nice job.
bertus52x112 years ago
Thanks for showing this technique! I'll remember it because some day I will need it!
sconner13 years ago
Try backing the project piece with some scrap to prevent the chipping on exit of the cutters.
Uptonb3 years ago
Router is much better for making box joints than a table saw, but only if you make a jig.

pfred23 years ago
tim_n pfred23 years ago
but nice to see the same thing done on a Router - didn't even consider it, which is stupid because this looks like a nice easy way to do them. I don't have a table saw (or room for one really!) only a electric circular hand saw.
pfred2 tim_n3 years ago
I've cut box joints both ways. I tried a router and that was it. Since then I've gone back to doing many on a table saw. I wouldn't even consider using a router for box joints today. I guess if you're only making one box a router is OK. I make 10 at a time though. I stack all my sides for each box and cut them at once too. Zip, zip. Nothing to it!
tim_n3 years ago
Excellent! I was just figuring on buying a bandsaw to do things like this, I really need to get the router I got for christmas out and have a play!
awoodcarver3 years ago
Very nice and easy to follow structable .....very nice looking box ......last line in step 3 very good advice ...now maybe a nice relief carving on the lid? ....ah but maple is a hard wood to carve ..did i miss a picture of it with a finish on it ?...keep up the good work
That looks great1 Awesome box! Very cleanly done :)
jdege3 years ago
Rather than cutting a rabbit and gluing in the bottom you could cut a groove and let the bottom float. This would allow the bottom and the sides to expand independently, as the humidity changes through the seasons.

In a small box, this doesn't matter, but if you scale up you'll see cracking or warping if you glue the bottom to the sides.