Introduction: Decorative Heart Shaped Box

About: I'm a mechanical engineering student at the University of Dayton. I love utilizing fundamentals and principals presented in the classroom to ideate and produce practical solutions to common problems. i.e. I ha…

Make your loved one a decorative wooden box. Based on your inspiration and creativity the shape of the box could store precious jewels, scents and perfumes, family treasures, or several other items. For the project shown here, the inspiration was my girlfriend’s need for a jewelry case which was functional and elegant. My intention was to blend functionality with character by utilizing some simple woodworking skills and imagination.

List of Supplies
1 x 12 x 4 sheet of pine wood ($18 from Lowes)
Jig Saw
Wood Screws
Band Saw
Razor Blade
Wood Burner ($10 from Hobby Lobby)
8 ½  x 11 sheets of felt ($3.00 from Wal-Mart)
Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
Minwax Golden Oak Stain ($6.78 at Wal-Mart)
Valspar Premium Enamel Clear Coat for protection ($3.99)
Scrap wood for stir sticks
Scrap rags for stain application
Elmer’s Wood Glue ($3.99)

Not Necessary but Helpful
Disk/Belt Sander
Palm Sander

Step 1: Design Top and Bottom Lid Template

This is a very flexible project which permits the use of any design, shape, creation that will fit within your band saw. Additionally, I chose pine because it was soft and easiest to wood burn. Other hard woods are much more difficult to wood burn with any consistency, especially when crossing the grain.  I perused several pages for what I thought would make an interesting yet romantic look for my girlfriend and still be a feasible cut. This odd-shape heart is what I settled upon and the second image displays a decorative flower image for wood burn. There was much difficulty finding a decorative  image which meshed appropriately with the oblong shape of the heart. Thus, I found the key to be "less is more" especially since the box was going to be stained and finished.

Step 2: Trace Top and Bottom Lid and Cut Out on Band Saw

Once you have procured all supplies and settled on a solid design its time to trace and cut the top and bottom lid.

First I roughly cross cut the 1"x12"x4' into 6 equal parts. This can be done several ways, including band saw. But I would recommend table saw, band saw, radial arm saw, miter saw, etc.

Then as depicted two pieces were secured together by wood screws just outside the tracing of the heart shaped lids.

The wood screws permitted both top and bottom plates to be cut simultaneously, ensuring an exact match.

Towards the end of the cut only 1-2 wood screws will be holding the two pieces together, so take extra care to hold the pieces together until the cut is finished.

After cutting the top lid and bottom plate, mark each accordingly. This will simplify sanding and routing processes.

SketchUp drawings were substituted for the actual process because I couldn't take pictures as I cut. They're as accurate as possible without compulsion. 

Step 3: Scale Template Down, Trace Main Body, Cut Out on Band Saw

Next, take the same design template used for the top and bottom plate and scale approximately 80%, depending on how much of a ledge you prefer the top and bottom plat to have. If you want no overhang by the top and bottom plate, simply use the same template and repeat Step 1 with the 4 remaining pieces.

Before securing the four rough pieces with wood screws, throw some glue down where the heart will remain when cut out because you want the body to be a solid piece. I even put 3-4 screws along the heart outline, 1/4" from edge, spread out according to the image. This ensured that once the main body was cut out and a compartment cut out of the center in later steps the four layers would stay intact.

****Size of the wood screws depends on the depth of your layers, should be enough to secure each layer but not puncture bottom face. Otherwise it will not slide well on the Band Saw table, nor mesh with the bottom plate either. I used 2 1/2" screws.

My heart box body was made up of 4 layers which was roughly  3". You could choose to add layers in order to create a larger compartment, you're only limited by the size of your band saw. Space between the guard and table is the limiting factor.

Step 4: Cut Center Out / Create Storage Compartment

Now that the main body is cut out, it is time to create space for the intended contents. This step was by far the most difficult of the whole project because I did not have a scroll saw. However, we got it done with severally strategically drilled holes and a long jig saw blade.

The first image displays how several holes were drilled along the inner wall of the main body. These holes were drilled along a line which was traced 1/2"-5/8" from the edge. I chose that width to ensure structural integrity as well as optimize the amount of interior space. The drill bit used was 3/8" bit. A 1/4" would do but I wanted a little more wiggle room for the larger blade.

The second image shows the jigsaw used and the resultant shape. During the cutting process I had to stop and adjust the clamped body several times in order to complete the cut. Like anything else, making these types of cuts is challenging and time consuming, but most rewarding. 

****Important Note: Jig Saw Blade must be long enough in order to remain past the bottom of the piece being cut, otherwise there is a strong possibility it will splinter the bottom cut, and or will bind and kick back (not very fun, tried with a 3" blade first and this happened).

Step 5: Sand Cutouts-Top, Bottom, Main Body

Now that each of the heart shaped box parts have been cut it is time to sand the edges of the top and bottom plate and any rough edges created by jig saw.

Step 6: (Optional)--Create Insert to Lessen Compartment Depth

I was unhappy with the depth of the interior compartment and felt that an added layer was needed. I found some 1/2" plywood laying around and traced along the interior of the main body compartment (first image).

Then I cut this shape out with the jig saw (second image). From here, the shape needed heavy sanding on all sides in order to fit nicely in the main compartment.

I marked the ares which needed sanded, areas with thicker lines needed heavier sanding, areas with lighter markings less sanding (third image).

Insert still did not fit, more sanding needed (fourth image).

I made a rig for my belt sander because I don't have a disc sander (fifth and sixth image)

Insert finally fit smoothly inside the main body (seventh image).

I cut  out and glued felt to the added insert. Felt hung over the edge of the insert by about an 1/8" so it would fold over nicely when the added insert was shoved from bottom up into the main body. This left a seamless fit between the insert and the main body (eighth image).

Step 7: Router Top and Bottom Plate Edges

This was the second most challenging step to crafting a heart shaped jewelry box. 

First thing's first. Position main body on top of bottom plate and trace inner heart onto bottom plate.

Flip the top plate and main body over and repeat this process, but be sure the body and top plate are oriented correctly. 

Now that the outlines are traced, set the depth on you router according to how far you want your plates to sit inside the body or how thick you want each plate edge to appear. I knew I wanted the plates to have the exact same size ledge and I wanted the plates to sit securely inside the body, so I set the router to roughly 3/8", about half the width of the plates.

Again, this process takes time and a lot of concentration. I used a straight bit and slowly followed the curvature of the heart until I reached the traced line. It doesn't have to be perfect because no one will see the bottom plate result and the only time someone will see the top plate result is if they take the lid off and turn it over, so not a big deal. But I wanted mine to look good so I took my time.

The second image shows the bottom router job and the third image shows how the body fit onto the bottom plate while the top plate is turned over.

Step 8: Sand Each Part to Finish

Now that each of the major components have been cut and sanded to fit together, it is time to remove all those imperfections and lines from rougher grit sand paper. This part was one of the most time consuming, however this makes the difference between an average project and a solid gift.

Take the time and progress from 80 (if needed) to 100 to 120  to 150. This especially sucked because the shape of heart made it difficult to get into the main body's tight curves.

I was able to sand the plates and outside wall of the main compartment with a palm sander. The interior of the main compartment required hand sanding.

Step 9: Wood Burn Design of Your Choice

I used my computer to merge the heart shape design with an image I chose to wood burn on the lid of the box. From there I was able to cut out with a razor blade or utility knife one petal at a time and trace the image to the surface of the lid. I free-handed the small sparkly star shapes and the creases within each petal.

While your doing all that let you wood burning utensil warm up. The tool must reach a steady state otherwise you'll get varying degrees of burn and penetration depth as it warms.

I chose pine because it was the most pleasant to wood burn. I started with the petal all the way to the bottom left. Very little pressure was required. I did this image with a thick chisel tip, so you could improve the image's detail with finer tips or different pyrography tools.  

The third and fourth images are practice attempts of earlier concepts. 

*****Wood Burn after final sanding but before you apply any finish! 
I found this to be best method, in terms of clarity and cleanliness of image.

Step 10: Stain and Finish

Next step is to apply a stain or finish of your choice.

My choice was Golden Oak Stain. I chose this color to make the dark color of the interior felt and wood burn design pop. It was also a little darker than just a natural color stain which left the box dull looking.

First I applied Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to ensure the wood readily accepted the stain evenly across all surfaces. Once the pre-stain is applied, wait a few minutes and wipe it down. Let dry for several minutes in a warm dry place.

Now your are ready to apply the Golden Oak Stain. I used one rag to thoroughly apply the stain and another to wipe off the excess. I let this sit over night.

Next I applied several coats of Medium Gloss Clear Coat from a Spray Can. I put one coat on, waited a couple of minutes and put another on. Dry to touch in 45 min for Valspar Premium Enamel Clear. Then I sanded down any bubbly or rough areas with 200 grit. Finally I applied two more coats. These final coats made it really POP.

Top of bottom plate only has to be stained where edges show, thus it can lay on the upraised surface which goes into the main body when attempting to stain.

Top Plate was a bit tough because it had to be stained on the top and bottom. I just applied stain to the whole piece then let it sit on its bottom which fits into the main body. Also I only clear coated the top and sides of the Top Plate.

Spray in even strokes to prevent buildup or running of clear coat. Top of the main body does not need a dedicated spray effort because it will be covered when you spray the tops of the inside and outside main body. 

Step 11: Glue Main Body to Bottom Plate

Once everything is stained and sprayed we can glue the added insert to the Bottom Plate and then the main body to the Bottom Plate. I used Elmer's Wood glue.

First apply glue to the upraised portion of the bottom plate where the added insert will rest. Then position the added insert appropriately. Next,  quickly spread glue along the corner of the bottom plate's ledge. This will help glue ooze up into the main body and out along the edge of the bottom plate, creating a strong fusion (first image).

Before any of the glue dries, place the main body over the added insert and slide the main body down til it meets the bottom plate. Now put scrap wood on top and bottom of box and clamp the freshly glued joint (second image). Make sure to have a damp rag ready to wipe up any excess glue which oozes out from the joint. Additionally, when clamping I found it best to iteratively tighten each clamp in succession as opposed to clamping one all the way down, then the next, and so on.

I used four clamps to secure the joint. Scrap wood between the clamps and heart shaped box prevented damage or indentations from the clamps. T-shirts between the scrap wood and heart shaped box prevented scrap wood from damaging heart shaped box or sticking to the finish.

Let the glue dry over night and apply more clear coats if desired.

Step 12: Final Product


Heart Shaped Jewelry Box is ready for presentation. This is an image my girlfriend took and sent to me. She was very happy to say the least and straight up impressed with the level of craftsmanship. This project came about because we're poor college kids and agreed to utilize our creativity and know how to make each other useful and meaningful gifts for Christmas. I would like to believe this is better than some iPod Touch which will be outdated in a couple of years or some piece of clothing I would have bought her. She will have this forever and it may become a family heirloom, who knows. With a couple days time and little creativity you can also create an elegant piece such as this. The most important tool during this project was patience. Try steps on scrap pieces and utilize your resourcefulness to complete each step with whatever tools you have, it is doable, there's a way.

Step 13: A Bit on the ShopBot

Computer Numerical Control Machining and CNC uses

First and foremost the ShopBot will open a door of opportunity in that creativity will not be limited by the difficulty of fabrication in designs with variable, curved, or non-traditional surfaces or shapes. In other words, this CNC will literally add another dimension to creative status by making the step from 2D to 3D shapes seamless. Automated milling provides a precision, consistency, and accuracy far beyond that of the human hand. Additionally, a CNC router will permit the expansion from conventional materials like Wood or MDF and PVC to more exotic materials such as Lexan, Plexi-glass, Aluminum, Copper, and Acrylics, broadening the scope of my potential endeavors.

With this machine, I would first have to fulfill the laundry list of requests I received by family and friends who saw the final product of the heart shaped box design. CNC machining would greatly mitigate the time required to router and cut the odd shaped heart, thus likening the chances each of those individuals will acquire a box.

Some other cool projects I would like to do for others include the following:
My grandparents absolutely love jigsaw puzzles. I’ve been looking for effective ways to create a jigsaw puzzle with a portrait of them on it, the ShopBot could make this happen. I could do a traditional puzzle and paste pieces of a photo to the individual jigsaw pieces or I could use the ability of the ShopBot to mill the image into the puzzle itself, leaving textured pieces which would greatly help my grandpa who relies on texture as opposed to colors or images to complete the puzzle because his eye sight is so poor.

Another recent interest that spawned after several months of seeing my girlfriends change collect all over her dresser was designing and creating a coin sorter/counter. After brainstorming about the physics of such a device and coming up with some concepts I reverse engineered a commercial change sorter and realized the technical complexity, tight tolerance, and difficult angled cuts required to isolate varying coins to their respective bins. These shapes were completed by some manufacturing thermoplastic extrusion process. However, these mechanisms and rotating disks could be crafted with the abilities of the ShopBot rather quickly, utilizing wood or some other material.

Many other possibilities that quickly come to mind include:
Gears and pulleys
Kinematic linkages
Rube Goldberg Machine
Key chain ornaments
Decorative Signs!
Crown Molding
Cabinetry embellishing
Model trains and cars
PCB cutouts
Scaled 3D Architectural models
Custom motorcycle parts
Bird Houses

And even though I was brought up around carpentry and studied mechanical engineering, developing a real hankering for anything kinematic or structural, I recently broke ground in electronics and electrical engineering at my internship. I work with servomotors and actuators which has sparked a whole new world of education and series of interests, much of which is technology used in the ShopBot. Experience with this tool will expand my portfolio of skills, increase my efficiency, and magnify the lessons I have learned recently in industry.

This tool will enable me to optimize my time and production, allowing me to help more people with their ideas. Additionally, decreased time per cut will offer more time for design, warranted by the endless possibilities of CNC projects waiting. However, this is not so with an ordinary jig saw and power drill. Lastly, I have a solid base and working knowledge of many tools and machinery, AutoCad, Inventor, Solidworks, drafting standards, Electrical code and thus prove a logical candidate for the ShopBot.
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