Freedom-Filled Padauk Heart Box

Introduction: Freedom-Filled Padauk Heart Box

About: Engineer by trade, amateur woodworker and author in the off-hours. Most commonly, I build flag boxes for retiring military members and occasionally gifts and furniture when the opportunities arise. Outside of …

Some significant others prefer chocolate, precious metals and walks on the beach for Valentine's Day. Others prefer full metal jackets, black oxide over steel and a trip to the range. If you are the latter, read on.

I was asked to build a heart-shaped box that resembled one used for chocolate, but which would be used for presenting ammunition. It was a unique request and something totally awesome so I took a shot at putting it together. Enjoy!


Padauk or Bloodwood lumber

Contrasting wood buttons for feet

Miter/table/band saws


Disk/spindle/RO sanders

Biscuit joiner or equivalent

Step 1: Planning

Initial planning for the box was centered around the type and number of bullets which would be contained, their orientation and spacing.

The box itself was going to be a hand-drawn heart, with a thicker base and matching lid. A wall would be offset from the edge and provide the required depth and a secondary wall would allow them to nest together. I made a quick mock-up in Tinkercad for visualization but drew the pattern by hand.

Individual holes could be drilled for each bullet, or it could be made with small dividers to hold any number of bullets of different types; I went with the former.

We settled on a 3/4" grid for each round, with a single offset row towards the edges and after a few sketches of the heart it yielded space for 78 total bullets.

For the holes, pick the sizes to match your bullets and orientation. I used .223 rounds which are slightly tapered along the case so there were several options for the holes.

-Bullet facing down, using a 3/8" hole

-Bullet facing down, using a 25/64" and stepped down to a 17/64" to provide a more secure fit for the bullet

-Bullet facing up, using the 25/64" bit. Since the final product would get fancy bullets, we went with this option.

Step 2: Building the Case

Starting with the initial pattern, I set about building the blank for the case. Since the heart could be split in half and made from 4 identical shapes, I made them individually so they could be sanded at the same time.

My Padauk lumber was 1" thick, which was a little thin for the base so I opted to slice off 1 3/8" strips and rebuild thicker blocks. When gluing these up, make sure to keep everything straight and matching to the pattern. I also alternated the direction of the grain to reduce any warping over time; from the side, the grain resembles a zig-zag. The lid was thick enough at 1", so I cut two identical pieces on my band saw and went with that.

From there, everything went through the drum sander to take off the external glue, then all the parts were stacked with double-sided tape and rounded off on the band saw and disc sander.

The base was glued together with no additional joints, but I did use Festool Dominoes on the top to provide extra stability. Once there, I plotted and drilled the holes using a stop on the drill press.

Once I knew the depth of the bullets and the size of the walls I'd be able to create, I noticed I'd need another 3/16" of clearance for the bullets. To keep the proportions the same, I noted where the bullet tips would sit on the lid and added a shallow recess with a trim router fitted with a straight bit.

Step 3: Adding Walls

The walls were the biggest challenge as their fit is crucial to making the box work correctly. Starting from the pattern, I marked off the outside lip 1/2" from the edge, the inside another 1/4" farther in, and the wall another 1/2" toward the center.

The wall on the base I built with individual pieces which snaked around the outside, similar to my shadow boxes rather than mill them out of another large block of padauk. Once I got the joining edges correct, I ran them through on the table saw and added two small splines on each one for added strength. These got hit with the spindle sander and glued in place.

The outer wall is a single piece that is split, which adds a finishing touch to the side of the box and anchors the lid to the base. These were made like the initial walls but have to be test-fitted constantly between sanding so they fit correctly. Once there are no gaps, use a trim router to round over the top and bottom edges and split them on a band saw. Glue both in place, taking special care to make sure the top sits correctly when they're added.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Once assembly is complete, there are a few small details to make the box shine. Padauk has plenty of detail by itself, so limit the edge treatment to a simple roundover on the top and bottom.

Additionally, I added three 1" wood buttons to the base so that when sitting on a table it won't slide about and scratch the underside. Before delivery I also applied felt pads to further protect the box.

Step 5: Applying the Finish and Presentation

Once everything is sanded to 400+ grit, move to the finish. I budgeted extra time for this step since I wanted to use spray-on poly for extra protection and I'm glad I did. The padauk took a good week to fully accept the first coat, with subsequent layers taking 1-2 days each. I gave the top the most attention, getting a good shine and filling the pores but didn't get too much on the inside as I didn't want to change the diameter of the holes.

After a good 4-5 coats and an even shine, fill it up and enjoy the presentation! This was a very different project and a unique challenge that I really enjoyed. Happy hunting!

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    2 years ago

    I don't find myself at shooting ranges, but I think this is awesome! :D


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks so much! It was great fun to put together (and you should totally check out a range sometime. They're a blast!)


    2 years ago

    This is great! 😀


    Reply 2 years ago