Introduction: Patterned Plywood Boxes With No Jig Box Joints
I was looking for a way to make a box with box joints that were less intimidating than making or buying a box joint jig. I have limited tools but I came up with a cool way to make a patterned plywood box with no jigs! It's very easy to do and I hope you try this instructable out.
The idea came from attempting box joints a number of times. From what I understand, the trick to making box joints is that all of the fingers on the joints need to be the same size. I have also done a few patterned plywood projects including a desk where I mimicked mortice and tenon joints by layering plywood. So I thought, why couldn't I just simplify the whole thing and make box joints. Well, it works!!!
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
Wood glue, I used Titebond II
1 piece of 1/2 baltic birch (or nice) plywood. The piece I used was 12' x 24.
A place to glue up the panels where it won't stick. I used a panel from a cabinet door I took apart. Melamine, plywood waxed with paste wax or a sheet of wax paper as a protective layer will all work.
1 piece of wood to use as the glue surface that is at least 14 x 24"
Flush trim saw (there are alternatives to this such as a disc sander
Sandpaper (80 grit, 120 grit, and 220 grit)
Step 1: Make a Glue Up Board
So I am skipping ahead a little but you are going to need a place to glue your panels so lets get this part out of the way.
You will need a 90-degree fence on a board so you can press-fit and glue your rows together. It's important that where glue this up that it will not stick to the surface. I had an old cabinet door with a slick finish that works pretty well but a piece of melamine will work, a piece of plywood liberally coated in paste wax or completely covered in packing tape will also work.
The board I used was about 14" x 24" I used two strips of the same wood to create an L shaped, 90-degree border on one side, and the top of the board. I used a speed square to make sure the corner was square and cut those strips down to match the width and length of my board, and I screwed them in. This frame will be used to glue up your panels.
If you look at the pictures, you can see where I screwed the border into the panel. Disregard the plywood in this photo for now.
Step 2: Cut Plywood Strips
Take your sheet of baltic birch plywood or any high-end plywood. The nicer your plywood, the cooler your box will be.
Cut your plywood into 12" long strips with equal height and width. Each strip I cut was 1/2" x 1/2" x 12".
I did this by cutting off a test piece with my fence set at 1/2" and repeated the cut each time adjusting the fence until my stick came out perfectly square on the ends. This is very important for your box to fit together well.
I cut 24 strips that were 1/2" x 1/2" x 12".
Next, take 6 of your 1/2" x 1/2" x 12" strips and cut those down into 12, 1/2" x 1/2" x 4" strips.
Also, cut one strip at 3/4" x 1/2" x 12", you will use that for the glue up. Next cut that strip into 2" pieces, you will need 6 of these in total that should be 3/4" x 1/2" x 2"
Step 3: Arrange Your Pieces
So you are going to make four panels that are going to be six layers high per panel. You want to arrange them so they look cool and fit well together. I turned mine to show end grain between each layer, I felt this had a cooler look.
Next, you want to use your 4" piece next to a 12" piece in rows so you can follow the alternating pattern. You will have 12 rows in total with 4" and 12" pieces. Each row will be a 4" piece, then a 12" piece with matching grain direction.
Step 4: The Glue Up
Take your glue-up board out. I tried two different techniques here. One was with the board I made earlier, the other was with wax paper and wood screwed in a 90-degree angle on my workbench.
Arrange the strips how you want them to look when glued up.
Next, take your 3/4" x 1/2" x 2" blocks and insert them at the end of your row between the frame of the glue-up board and your wood row, you want this butted up against the wood strip, and slide the alternating rows down the width of the 3/4' block. You want to make sure you have the block so that it aligns up with the row so they all fit tightly. The tighter the better, you are shooting for no gaps.
Then I tried marking up the sticks but that part was unnecessary since my spacer blocks set this up perfectly.
Now roll all of the pieces except for your top row 90 degrees towards you so the part you will put the glue up on is facing up.
Now carefully glue each stick carefully making sure not to glue the end that will become your box joints. Don't put glue on the last inch of each stick that will be part of the joint. You need these to come apart later. Be very careful.
Roll the piece with the glue back towards the top row press fitting it together as tightly as you can. You don't need to clamp this up, just make sure they are all fitting tightly together with no gaps, and give it 2-3 hours to dry.
Step 5: Remove Your Pieces, Clean and Glue Again for Final Assembly
For this step, I removed each panel from the other and checked the fit. Mine was tight but there was enough room for glue. Now sand those panels down, and remove any excess glue.
Next, you will fit your pieces together and measure the exterior of your box's dimensions.
Cut your remaining piece of 1/2 plywood to the dimensions of the box to make the bottom. Mine was about 3.5" x 11.5" but yours may vary. When dry fitting this all together, you want it ti fit nicely.
Next, put glue in between all of your finger/box joints and press them together as tightly as you can so there are a few gaps as possible.
Place glue the bottom of your box panels and place it on top of the base. I used clamps here to hold it in place securing the bottom to the box panels, but you could just put something heavy on it to hold it down. You want to make sure the sides of your base and panels are as close to lined up as possible so check that before the glue drys. Also, clean up and squeeze out on the inside of your box because it will be very difficult to remove later.
Let this dry for 2-3 hours.
Step 6: Clean Up Your Box
This step can be done in a number of ways. You are going to want to cut off the protruding box joint ends to be flush with the sides. I used my disc sander, sanding them down while being careful not to sand into the veneer of the plywood. You could also use a flush trim saw to cut these pieces off.
Next sand your box with 80 grit sandpaper until smooth, then resand with 120 and 220 if you want a nicer finish.
Step 7: Optional Step
For this step, I wanted a rounded look so I used my trim router with a 1/4" round-over bit to make the edges look nice. You could also use a plane, sander, or anything you like here to soften the edges and give you the look you want.
Step 8: Finish
I finished my boxes with three coats of boiled linseed oil. You could also use any finish here you like here. I achieved the look I was looking for.
I hope you try this, I was more than happy with the results.
Runner Up in the