Introduction: Secret Heart Box

Hello!  Thank you for viewing my instructable.  Please let me know what you think of my project and vote for it in the Valentine's Day Contest if you like it!

I came up with the idea for this box when I was brainstorming ways to propose to my girlfriend.  I wanted to find a way to symbolize "giving my heart to her" and I needed a nice box for the ring, so this heart shaped ring box seemed like the perfect idea. 

There are plenty of heart shaped boxes out there, but this is the only one that has a secret way to open it, making it a puzzle box as well.  It has plenty of room for a ring or any other small gift.  Pictures of the finished box and a video showing how to open it are below:

And by the way....she said yes!  Check out the proposal video here and the background story here.

Step 1: Equipment and Materials

You will need the following tools:
  • Scroll saw
  • Drill press
  • Belt sander
  • Scissors and/or Box Cutter
You can pull it off with a jig saw, hand drill, and sand paper, but it will take a lot more work.  I would also recommend planing the wood to make sure it is flat before starting, but if you get good non-warped stock you won't need a planer.

The shopping list for this project is pretty short:
  • 0.5"x4" hardwood (I used Padauk), approx. 2' long
  • 1/4" Dowel pin, 2" long
  • Wood Glue
  • Sand Paper (120-200 grit)
  • Varnish
Optional supplies for the ring cushion:
  • Super Glue
  • Velvet
  • 1/8" thick foam

Step 2: Pattern

The master pattern for all of the pieces is shown below.  Print it out and make sure the dimensions are accurate.

I recommend transferring the pattern in the following steps:
  1. Cut out the heart shape first and trace 5 hearts onto the wood.
  2. Cut out only the interior of the heart and trace the inner pattern onto 3 of the hearts.
  3. Draw the center line through the same 3 hearts.
You have two options for tracing the dowel pin hole and round line:
  1. Trace them directly from the stencil.
  2. Find the midpoint of the center line on the bottom part of the heart outline.  Then use a compass to trace arcs with 1/4" and 1/2" radii.
I don't absolutely trust stencils, since there is a lot of error that can occur in transferring the pattern to the wood, so I use the second method.  It takes more time, but the final product works perfectly.

Step 3: Cutting the Pieces

Once you have transferred the pattern, cutting the pieces is pretty straightforward.  Here are a few tips, though:
  1. Cut out 5 whole hearts first, and save the pieces that look best (good grain, color, etc.) for the top and bottom of the box
  2. Once you have the 5 hearts cut out, skip ahead to the next step to drill the dowel pin holes, then resume cutting
  3. Make sure you only cut the interior out of the middle pieces....
  4. When cutting the inside portion of the middle pieces, cut carefully and save the waste wood for the ring cushion.  Label which waste piece matches which middle piece so the cushion will have a snug fit.

Step 4: Drilling the Dowel Pin Hole

The accuracy of the dowel pin hole has a huge effect on how well the box works, so I devoted an entire step to it.  Here is how I drilled the hole:
  1. Align 4 of the 5 hearts (3 middle pieces on top of the bottom piece)
  2. Mark the center of the dowel pin hole on the top heart piece
  3. Using a 1/8" bit, drill a pilot hole through the 4 pieces - ONLY GO 1 3/4" DEEP! (such that you drill completely through the 3 middle pieces (1 1/2"), but only halfway (1/4") into the bottom piece)
  4. Switch to a 1/4" bit and drill a test hole through some scrap wood
  5. Slide your 2" long dowel pin into the test hole. 
  6. Adjust your drill bit size such that the dowel pin fits snugly into the hole
  7. Using that bit, drill the dowel pin hole in the four heart pieces - ONLY GO 1 3/4" DEEP!
  8. Flip the 3 middle pieces over (keeping them in the same order) and stack them on the top heart piece
  9. Drill into the top piece, making sure to only go 1 3/4" deep.
  10. Done!

Step 5: Assembly

Assembling the box is pretty simple.  Use the pictures below of the following instructions:
  1. Start with the bottom piece, making sure that the dowel pin hole is facing up.
  2. Glue the smaller section of the first middle layer onto the bottom piece.  Set the larger section aside.
  3. Glue the next middle layer pieces on, making sure to alternate them (small piece on large piece and vice versa).
  4. Repeat step 3 with the last middle pieces.
  5. Put all the pieces together.  Make sure there is no glue in the hinge area.
  6. Slide the dowel pin into the hole.
  7. Put glue only on the side that is also glued to the bottom piece.
  8. Put the top piece into place and make sure all the pieces are aligned.
  9. Clamp the box and let the glue dry overnight.

Step 6: Ring Cushion

If you will be using the box to store a ring, you must make a ring cushion.  There are plenty of jewelry box instructables that cover the more intricate details of making ring cushions, but here are a few simple steps that should be enough:
  1. Cut 2 of the waste pieces (from the middle layers of the box) in half, along the center line of the heart.
  2. Make sure that they fit snugly into the part of the box that opens up.
  3. Trace these pieces onto some 1/8" foam - you will need 4-6 foam pieces, depending on the type of foam you have
  4. Cut out the foam pieces, align them with the wood pieces, and test their fit in the box with the ring.  Remove or add pieces as necessary to provide a snug cushion for a ring
  5. Super glue the half of the foam pieces to each wood piece.  You may also glue another foam piece to the top (where the ring will sit)
  6. Cover the wood/foam hybrid with velvet and super glue the velvet to keep it in place
  7. Do not glue the cushions into place until you have sanded and finished the box (next step

Step 7: Finishing the Box

A belt sander greatly helps during this step!
  1. Make sure that the glue has dried completely.
  2. Sand the outside of the box until the layers are smooth
  3. Sand the top of the box with >120 grit to make it nice and smooth
  4. I also beveled the edges of the top and bottom
  5. Smooth hard-to-reach places with sand paper, a spindle sander, or rotary tool
  6. Sand the box one last time with >180 grit sandpaper
  7. Apply a coat of stain and varnish to the box
  8. Superglue the ring cushion into place
  9. Viola!  Now you have a very nice and unique ring box!  Insert ring...
I'd love to see your version of the ring box, so please post pictures!  Also, if you liked this Instructable, please remember to vote for it in the Valentine's Day Contest! 
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