Shut the Box

Introduction: Shut the Box

According to sources, Google, Shut the Box is a game that has been played for centuries all around the world. There are many variations of the rules and scoring. My father acquired a commercial version that we love to play at family gatherings. So I thought I would make one for my brothers using the laser. The commercial version has a "Shut the Box" crest and basic directions on the lid and the backs of the tiles, but I personalized it with my family crest. You could personalize it with anything you want. Think, sports team logo for a great tailgating game? I used craft birch plywood for the tops and bottom and 3" oak strips for the sides. I also chose to distress all exposed surfaces of the wood to give it a more rustic look. I will not go into my distressing techniques because there is already a great Instructable by mikeasaurus on distressing wood.


12" x 24" x .25" Birch Craft Plywood

Step 1: Materials

  • 1/4" 12" x 24" Sheet Craft Plywood (Birch) Home Depot
  • 1/4" x 3" x 48" Oak Board Home Depot
  • 1/8" x 12" x 12" Sheet Craft Plywood Home Depot
  • 8" Zinc Plated Steel Jack Chain Home Depot
  • 3/16" X 9.5" Plain Steel Round Rod Home Depot
  • 2 x Brass Round-Head Slotted Drive Wood Screw
  • 2 x Antique Brass Plated Curved Hinges Hobby Lobby
  • Antique Brass Plated Swing-Arm Clasps Hobby Lobby
  • 10 X 5/16 in. Nylon Washer Home Depot
  • 3/16" internal tooth lock washer
  • 10" X 1/2" piece of wood for tile rail
  • 1/8" thick cork sheet Hobby Lobby

Step 2: Equipment and Tools

  • Laser cutter
  • 3D printer
  • Drill (preferably a drill press)
  • Wood Clamps
  • 90 degree frame clamps
  • Sand paper
  • Wood Stain
  • Distressing tools
  • Wood glue

Step 3: Designing the Box

Good news, there are many really great free box generator apps out there. Some are simpler with less control over parameters, some are complicated, but allow the user to customize the box to what they want. Again, I won't waste time discussing this as there is a great Instructable by SparkItUp on Box Generators, check it out!

You could choose to go to one of the sites and design a different size box, or use the files I have provided. I have included both PDF and Corel files. My design was driven by the 3" oak boards I used for the sides, but you could make it any size you want. I made a mini version in a wood cigar box for travel and camping.

I used Corel Draw software to run my laser. Once cut lines are imported into Corel you can add what ever designs on the inside and outside of the box. I added cut lines on all four sides at 2" from the bottom to form the bottom of the box, which makes the lid 1".

Step 4: Cutting

Once your design is in the laser, you are ready to cut. If you use the 3" oak for the sides as I did, I would recommend measuring the true width before buying. They vary a bit, and you want to find one that is at least 3" to match your cuts. After you cut the sides pieces, use a pencil to mark the pieces before you remove them from the laser. You will want to able to match top and bottom pieces after they are cut so the wood grains match on each side. Learned that one the hard way! I did A B C D from top to bottom and used that side as the inside of the box.

If you are using plywood, be sure to inspect your board for flaws and patches. The pretty perfect pieces should be used it for the lid. If you have flaws or patches put them on the inside of the bottom piece, as it will be covered with cork.

I know what you are thinking, why not just cut and engrave all at once? Answer, I want to distress before I engrave so I don't mess up the engraving with the distressing. If you are not distressing, which did add a great deal of time to the project, you would benefit from cutting and engraving all at once.

Step 5: Distressing Lumber

As I mentioned, I am not going to get into the distressing techniques, but please check out the link above for a great Instructable on the topic. As I mentioned this step of the project does add a bit of labor and time that could easily be skipped. The commercial version box is distressed and "Old Looking", so I wanted to replicate that look. Plus, if you haven't ever distressed wood, it is really kind of fun. You will need to distress both sides of the lid piece, but only the outside of the side and bottom pieces, as all of the inside surfaces will be covered with trim or cork. The really exciting effects of the distressing won't happen until the wood is stained or oiled.

Step 6: Engraving Inside Lid

This is where you get to personalize your project. The commercial version has the shut-the-box crest and simple instructions on the inside of the box. I chose my family crest, but you could really do anything you want. I also left the out side blank, but you could engrave the top or do a cool wood inlay.

I would not recommend taping the wood surface if you are doing a detailed engraving. I have found that it is very difficult to remove on detailed work and even harder to sand off. In my experience, I already have to sand to get the wood smooth, and the burn marks come off in the process.

Step 7: Sanding and Staining

I chose to sand before I glued so I could preserve the burn marks on the ends of the wood, but remove the flare marks on the surfaces. You can choose to do as much sanding as you want, but I wanted a rough look so I just sanded off the major burn marks. You will need to sand both sides of the lid, but only the outside of all other pieces. All of the sides will have trim on the inside and the bottom will be lined with cork, so all flaws and burn marks will be hidden.

You can finish your project however you choose; stain, oil, paint, nothing. I just used what I had laying around, which was dark walnut, which I used for the sides, and natural on the top and bottom. Staining before gluing worked fine for me, but you may have issues if you choose to oil the wood before gluing.

Step 8: Gluing

Before you begin assembling the top and bottom, remember to match your pieces so the wood grain matches! If you have 90 degree picture frame clamps, they come in real handy. If not regular clamps will work. If you have the frame clamps, I found it easiest to glue and clamp the front and one side in one clamp, and the back and the other side in another clamp. Then once dry, glue those together to complete the rectangle. Lastly glue on the top and bottom.

Gluing Tips: Well, once again, there is an amazing Instructable on wood glue by audreyobscura. Check it out if you haven't worked much with wood glue, it's got it all. I will just reinforce that quickly removing excess glue is very important. A damp rag or paper towel works great for removing mistakes. Dried glue on the wood surfaces will discolor the wood, and can take a lot sanding to remove. If not removed from the inside joints, it will interfere with the trim pieces. Again, the inside sides and bottom don't need to be pretty because they will all be covered.

Step 9: Hinges

On the first version I made I used three hinges for the lid but found that two was sufficient in later versions. Line up your lid and bottom making sure you know which side is back and front. If you engraved the inside of the lid make sure it will open so your design is right side up. Use painters tape to hold the box together. Measure in 1.5" or so and make a mark for the edge of the hinge. Line the hinge up along the seam of the box, hold in place, and mark the holes with a pencil. Then repeat this procedure on the other side.

I hand drilled, meaning used my hand, using a high speed 1/16" drill bit. Why by hand, it was easy. However, a standard drill bit would work better in a drill. Attach both hinges to the bottom and top of the box. I have found that the screws that come with these "high quality" hinges, are them selves "high quality", or not! I have sheared the heads off several, which leaves the screw stuck in the wood. So go slow and steady, and for sure pre-drill the holes.

Once the hinges are on you can remove the tape and expose my happiest accident of this project! That's right the stupid screws are longer than the board is thick. A little measuring on my part could have prevented this, but who has time for that. Why a happy accident, because the solution was the trim, which made the project even better.

Step 10: Trim

As I said, the trim was not really part of the design but rather a mistake cover up gone good. It accomplished three things. It covers the screws that are too long on the hinges and latch. It is used to hold the rod for the flip tiles. Most important, it really gives the box a beautiful finish.

I used 1/8" plywood for this, and I followed the same method I did with the box; cut, distress, engrave, stain. At this point if you want to glue the trim in the lid you can, but DON'T GLUE THE BOTTOM TRIM YET! Remember the trim holds the rod and is one of the last pieces you will glue.

Step 11: Flip Tiles

For the tiles you will use two pieces of 1/4" plywood glued together to achieve the thickness needed for the rod. Again a time for you to personalize. One of the tiles has a number (1-9) and the other has a design. I used the family crest as my design and a stencil font for the numbers. I centered the crest on the tile, but placed the numbers closer to the top.

Once you have them engraved and cut you need to glue them back to back. They will need to be glued inverse to each other so when the tile is flipped the design is right side up. A very thin layer of glue is needed, then slide the two pieces back and forth to spread the glue evenly. Squeeze the pieces together and use a flat surface to even all the sides. Move on to the next two pieces, just pay attention each time to which way the pieces are facing. I didn't learn that lesson the hard way either! They should dry for at least a few hours before drilling.

While they are drying you can 3D print the jig I made for drilling the holes for the rod. I have attached the stl file and you can also find it on Thingiverse. I used HTPLA and it held up pretty good to the heat of the drill. If you don't have access to a 3D printer I would recommend making some kind of jig so all the holes line up perfect with each other. In addition, drilling the tiles with a drill press is a much easier endeavor . A drill press vice is also recommended to hold the pieces while drilling. The jig works great, as long as you put the pieces in the right way. Yep, I learned that lesson the hard way also. The jig is a little tight and it can be a little difficult to get the tiles out of the jig. I need a jig for the jig!

I finished the tiles with tung oil.

Step 12: Assembling the Flip Rail

Once your tiles are drilled you can put all the bottom pieces together. You will need 10 of the nylon washers and a 3/16" internal tooth lock washer. Put your front and back trim pieces in place and glue if you want. I did have to do a little sanding to get trim to fit perfect. Then put the sides in place but don't glue.

Hold the rod at the very end with one hand and alternate washer then tile then washer, and so on. When you have all the tiles and washers in place, ending on a washer, carefully put #1 side of the rod in the hole in the left trim piece, and the other on the other side. I found it easiest to slide the two trim pieces up so the hole was just above the edge of box to install the rail, then slide into place. It also takes a little coordination to get all the tiles flipped the right way.

If all is well, and you are happy, slide all the tiles all the way to the left, and make a mark on the rod on the right side where the tiles end. This is where you will place the lock washer to keep the tiles to the left. You can leave a slight gap between the end of the tile and the lock washer to allow movement of the flip tiles.The space on the right side will accommodate the chain when the box is closed.

Sadly you will probably have to take off all the tiles and washers in order to install the lock washer as it takes a little force to get it on. I got mine started by hand then put it in a vice just loose enough for the rod to move but the washer was resting on the vice jaws, then a few taps of the hammer to get it in place. Now reverse order putting it back together, add a thin layer of glue to the side trim pieces and slide it back together.

Step 13: Tile Rail and Cork

You can use what ever you want for the rail. I used a piece of wood scavenged from the steps up to our childhood tree house. Thought it would be a cool touch on my brothers box. It just needs to be about 1/2" x 1/2" x 9.25". Once you have it cut put it in the box and arrange it where you want it, then glue it in.

My first version I didn't add cork, and the rolling dice on the wood was kind of loud. Then I added cork circles to the four bottom corners to prevent scratching table tops, and the rolling dice were twice as loud. So I added cork inside for the rolling surface on my later versions, and it is way better. You will need to measure your rolling area based on where you place your tile rail. The laser does a great job cutting cork. It also engraves beautifully if you wanted to add a design. I glued it in using wood glue.

Step 14: Chain

CuSO4In keeping with my rustic look I wanted an old looking chain. The problem is hardware stores only sell nice shiny chains. So I made new look old. I had some patina solution for stained glass, which removed the cheep shiny coating and turned the metal blackish gray and rusty. I won't pretend to know anything about chemistry, but these patinas are chemical compounds in solution like CuSO4, and should be used with caution. That being said it worked great. You can do the same to the screws.

Pre-drill holes for the chain in the bottom and lid 11/2" from hinge end and 1/4" in from lid seam. You do not need to drill all the way though the wood. Install the bottom end of the chain. Leave enough space to allow the chain to rotate freely or it will grind on the wood. Adjust the lid angle to where you want it and mark the chain length you need. Cut the chain and install in lid.

Step 15: Finishing the Box

I didn't do anything to finish my first version. The second version I slightly rounded all of the edges and corners with sand paper, and put on couple coats of Polycrylic Clear Matte.

Last thing, finally! Find and mark the center of the front of your box. Attach the latch using the same technique you used for the hinges.

I wanted to get some nicer dice to class it up a bit. I found a great website Dice Game Depot that sell some really cool dice. So I ordered a few pairs, but they just didn't match the style of the box. So I ordered some wooden ones and they look great, and they are not as loud.

Step 16: Thanks and Have Fun

Thanks for checking out my Instructable. It was a really fun project to make, and it is a really fun game to play with family and friends. I am entering this into the Games Contest and I would love your vote. If you make a version please post a "Made It" so I can check it out.

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