Introduction: The UGLY Jewellery Box, Featuring First Time Dovetails, Errrrr !!!!!!

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Wow, I had no idea how hard Dovetails were to make accurately. I had to cut the length of box down 7 times to get a pair of semi ok Tails.


All recycled timber,Tasmanian Oak sides (old door revile) & Red Gum face and top (70 year old gate posts)

Step 1: Tools Needed & Cutting List. Coffee Spill. Nooooooo !


Don't leave a cup of hot coffee on the table, especially when it has been freshly leveled.

Tools Needed:

Tape measure, square straight edge glue masking tape table saw hand saw level marking gauge ruler tons of sand paper 60-300 pencil clamps

making mistakes has been almost as much a part of this build as getting it right.
I've made each piece at least 3 times each.
Some where during each stage I've picked a part up and made an adjustment only to find out its up side down or wrong side up. so dam frustrating.
So if your as forgetful as I am please take your time.

Cutting list

Front and back, red gum- 2 3/4 x 13" x 5 1/4"
Both sides, Tasmanian Oak - 2 3/4 x 6" x 5 1/4"
lid, Top - Red gum - 1 3/4 x 14 x 7
lid, strips Tasmanian Oak- 4 3/4 x 1/8 x 14"

bases 2, 2mm x 10 3/16 x 4 5/16"

Step 2: Recycled Timber

Time for some of that fantastic old red gum.

Wonder down the street until you find a 70 year old RED GUM gate post, ask the owners if you can borrow it for a while. lol

No luck, hopefully you were lucky enough to have found a unused and cheep length from the local recycled seller.

Cut roughly into 3/4" strips on the table saw, or if you have one, a band saw.

Plane down to roughly,15mm using a plainer


ensure you leave a minimum of 3/16 short of your final stock size to allow for the timber to be dressed on the jointer.

dress your timber.

for more detail on how to dress timber feel free to use the following link. skip forward to 5 min 30 seconds, he does tend to waffle a bit.

Step 3: Dovetails Marking, Tails

Front and back boards red gum 3/4" x 13" x 5 1/4"

From the end of the board, find the centre and draw a line away from the end grain, roughly 2" long.

Place the dovetail template over the centre of the line & mark your centre dovetail.

place the dovetail template 1/2 way over the edge of the board and mark the end 1/2 dovetails.

If your don't have a template cut a squared scrap board at 14 degrees, ( dovetails can be from 10 -15 degrees) flip it over and remove a lip of the back edge so it will sit on the edge of your job.



place the 2nd red gum board along side the first and mark both 1/2 dovetails on each board simultaneously

Repeat on both ends and both red gum boards.

Mark the length of the tails on the face (flat side)( not the end grain). use a marking gauge, depth will be the thickness of the timber of your pins.
Place in the vice at a comfortable height. adjust the board in the vice (red gum 3/4" x 13" x 5 1/4")

Use the dovetail template to lay out your dovetails.

Place an X on the waist (to be removed) a tick to keep.
Using a fine tooth saw, cut along the waste side of each lay out line.

***************************DO NOT CUT TOO DEEP**********************************
Using a scrap piece of wood, ensure it has 2 square edges(or you will be cutting on an angle less or more than 90).

Clamp along the tooth depth line. keeping the back of the chisel against the face of the guide, slowly and carefully remove the waist while keeping plenty of pressure against the chisel to keep it hard against the straight edge.

End half tails, cut with a saw or use the same instructions above.
finally, a little cleaning up, ensure all your tails are cut square to the shoulder

for a more indepth look into dovetails follow the below link.

he makes it look like a morning stroll down the street.

Step 4: Dovetail Marking, Pins

Select one Tassmanian Oak board.

mark: in and out, also left hand side and right hand side and up and down.


Take your time here and make sure you are happy and comfortable with the numbering and labelling system. get it clear in your mind or you might make a mistake and have to re do boards.

lol, yes I messed 3 up. retention of a ANT, its terrible, just way too many pain killers.


Using the marking gauge, set the depth of the pins, ( thickness of TAILS, red gum)

Using a vice and a plane that is sitting on its side, adjust the height of the board in the vice so the end grain sits level with the edge of the plane.

Place the tail (red gum) flat on the end grain of the piece in the vice. ensure both pieces are parallel to each other (use a square) and secure with light clamping pressure.

Trace exact outline of the tails on to the end grain with a razor sharp knife or blade.

Using the dovetail template or square, extend the layout lines from the end grain down to the marking gauge line.( thickness of your red gum.)

ENSURE when cutting you stay well inside the waist area, tidy up comes later.

Remove from vice and clamp to bench. Using a scrap piece of wood, ensure it has 2 square edges (or you will be cutting on an angle less or more than 90). Clamp it along the tooth depth line. keeping the back of the chisel against the face of the guide, using the largest chisel possible, slowly tap along the marking gauge line ( base line) to start your face. tap straight down, removing small V's from the base line. this will establish a buffer to prevent any denting of the face while removing majority of the waist. From the end grain tap shallow cuts alternating form the vertical to the horizontal until you are 1/2 way through the timber.

Flip the board over, repeat the above.

Clean up time

Lay the chisel on its side, copy the angle of the pins and super carefully follow the lay out line back to the shoulder. NO MISTAKES NOW!

Test the two joints, making any tiny tiny adjustments as needed.

Step 5: LID

I had no real plan for the lid. I made it up as I went along

glue two pieces of red gum boards together to make one large board.

My first thought for a pattern was 3 thick strips crisscrossed accros the lid.

I quickly discarded that, unable to bend the thick timber

Cut 2/16" strips from both jarah and Tasmanian oak, mark a wavy pattern on the lid and cut with a jig saw.

I was undecided about sanding the edges of the newly cut board, I was not sure how perfectly I could match them up. Gave them a light sand, just a very light clean.


I would recommend sanding them cleanly. my jig saw cut was wavy and in turn the strip ended up wavy.

Cut 5 strips at 3mm x 19mm x 15" long from Tassie Oak

Cut one strip at 3mm x 19 mm x 15 long from Jarrah

Select 2 Tassie oak and one red gum. place the Jarrah between the 2 oak.

Cover three strips in glue on all sides.

Place between your 2 halves of your lid and slowly press together with clamps.

Leave for 12 hours to dry, select a 2nd random wavy pattern and cut with the jig saw.

Repeat the above steps.


here I noticed the different between thin inlays and the way im doing it.

if I was using thin inlays the thickness of the timber im adding would not interfere with the flow of the glued in timbers.

Step 6: Base, Secret Compartment

The base has a false bottom, a simple 4mm double floor, accessed via a tiny strip of fabric glued to the underside of the internal base board.

Good for storing a passport and 40 $100 dollar notes. while 4mm sounds thin, you will be surprised what will fit in their.

I used 2 lengths of left over strips from my cyclone sides. Planed them down to the thinnest point, being 4 mm.

To position the base I laid one strip on top of the other and glued the top one in place.


make sure you label your box pieces when you take them apart, so you know which part they join and which way is up and down.

I had two the right way, one up side down and the other on the outer upper.

one of the crazy things I do when im working all dosed up on pain killers. Takes me normally 3 attempts at everything to get it right. Frustrating, but worth it in the end.


Cut two, 2 mm Mdf sheets to fit the internal box size. Glue one sheet of mdf to the bottom of the 4 mm strips, from the under side of the box.


2nd mdf sheet. using a thin piece of ribbon, glue it level along the front edge so when flipped over the ribbon will be sitting at the base of the front wall. Ensure the loose end will protrude into the box in the corner.

Sit the mdf in the box, ribbon glue side down, push firmly in place with the ribbon end still visible from within the box.

similar to a electronic device using multiple batteries, a tab to pull.


easiest part of the job

Apply a thin coat of wood glue and put pack together.

Clamp the corners and wait for the glue to dry.

Step 8: Lid Lifter

After the box has been assembled with both bases installed, its time to work out the exact width of the lid and the lifter.

Before cutting the lid down to size leave a rectangular finger to lift open the lid the size of this lifter will completely depend on the type of fingers your loved one has. If it was for my mother it would need to be a little larger as she has horrid arthritis.

Using a rasp, file to roughly the shape you require, in this case a narrow strip with the tip rounded on the top and hollowed underneath with slightly rounded edges.

Another Fast and easy part of the job.

Change to 80 grit paper and smooth out deep scratches, move to 100 grit then, 180, 220, 320 and finally 400 for the perfectly smooth finish.

even got it right first go. lol

Step 9: Install the Hinge

I'm starting to enjoy the easy jobs.

Close the lid. Make sure its square all round.

Slide the hinge into position and mark the box and lid with your SHARP pencil.

Support the lid in the fully open position. Mark and pre-dirll holes for you screws.

Install screws. Use a screwdriver not a drill. They will over tighten very easily.

Step 10: Finsihing

5 coats clear timber varnish

300 grit wet n dry sand paper between each coat.

Ensure the false bottom is out before applying the varnish

Make sure the false bottom still fits after the varnish is all dry.