Introduction: Walnut Roll Top Jewelry Box

About: Just an average guy. husband, father of four, grandpa, civil engineer turned cabinetmaker, jack of all trades master of a few. Enjoys, golf, curling, woodworking, creativity & making things.

My first born granddaughter is nearly two years old now and I wanted to make her a keepsake. I know she's a little young for a jewelry box right now, but it won't be long before she's grown.

The neat thing about this jewelry box is that the roll top is opened by pulling the lower drawer out.

I thought this would also be a good project for the "One Board Contest". The parameters of the contest are to use only one 2'' x 4'' x 96'' which is equal to 5.3 board feet, the piece of walnut that I used measured 1'' x 8'' x 96" also equal to 5.3 board feet.

When I started I thought I would have plenty of material for such a small project, but it turned out a little closer than I thought.


  • One board measuring rough cut 1'' x 7'' x 96'' ( I used black walnut )
  • carpenters glue
  • sand paper
  • scrap piece of 1/4'' mdf for templates
  • shop tools .table saw, chop saw, planer, bandsaw, plunge router and bits
  • finishing materials

Step 1: Template for Ends

I don't have access to a CNC to cut and machine the ends therefore, a router template was my only option.

I used 1/4'' mdf for my template material, first draw out ( full size ) the sides of the box three times roughly 12'' apart, all in a row on the mdf. ( along the same center line )

Drill a 1/8'' hole at the center of each drawing, this will be your reference point for each part of the template. The first part of the template will be used to router the outside of the circle. The second part of the template will be used to router out the track for the tambour, and the third part will be to router out the three fixed shelves.

For the first part of the template, I used a plunge router that's set up to router circles with a 1/8 center pin. Set the radius to 4 1/8'' ( center pin to center of a 3/8'' diameter flute bit ). Router through your template leaving around 1/4 of the circle still attached at the bottom. Be sure to have scrap material below as not to router into your bench.

On the second template set the radius to 3 5/8'' and router your track as per the drawing. Then using a straight edge, router the straight section of track that connects to the outside round track at the bottom. Using a small file round the corner for the tambour to roll around.( see 2nd last picture )

On the third template use a straight edge ( clamped down ), to router the dados for the three fixed shelves one at a time.

Step 2: Breaking Out the Board

Cut the 96'' long board in pieces as per the drawing. one @ 33 1/2'' one @ 31'' and two @ 15 3/4''

Cut the boards into slices using your table saw ( with a thin kerf ripping blade ) or a band saw according to the drawing.

Plane down the rough cut slices to the finished sizes. ( Note: the dimensions on the drawing are the finished thicknesses )

Step 3: Plaining, Routering

After slicing the boards into rough cut thicknesses, run them through a planer to bring them to finished sizes.

Using your plunge router with a 3/8'' outside diameter collet ( that fits exactly into the routered out grooves in your template ) and a 1/4'' flute bit in the plunge router, run a test of your template on a scrap piece ( use a 1/8'' drill bit to line up your templates and then clamp them down before routing )

If all is good proceed to router your sides using the same process. For the outside of your circle make a few passes, lowering the bit a little each time - but do not router all the way thru, leave at least a 1/16''.

For the tambour track and shelves router to a depth of 3/16''.

***Remember that you have a right and a left side so you will have to flip the template over to do one of each.

Step 4: Machining Parts, Ends and Fixed Shelves

Before cutting your sides free this is a good time to face sand and sand the track. Once sanded cut the remaining 1/16" of material on a band saw, then using a flush cut router bit clean the outside of the circles. Clamp the two ends together and sand the outside, unclamp and using a 1/16'' round over bit round over the inside and outside of circle.

Cut three pieces of the ( 1/4'' thick x 6 - 3/4'' wide pieces) to 14'' long for the three fixed shelves, then rip the bottom to 5 3/8'' wide, the middle to 6 9/16 '' wide and the top to 4 7/8'' wide.

On the bottom shelf set your table saw to 3/16'' to the outside of the blade ( same depth as your dados in the sides ) and cut in 3/4'' on both ends and remove. This allows the shelf to come farther ahead than the cut dado in the sides.

From your off cut strips cut two pieces to the same length as the face edge length of the bottom shelf, These will be used for the front and back of the top shelf.

Cut a 15 degree angle on the face edge of the top shelf and the same on one of the previous off cuts( 3/4'' wide ). Cut another 3/4'' strip for the back of the shelf, then glue both pieces to the top shelf as per the picture.

Note: I put a 1/8'' round over on all visible edges of the 1/4'' shelves, and on the drawer sides later on.

Determine the center of your shelves an cut a 1/8'' wide x 1/8'' deep saw cut on the underside of the top shelf and one on the top side of the middle shelf ( this is for the divider that separates the two top drawers ).

Step 5: Assembly of Main Box & Curved Drawer Fronts

Once you have everything cut to size, pre sand your shelves, apply glue to the dados and assemble the box using clamps.

For the bottom curved drawer front rip a strip ( from 1'' stock ) to be the same width as the distance from the top of the bottom shelf to the middle of the middle shelf.

For the upper curved drawer front rip a strip ( from 1'' stock ) to be the same width as the distance from the middle of the middle shelf to the bottom of the dado for the tambour.

Cut a small 1/8'' x 1/4'' saw cut on both pieces to allow for the front of the middle fixed shelf. Then cut a 3/4'' piece off the end of both pieces.

These two small pieces will be used to make a template to match the curve of the side. Sand and shape to the required curve on the two pieces, then glue the pieces back onto the end of your strips.

Now you have something to follow as you use your table saw, tilting the blade and making repeated cuts to round the face of the drawers. Place the two lengths on the table and hand sand to make a smooth curve.

Step 6: Drawers

For the drawer sides rip down some 1/4'' thick pieces to the required width to fit in the box. Cut to length, two pieces for the bottom drawer and four for the middle drawer. Using a 1/4'' dado blade cut a 1/4'' wide x 1/8'' deep rabbet along the bottom of all the sides.

Tape the six drawer sides together and put the same rabbet on the front of the drawer sides. Tape the four top drawers together and cut the 1/4'' dado for the back, do the same for the bottom drawer sides.

Cut the front and back pieces of the drawer so that the finished size of the drawer is 1/16'' narrower than the inside width of the box, cut the bottom to fit and glue the drawers together. Repeat for the two top drawers.

Cut your bottom drawer face the same length as your drawer box and glue it to face of drawer, repeat for the top drawers but remember that the fronts have to extend a little in the middle to cover the center divider, but they are still flush to the outside of the two top drawers.

Step 7: Roll Top

Slice the remaining piece of 1/2'' thick stock ( off cut from the sides ) into 3/16'' thick, then rip enough 3/8'' strips to make a top around 13'' wide.

To sand the sides, stack all strips on edge, tape together and sand the other side, then tape the side you just sanded and sand the other side.

Once the edges are sanded lay the strips out flat ( good side up ) and tape together on the face. Flip over and using a square draw two lines across the tambour strips the inside width of the box minus 1/4''. Place masking tape along these lines and cover remaining tambour.

Cut a piece of fabric ( I used a fabric shopping bag ) big enough to cover the exposed tambour. Using aerosol contact cement, spray the tambour and the fabric, let dry and apply to the back. Using the tape you first applied to the tambour as a straight line, cut the fabric along this line and remove tape.

Cut the tambour to width allowing a little less than 1/8'' clearance, sand the face of the tambour and break the edges that go into the tracks.

Step 8: Roll Top Installation and Handles

The tambour needs to attach to the back of the bottom drawer so glue a 3/4'' strip to the back of the drawer just above the dado for the tambour to attach to.

Put the bottom drawer in. Install the tambour, pushing it all the way in. Determine if you have to remove any strips of tambour, then cut the last three pieces of tambour a 1/2'' shorter on both sides ( this allows the tambour to swing in and come into contact with the strip on the back of the drawer. Pre drill two small screw holes and screw the tambour to the drawer.

The handles were made using a few leftover strips, For gluing the handles in place I used masking tape as an edge to align the handles.

Step 9: Bonus Trinket Trays & Finishing

With some of the left over pieces I was able to make two 4 1/2'' x 8'' x 1'' deep trinket trays. Using the 1/8'' thick piece cut two pieces 8'' x 4 1/2" and then cut a small 45 degree corner on all four corners.

Using 1 1/4'' wide strips with a 1/8'' x 1/8'' dados down the length ( saw blade cut ), cut the sides to fit around the bottom ( 22 1/2 degree angles ),

When gluing together use masking tape to hold the small pieces in a line. Router and sand the top and bottom edges.

When it's time to finish, disassemble and make sure everything is sanded and smooth. I used a clear, water based, lacquer finish so I sanded everything to a 220 grit. If you plan on staining, sand to a max of 180 grit - otherwise the staining might turn out blotchy. ( the smoother the surface the harder for a stain to penetrate into the wood )

I sprayed three coats of clear lacquer on all surfaces ( sanding in-between coats ) and let it dry overnight before final assembly.

Note: rub a bit of candle wax on the edges of the tambour that goes into the track to help it slide smoothly.

Step 10: Conclusion

My hope as a grandfather is that someday, when my granddaughter is all grown up, that she'll pass it on to her daughter :)

You will note that there are no dividers inside the drawers, once I get the final instructions from my daughter as to what she would like, I will make removable dividers with some of the material I have left.

I hope you liked the project! If you have any questions please feel free let me know by asking them in the comments.


One Board Contest

First Prize in the
One Board Contest