Introduction: Wood Plaid Keepsake Box

About: Project videos and tutorials that show the creation of home decor and furniture. I specialize in DIY woodworking, building custom items for clients, friends, and family, showing a variety of woodworking tools…

Did you know that you can make wood into a plaid pattern? What’s even cooler is putting that pattern into a box! I made this gentlemen’s box out of white oak, with a plaid interior and a leather top. This Instructable gives you a step by step guide on how to make your own plaid pattern, which you can use for a box like it did or a cutting board.


Step 1: Prepare the Materials

The interior lining of the box will be plaid. To make the pattern, I’m going to use cherry, white oak, and maple. I’m lucky enough to have some scraps from other projects that I can use.

I milled the lumber and planed it down to approximately an inch thick. Each piece was cut to equal length, which depends on how thick you want to make your board. The size is completely up to you. Setting my table saw to one inch, I cut the strips, giving me 1”x1” squares that are approximately 18” long.

Step 2: Create the First Pattern

To make plaid, it will take multiple glue-ups, starting with making two striped boards. The first board has alternating stripes of maple and oak. The second board has oak and cherry.

You can glue these in multiple ways. I made a quick jig that consists of a plywood base and a few layers of plywood on one side. I waxed the jig so glue doesn’t stick to it. I applied glue to each piece of wood and glued them together in the jig, and clamped it together using a caul on the other side.

Step 3: Make a Checkerboard

Once the glue is dry, the boards are planed down just slightly to ensure that the surface is flat. The boards were then cut into pieces that are approximately 2-1/2” long. I am then able to alternate the pieces, forming a checkerboard pattern.

I used the same jig as before. I applied glue to each piece and assembled the new checkerboard. I then used a caul and clamps to clamp everything together. It’s also helpful to put a few cauls on the top of the board to keep everything flat.

Step 4: Add Stripes to the Checkerboard

After the board was dry, I sanded it to remove any glue squeeze-out and flatten the board. To turn the checkerboard into plaid, we need to add stripes. I’m going to use walnut. I planed down a piece of walnut to 1/8” thick. This is the same thickness as my table saw blade. I then cut the board into slices, right down the middle of each maple square. I then inserted walnut pieces, giving me vertical stripes. I glued the board together.

With the glue dry, I sanded the board flat again so that I can cut the slices for the horizontal stripes. Like with the vertical stripes, I cut the board down the middle of the sections with maple squares. Inserting walnut strips between each section finally gives us the plaid pattern we’re looking for.

Step 5: Make the Sides of the Box

The box is going to be made from white oak. I marked a piece of lumber and rough cut it using the jig saw. I then sliced it in half on the bandsaw, and planed the pieces down to a final thickness of about 1/2” thick. I cut the pieces to final length using the table saw.

The box joinery will be rabbeted miter joint. I put a rip blade in my saw and made multiple passes to cut away a rabbet on each end of each board. I set the blade at a 45 degree angle and cut a miter on each end until the joint fits perfectly.

Step 6: Assemble the Box

I cut a groove close to the top and bottom of each inside face of the box sides. These grooves will house the top and bottom of the box. I cut a few pieces of oak to fit the grooves. Then, it was time to glue and assemble the box.

Step 7: Cut the Lid Off of the Box

After the box is assembled and the glue is dry, I roughly sanded the box to remove any dried glue. Then, I cut the lid off of the box using the bandsaw. A table saw would have also worked for this operation.

Step 8: Cut Plaid Slices for the Box Lining

I sanded the plaid block flat. I set the bandsaw fence to approximately 3/16” away from the blade and cut a slice off of the block. After each cut, I went back to the disc sander and quickly buzzed away any saw marks on the block. Then I cut another slice. I repeated this to get the interior lining of the box.

Step 9: Assemble the Plaid Liner

I cut each liner section on the table saw, paying attention to the pattern. I wanted the pattern to wrap around each side of the box. Each liner side was cut and fit into place. I added glue to the inside faces of the box and glued each liner section into the box.

Step 10: Sand the Box and Apply Finish

The entire box was sanded to 180 grit paper. The interior had to be hand sanded, but fortunately, it was already mostly sanded because I used the disc sander to sand one face of the plaid block before cutting each slice.

I applied three coats of wiping varnish to all areas of the box, except for the very top of the lid. Between each coat, I sanded with 600 grit paper.

Step 11: Apply Leather to the Top

The last step is to add leather to the top. This is an optional step, but I think that it gives the box a masculine feel and coordinates well with the plaid. I cut a piece of leather using a razor knife. The leather is glued to the lid using liquid cement. I applied some to the box lid and some to the leather. After a few minutes, I set the leather into place.

I think this box turned out so good! I hope that you enjoyed this Instructable and that you give this project a try. If you like this sort of content, you can find my work at the following links: