Box Joint Tea Box

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Intro: Box Joint Tea Box

In this project I'll make a tea box with box joints from scrap wood. Most of the wood I work with is pallet wood, since I have a lot of it, but this wood came from cutoffs from another project. I'll briefly go over the other project to show how the other project relates to the scraps, and then move on to building the box.

Step 1: Cutoffs From Door Profiles

I have a new little workshop in my garden and needed to beef up the doors. To make new profiles for the windows I cut T-tracks out of leftover beams. Out of the cutoffs from those profiles I ended up making a new tea box.

Step 2: Gluing Up the Cutoffs

For this step we'll need:

  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Sanding machine (I use a belt sander)
  • a means to square the edges (jointer/planer/table saw)

First we take the cutoffs and square off the sides, or "joint" them. What this means is you make the edges as close to perfectly straight as you can get it. I did this by bundling up a bunch of them, clamping them to my workbench and running a long plane over them. A jointer would be perfect for this, but I don't have one. You can also do this with a table saw, but I chose to use a block plane because:

  1. It's more fun to use
  2. I'm more comfortable using a plane on small pieces like this than I am with running them through a table saw.

It's important that the (block) planer you're using has a body as long as you can get. The shorter the plane, the less of a straightening effect you will have. A short plane will also plane, but if your workpiece is curved, it will just follow the curvature of the workpiece.

Then we apply glue to the sides of the workpieces and clamp them all together. I glued 5 pieces together in a single glue-up. The more pieces you glue in one go, the more likely they will "cup" and curve. With bigger pieces I would have just glued 2, max 3 pieces at the same time but because these cutoffs were so small and this whole project started as a test anyway I did all 5 at the same time. I clamped on the sides as well as put scraps board on top and bottom and clamped those to keep everything straight. See the photos for a clearer explanation. Those scrap boards were sacrificial. They got glued on so I removed them with a chisel. Next time I would put paper between them so only the paper gets glued on. Paper is easy to remove afterwards.

Step 3: Box Joints.

For this step we'll need:

  • Sanding machine (belt sander)
  • A way to cut square edges (table saw + sled, miter box/saw, etc)
  • box joint jig if you're doing box joints.
  • a way to measure 90° angles (speedsquare, welding magnets, etc)

A while ago I made 2 box joint jigs around the time I got a cheap 3rd hand table saw. One didn't work properly and the second one didn't seem to work on really thick work pieces either. However, for this I figured I'd give it another try.

First I took my belt sander and mounted it upside down on my workbench and ran the glued board over it to clean it up. Then I put it on my sled/box joint jig and ran it through the table saw to square off the ends. You don't need a table saw to do this. In fact, for the original project these cutoffs pieces came from, I ended up making a manual miter box to square off ends rather than use a beefy miter saw. Small workpieces are much safer to do by hand than by certain power tools. This is especially true for saws. But well, I had the table saw and the sled, and in this case I wanted to use it for the box joints.

My box joint jig consists of a vertical sled which runs on top of teeth with fixed distances on the main sled. It relies on a single saw blade, and a stopper on the vertical sled with the same width as the saw blade. I might make an instructable on it later once I've made more projects with it to test it.

Either way, after cutting the sides and squaring the ends, which is all you'd really need for the box if you'd skip the box joints, I clamped the sides to my box join jig and cut the box joints. Then I did a dry fit without gluing anything. I made sure the box was square by using welding magnets.

Step 4: Adding Dividers

For this step we'll need:

  • Chisels
  • Marking knife

Tea bags have a habit of moving around a lot if there is too much space for them to move, so I wanted to add some dividers.

I still had some cutoffs left which were not glued. I cut 2 pieces long enough to fit halfway into the sides of the box, cut them halfway through and made a cross section. Then I took a smaller cutoff scrap and measured/marked where they would inset into the side of the box. I used a marking knife in combination with a small chisel to cut away the slots for the dividers.

Step 5: Clamping and Gluing

For this step we'll need:

  • Clamps
  • Wood glue
  • A way to square things up (speed square, welding magnets)

After all the pieces are cut it's time to finally glue everything up. Nothing much to this step. Just put glue on all the joints, use whatever method/tool you have for squaring up the sides to make sure everything is nice and perpendicular, put it all together and "lightly" clamp it. I stress lightly because if you over-clamp it you might end up with a "bow-tie" shaped box. I had not yet put the bottom or top lid in, and the clamps were less to apply pressure, but more to make sure everything remained in place.

After the glue dried I measured the top and bottom again. I made the cut/saw lines with a marking knife to get it as precise and as fine as I could get it before I cut them.

Step 6: Top, Bottom, Making Lids

For this step we'll need:

  • Some way to cut square/perpendicular (table saw)
  • Wood glue
  • Sanding machine (belt sander)

After I cut the top and bottom, I had to glue them into place. They were inset INSIDE of the box, rather than on top and bottom. For the bottom this was easy. I just applied glue and pushed the bottom in all the way until it rested against the dividers, which were already square.

For the top this was more difficult because there was nothing to make sure the lid would stay nice and square. If I pushed it too far in or if it would twist a bit it would be ruined.

So I cut the top part of the box which would form the lid off first. For this I used the table saw, but any means to cut square will work. Then I took the lid part, applied glue to the edges of the top part, and pushed it into place.

Because I had marked the top and bottom with a marking knife (box cutter) to cut them, they fit very snuggly into the box. As such I did not use any clamps to hold them into place. I just applied glue, pushed them into place and let the glue dry.

After everything dried I sanded the box nice and smooth with a belt sander.

Step 7: Hinges and Finishing Up

For this step we'll need:

  • Chisels
  • Marking knife/box cutter
  • Screw driver

Extra materials we'll need:

  • Hinges+small screws
  • Stain/paint/oil

I couldn't find any hinges to salvage so I went to the store and got some new ones. I measured the same distance from the closest edge for both of them, marked around where they would sit, and cut/chiseled out enough of the sides to make the hinges become flush with the sides. I then screwed the hinges lightly into place so the screw holes would be there already, then I took them off again and put an oil finish on it. Make sure you use a finish that is safe for food as we'll be storing tea in it. After a day of waiting for it to be absolutely dry, I reattached the hinges, put tea in there and started using this box in my house.

I hope this instructable was easy enough to follow and useful to you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to add them.

If you liked this instructable, please considering voting for it in the woodworking contest.

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