Jewelry Box Build by WoodSkills




About: Furniture designer and maker (Norman Pirollo) at Refined Edge Design and Pirollo Design, editor and publisher of WOODSKILLS Magazine. I discovered a passion for working with wood at an early age. Currently f...

Intro: Jewelry Box Build by WoodSkills

A brief glimpse into the handcrafting of a White Mountain Design jewelry box...presented by WoodSkills

Each drawer, tray and compartment divider is individually fitted to accommodate the overall jewelry box dimensions. The bottom drawer glides along rails on either side of the drawer opening, the drawer has corresponding grooves. Each compartment divider can be removed to allow for a larger compartment and to accommodate larger pieces of jewelry. The sliding trays allow you to view contents of the compartments below . The exterior woods used are hand-picked for each jewelry box with matching grain orientation. Figured wood tops are available as an option. Hand-carved handles are also selected to accentuate the wood selected for the box itself.

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Step 1: Preparing Rough Boards (1)

A view of the roughly prepared blanks for the tops and sides of the jewelry boxes. The wood in this series of jewelry boxes is mahogany. Mahogany features an interlocking grain pattern which can present a challenge when using hand tools. Preparing rough boards for a series of jewelry boxes allows me to better select the most appealing grain pattern for the sides and top. The aesthetic of the jewelry box is as important as the quality of construction. You can see that skip-dressing of the boards allow the underlying lighter color of the fresh wood to be seen before it has been exposed to light.

Step 2: Preparing Rough Boards (2)...

Another view of the rough sides and tops for two jewelry boxes can be seen here. These boards are approximate in dimensions of length and width and are in the process of being machined to an exact thickness. I always create multiples of jewelry boxes, either in pairs or up to 20 at a time, to make efficient use of machine and jig setup.

Step 3: Sides and Top of Box...

The sides and top for the box itself are prepared next. Grooves and rabbets are created using jigs to ensure precise layout. The mitered ends of the sides can also be seen. Reinforcing splines will be added later to bolster the mitered corners. Another version of the jewelry box has hidden splines inserted to reinforce the mitered corners. The dimensions of the four sides are accurately cut to ensure that the miters fit snugly together and the box remains square from top to bottom.

Step 4: Clamping Box...

The perfectly fit sides and floating top are now clamped together. I typically use two band clamps as the one shown to ensure that clamping is uniform from top to bottom. Band clamps are an excellent tool to put together large boxes such as these jewelry boxes. Clamping pressure is adequate to ensure the mitered corners mate and maintain enough glue to create a joint. Too much clamping pressure could distort the box and can cause the sides to slide slightly if another clamping technique is used instead. The plastic corners attached to the band clamp keep the mitered corners in place. It is critical to allow the jewelry box top to float in the groove to ensure that expansion of the top does not break apart the box.

Step 5: Completed Box Case...

Two views of a small series of jewelry boxes which have been fitted with drawers and trays. The contrasting exotic hand-carved wood handles are then fitted to the top and drawer of the jewelry box. It becomes critical to follow a pre-determined assembly sequence to maintain some efficiency in producing these jewelry boxes. I typically have the carved handles prepared before hand.

Step 6: Fitting Process...

An overhead view of fitting process, individual components of the interior of the jewelry box are hand planed to tolerance. Although several components can be interchanged between jewelry boxes, the focus is to ensure each component is fitted to a particular jewelry box.

Step 7: Squaring Components...

The ends of the individual dividers are squared to perfect perpendicular orientation to the length using a shooting board and shop built wooden hand plane. The shooting board excels at squaring small components such as the dividers used in the jewelry box trays.

Step 8: Dimensioning Components...

The process of smoothing or dimensioning a compartment divider to exact dimensions using specialized hand planes. Each divider is hand-fitted to its tray. The goal is to be able to interchange components but this is not always the case as each tray and compartment is slightly different in some way.

Step 9: Jewelry Box Interior...

The interior of a typical jewelry box with the trays fitted and dividers installed. Here, the lid is bare and will be built up in the next stages. Each tray can be removed to better access the compartments below. The bottom drawer of the jewelry box has larger compartments to hold larger pieces of jewelry. The drawer dividers are approx. 1/8 in. shorter than the drawers to allow for the padded velour drawer bottoms. Once this padded velour bottom is installed, the drawer dividers rise to the level of the drawer compartment sides for a flush fit. After the final finishing process, the jewelry box begins to attain its final color and patina through exposure to light and aging.

Step 10: Jewelry Box Exterior...

The exterior of a black cherry jewelry box with bird's eye top panel. There are a few more steps to complete prior to application of the finish and final rubbing out. Note the hand carved handles. A large selection of figured wood tops are available as well as solid wood tops. Since the jewelry boxes are designed to be uniform in size, the tops can be interchanged between jewelry boxes.

Step 11: Interior Work...

Another view of the black cherry and bird's eye top jewelry box at 75% completion. The interior of top lid needs to be handcrafted and fitted next. All compartment dividers have now been fitted and installed. An optional brass lock can also be fitted at this stage. The jewelry box is built up in stages much like an assembly line for cars!

Step 12: Working in Multiples (1)...

A series of jewelry boxes in various stages of completion. White Mountain Design jewelry boxes can be ordered with different selections of woods and tops. Here, the jewelry boxes are of black cherry with contrasting bird's eye maple tops in different shades and figure. Having the dimensions of the jewelry boxes standardized allows the interchange of larger and smaller components between boxes. At least, this is the plan :)

Step 13: Working in Multiples (2)...

To make the most efficient of machinery and jig setups, I have often created upwards of twenty jewelry boxes at a time. Since the dimensions of the jewelry box are standardized, it becomes easier to interchange different combinations of boxes and tops. Contrasting, figured tops or solid raised tops can easily be fitted into existing mahogany, maple or cherry boxes. Custom-sized jewelry boxes can also be seen in this photo. More of the advantages and cost-effectiveness of creating multiples are discussed in the "Start Your Own Woodworking Business" course offered by WoodSkills.

Step 14: Shooting Miters...

Shooting the miters for the inside panel frame components. This is performed after the components are sized to the inside lid. Shooting the ends of drawer and tray components guarantees a perfect 45-degree joint or corner for the inside lid components. The shooting board can be used to shoot either 45 or 90 degree ends of components. Perfect miters are critical as gaps in joints take away from the quality of the jewelry box.

Step 15: Inside of Lid...

The inside of a lid with frame components and inside panel installed. There are a few more steps to follow before application of the engraved brass plate. A carved wood mount to which the brass plate is affixed is handcrafted next. The carved wood mount is centred in the top inside panel and the brass plate in inlaid into the wood block.

Step 16: Maker's Mark...

A White Mountain Design brass insignia has been applied to the inner lid and all frame and panel members have been glued in. The gold-plated lock and the wood mount for the customized brass plate are next. The combination of brass maker's mark and personalized brass engraved plate add a level of craftsmanship to the product.

Step 17: Lock Install...

The gold-plated lock has been installed in one of our black cherry jewelry boxes. The escutcheon is only temporarily mounted for fitting purposes. The lock has been tested for proper operation. Extreme care is taken to fit these locks as the process cannot be reversed and any damage or errors essentially trash the jewelry box.

Step 18: Completed Jewelry Boxes...

Two completed jewelry boxes ready for delivery. The exteriors have had finish applied and have been hand-rubbed. The interior compartments are lined with velvet and ring holder compartments installed in each of the sliding trays. Personalized brass plates and holders have been completely installed. The personalized brass plates can now be seen installed.

Step 19: Completed Jewelry Boxes (1)...

The completed jewelry boxes with bottom drawer open for a better idea of the size of the drawer compartments. Each jewelry box has slightly different characteristics in the graphics or grain pattern of the body and the figure of the bird's eye top. The client is essentially receiving a unique, one of a kind product even though the dimensions are standardized between jewelry boxes.

Step 20: Completed Jewelry Boxes (2)...

An exterior or bird's eye view of the same jewelry boxes. The contrast between the black cherry body and the light bird's eye tops can be seen here. Often, I will have a few of these jewelry boxes in different combinations of woods available so a client can select their choice from inventory. As I like to mention to my clients, now comes the expensive part, filling the jewelry box :)

Step 21: Completed Mahogany Jewelry Box...

Another variant of the jewelry box. This is a mahogany jewelry box with a solid raised top. Client opted not to have Maker's Mark installed. Some clients like it, others prefer that the engraved brass plate remain the focal point of the inside lid of the box. These jewelry boxes are fairly large at 14 in. W x 10 in. D x 6 in. H. From previous research, clients prefer this size. This jewelry box has a spray lacquer finish applied to both maintain the clarity of the wood and to create a durable outside finish. Other options are a shellac-based finish and an oil-based finish. I typically apply the oil-based finish to the walnut version of the jewelry box. Each of the drawer and trays have now been lined with padded velour. The jewelry boxes continue to be created to this day at White Mountain Design in small batches. I create the batches a few times a year to ensure some inventory is maintained.

For woodworking plans, courses and tutorials and videos, please visit WoodSkills



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    16 Discussions


    9 months ago

    I like the art deco look of this box on the outside. I suggest your inside divider dados should be flush and nearly invisible.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 months ago

    Hi.. Thanks. The dividers are approx. 1/8 in. shorter than the drawers to allow for the padded velour drawer bottoms. I don't recall the exact thickness of the padded velour bottom, but once this bottom is installed the drawer dividers rise to the level of the drawer compartment sides. Thanks for chiming in, I will mention this in one of the steps.


    2 years ago

    This is amazing box. Love it! Thank you for sharing. :)

    Greetings from Finland


    2 years ago

    Beautiful, thanks


    Great looking jewelry box. Also you look like you have a really nice wood working setup. You should write up an instructable about how you put together your wood working studio.

    2 replies

    Hi.. I have just completed the Settin Up a Workshop Instructable and it show my current workshop and the thoughts behind setting it up, as well as general workshop setup info.


    2 years ago

    This is really pretty but for all the pictures you added, there are very few which actually show construction. This site isn't for advertising other sites.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi..This is the a build process in a condensed form. I assembled the only pics I had and stitched them together. It is somewhat of an Advanced project and more detail and images would be necessary to complete it... but an advanced Woodworker could probably glean enough info from this to design+build their own. In the future, I plan to have more detailed photographs and videos of this project and will be adding them to this Instructable.


    2 years ago

    Very nice and I like your shooting board. One thing I can't see is how you attach the hinges which I find is the most difficult part of making any box. They look like stop hinges that can only be opened about 80 degrees.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    The hinge system has been updated over the years. The latest hinges are back-mounted stop hinges. Not very easy to install correctly but once they're in, they work great!


    2 years ago

    Beautiful. Keep up the good work.


    2 years ago

    thats a piece of art man, keep the good work congrats!

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    Absolutely beautiful.