Lasering Nested Boxes-at Tech Shop

Introduction: Lasering Nested Boxes-at Tech Shop

Project Description:
In this project undertaken at tech-shop, I have made a set of nested boxes(one large box containing many smaller boxes) that I will use for containing fasteners and gadgets in my tool bag for working on other projects. I made them at tech shop using a vector graphics program, an open source web-based box-maker program from Robohaulics, and an epilog laser, and of course some wood glue. The main box and the boxes inside of it all have a swivel hinge system to open and close which I will also explain how to create

The steps of this instructable are as follows:

What you will need: An overview of tools and materials used

Layout: Planning the size of the set of boxes, and refining the exact size that will have them fit together in a precision manner

Design: Using the box making program to create the vector graphics that will be used to laser the boxes

Lasering: Preparing the files that will be used to laser the boxes and actually lasering them

Hinge preparation: Making the necessary alterations to the individual box faces that are required for a hinged lid that will easily open and close

Hinge creation: How to actually effectuate the hinge mechanism

Assembly and glue up: Actually gluing your hinged boxes together in their final form

Finishing touches: A few other ideas to make your nested boxes work better and or look better


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Step 1: What You Will Need

1/4 inch nominal dimension, (.237) inch precisely thick MDF Core plywood in this case collected from the scrap bin that is already or was cut to dimensions of roughly 18" x 24" which correspond to the dimensions of the laser I am using.
Copper wire for hindges.
Wood glue
A windows 7 computer
Epilog laser
Drill press
Google chrome
Adobe illustrator website

Step 2: LAYOUT

Box layout(below the description of the steps you will find a graphic showing you each numbered step in an illustrator artboard)
Open your vector graphics program and begin drawing your boxes
Step #1: First draw two boxes one above the other, one that is the length(8&3/4") and width(5&3/4) you have selected for your external box, and the other that is the length(8&3/4) and the depth(3") that you have selected for your external box

Step #2: duplicate the first two boxes

Step #3: position them directly over the original boxes

Step #4: Subtract twice the percise material thickness from both the width & height of both boxes, In my case using illustrator I can do this by simply typing after the existing value a "-"(minus sign) followed by the amount to subtract, and in addition the boxes will remain centered if they dont remain centered re-center them

Step #5: set the fill color of the larger box to a color that will represent your material for ease of visualization

Step #6: Draw your internal boxes to aproximately the dimensions you have selected inside white internal box of the external box on the top of your screen, this will represent the top view of your nested boxes

Step #7:Adjust the sizes of your internal and external boxes until the internal boxes fit fit exactly within and fill up the entire area of the white space external box they reside in and are roughly the desired size

Step #8: draw lines from the edges of your top view's internal boxes down through the side view below so, then
Step #9 draw internal boxes in the side view that fit exactly between these lines

Step #10 just as you did with the external box, duplicate all internal boxes, lay them over the originals, and subtract from each precisely the material width, then fill in the outside copies, you now have a diagram of what your final box will look like

Step #11 expand your external box, both the interior and exterior box by 1/16" of an inch, or so to create tolerance insuring your internal boxes a good fit. DO THIS WITH THE TOP AND SIDE VIEW, AND EXPAND BOTH THE WIDTH AND THE HEIGHT

Step #12: CHECK YOUR LAYOUT. do this by creating a small box that is exactly the thickness of your material, in both height and width and placing it in the corner top right hand corner of the colored external box, it should come exactly to the corner of the white box inside, duplicate this and put one on the bottom right corner, followed by the top left and bottom right corner of all inside boxes if you want you may also number your internal boxes and later transfer these numbers as raster images to your box vectors for ease of locating what pieces belong to what box. I did not do this but I wished I had during assembly.

Step 3: DESIGN

The steps below describe in detail how to take dimensions from your layout use them to design a box in the box maker page and transfer that data to your vector graphics program. You will repeat this process for the main box and each internal box and then proceed to preparation and lasering once you have design files for all boxes

Step #1 Open your web-browser and go to, type Box maker in the search bar
Step #2 Click on the "BoxMaker - Rahulbotics" link in your browser
Step #3 Size your vector graphics program and your web-browser so they can be arranged side by side or one below the other on your screen
Step #4 Select your exterior box's shaded outer box in the top view
Step #5 Copy the height and width of that selected box into the height and width text boxes in the box-maker page
Step #6 Select your exterior box's shaded outer box in the side view and enter its height in the depth text box
Step #7 Measure the precise thickness of your material preferably with calipers if you have access to them and enter it in the material thickness box on box maker
Step #8: In the advanced section of the box maker dialogue make sure that the thickness of the joints is ideal for hinges preferably around 3/8"
Step #9 Click the "Design It!" button at the bottom of the box maker page
Step #10 Open the resulting P.D.F and save it in the folder you will be using for your box files
Step #11 Open the P.D.F you have just saved in your vector graphics program
Step 12 delete the text generated at the top, Group or join each box face , then arrange the pieces as you want to laser them on your material eg. as close together as possible. also if you are not a fan of puzzles you ( in the demo picture, the tiny text you will see in the box faces is an example of raster labeling your box pieces to keep them from getting mixed up )

Step 4: Preparation and Lasering

Step 1: Measure the size of your sheet or sheets of materials and create a document in your vector graphics program that is of a corresponding size.

Step 2: Open each P.D.F. file that you made in the box maker, join or group the lines in each face and copy them to the lasering file. Arrange the pieces in such a way as to make the most efficient use of your materials

Step 3: If you know the proper settings for vectoring all the way through your material great, if not test settings first to save wasted time and materials. What I used was M.D.F. core plywood, and my settings were Speed=10%, Power = 90% and frequency = 800 on a single pass.

Step 4: Laser your boxes

Step 5: Hinge Preparation

With your boxes now lasered it is time to prepare them to be able to swing open and closed on the hinge wires you will install. To do this you will need to sand certain key points on the faces of the boxes to prevent jamming durring opening and closing. The sub-steps below demonstrate the process for a single box

Step 1: Assemble the box completely

Step 2: Select which side of the lid you will put your hinge wire through

Step 3 Round over the edge of each of the tabs on the bottom face of each of the tabs on the lid of the box that is in contact with the back face of the box and each of the tabs on the back face that is in contact with the lid

Step 4 Round off the sides of each of the tabs on the left and right side of the box which will be in contact with the lid

Step 5 Round over the inward face of the tabs on the front face of the box that will be in contact with the lid

Step 6 Hold the lid in place on the back face of the box with the box assembled as if it were connected and swivel it open and closed checking for resistance. If you find resistance find which tabs are sticking and further round them

Step 6: Drilling the Hinge Holes

Drilling holes and inserting hinge wires is what happens next

Step 1 Fully assemble box

Step 2 Place box that you are currently drilling in vice on drill press so that the set of tabs that will become the hinge is running straight up and down make sure that you are about to drill the same side that you rounded for the hinge

Step 3: Drill your hole slowly raising the bit up and down to clear dust from the hole, drilling this way makes the tabs less likely to split. If the bit will go all the way through all of the tabs on this edge of the box that is great, if it wont because the box is to big just drill down as far as you can then flip the box and do the same on the other side

Step 4: If you were able to drill a single hole all the way through the corner cut a single piece of wire that is slightly longer than the boxes corner and slide it all the way through. If you drilled two holes one in each side then insert a long piece of wire into each hole, and cut it off with a little bit hanging out.

Step 5: test to see if the box opens and closes well, if it does not carefully examine it while opening and closing it to find which tab or tabs are sticking and need further rounding

Step 7: Final Assembly and Glue Up

Apply each of these steps to each box

Step 1: Insert hinge wire or wires into their holes test the opening and closing of the lid one more time

Step 2: Lay your box out as shown in the image above with hinge wire or wires still in place and thus the lid and back face connected. seperate all other edges slightly by the width of a glue brush

Step 3: apply glue APPLY GLUE TO ALL TABS, EXCEPT FOR THE TABS ON THE LID AND ANY TAB THAT WILL BE IN CONTACT WITH THE LID MAKE SURE YOU APPLY NO GLUE AT ALL TO THESE TABS To apply glue carefully dab glue with a brush in the small gaps between the tabs making sure to apply glue to all interlocking faces

STEP 4: Re-assemble your box for large boxes you may have to use a clamp to pull the front and back faces together. apply only as much pressure as you need and make sure the box can still close with clamp in place

Step 5 Allow glue to dry part way then scrape any excess off of outside edges of internal boxes to ensure a good fit

Step 8: Finishing Up

Once glue is dry pull each hinge wire out slightly and cut of the end or ends leaving the wire slightly shorter than the hole it runs through. Put a tiny drop of glue or wood putty over the openings of your hinge holes to keep the wire in place not enough to ooze out between the tabs though. if any tabs are split you can apply a tiny bit of superglue to the split on each tab to strengthen it but make sure not to glue any tabs to any others

Now you can do any sanding or polishing of the outside of your box that may be needed for asthetic reasons

enjoy your nested boxes

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