Make a Simple Inrō




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With just a few simple tools, you can make this Japanese Inrō, ideal for carrying little essentials.

I made this one today, and have filmed the process. Once the video is available, I shall include it here, but to be honest it's really straight forward, and you should have no trouble building one from the instructions here.

Go on, give it a go!

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Step 1: Prepare the Blanks

First you'll need to prepare some hardwood. Size and species is down to you, but I'm using some 50x25mm (approx. 2x1") beech. Plane it square and true if it came rough cut like mine.

Now mark out six blanks. I used a mitre square to give my inrō it's trapezoidal shape. The blanks measure approximately 150mm (6") total length. Again, it's down to you - make a different shape or size if you like.

Finally cut the blanks from your timber.

Step 2: Marking Out

You need to mark out for two holes, one at each end, that will eventually take the string. You only do this on the base layer blank.

Position isn't critical, but bear in mind any shaping you might intend making. In the photo, you can see I'm marking in a radius to soften the sharp corner, and the centre point will be where I drill the holes.

Next mark in a centre line, and on this mark two centre points at which to bore out the main cavity. Choose a forstner bit for the holes, and ensure that it won't interfere with the string holes.

Step 3: Drill the Holes

First drill the string holes in what will be the base layer blank. I'm using 6mm string, so I drilled two 6mm holes.

Now in the same blank, bore the two large holes for the cavity. Set a depth stop so that you leave a solid bottom to the cavity. About 6mm (1/4") is good.

With the same forstner bit, bore right through the two cavity holes in each of the intermediate blanks.

Finally bore the two large holes in the top blank, using a forstner bit that is about 10mm (7/16") less in diameter. This will allow for a fitting lip on the lid.

Step 4: Transfer the String Holes

The string holes are critical, and so we use the base layer as a guide to drill them accurately.

First align the cavity of the base layer and one of the intermediate layers, using the forstner bit you used to drill it. Clamp the two together, and drill the string holes in the intermediate, using the base holes to guide the bit. Repeat for all the intermediate layers.

To drill the top layer, use the upper most intermediate layer's holes as guides, sighting the smaller cavity holes centrally within the larger ones.

Step 5: Complete the Cavity

Use a sharp chisel to make the cavity an oval, by removing the excess material inside lines drawn connecting the large hole circumferences.

Step 6: Glue Intermediate Layers Together

It's time to glue the intermediate layers together.

To ensure alignment, use snug rods through the string holes.

Better still, use snug threaded rod (waxed to avoid adhesion) on which washers and nuts can be used to clamp the glue-up. (In the photo's you can see that I was lucky to have long enough M6 bolts to do this)

Once cured, sand the walls of the cavity smooth, whilst you still have access from both ends.

Step 7: Form Connecting Lip

Attach the top layer to the glued-up middle section, and draw around the large oval. This defines the connecting 'lip' profile.

Scribe a line around the bottom of the top layer, about 3mm (1/8") high.

Pare away the 3mm up to the lip outline.

Done carefully, you should end up with a snug fitting lid.

Step 8: Shape the Outside

Saw and plane away any waste to reveal the external shape you desire.

I rounded all the vertical corners, and pared a small bevel on all the horizontal edges.

You could really go to town on this, so long as you don't pierce the cavity, and you leave portions of string holes in tact at both top and bottom of each piece.

Step 9: Glue on Base

Glue on the base, again using rods or bolts, etc. to maintain alignment.

Step 10: Finishing Off

After sanding the whole inrō body and lid, you can finish it however you desire. I've yet to decide on a finish, but it will probably be either a black lacquer, or shellac.

To complete the inrō you need to thread the string. This can be awkward, but tightly wrapping the end in tape can help, as can twisting the string as it's pushed through. Knot the string below the body, such that the loop above is the correct length to hang as desired.

Thanks for viewing my Instructable, I hope you liked it.

I've entered it into the string challenge, and would appreciate your vote.

Cheers, Mitch

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    17 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Nice little box. I would definitely build this if I had the tools.

    Voted for you in the string contest. Good luck!

    3 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hey thanks!
    You can get away with just a saw, drill, knife, and sandpaper - may take a little longer though.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Cool! In that case, I'll definitely try building this!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Cool! Come back and post a photo of you can

    world of woodcraft

    3 years ago

    hey fella. nice box and instructable and video. i have been following you on youtube for what seems like ages now, always top stuff and incredably good information. i only realised you were on instructables because of the t shirt. im now following you on here too. keep up the great work. I always learn something new and become inspired by your projects and explanations.. ps loveing the wood identifications. pps just voted for this project.

    2 replies
    WOmadeODworld of woodcraft

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yeah it's been a good old while now! Pleased you're still following and finding stuff informative. Cheers for the vote - Katie is hoping for a t-shirt this time!

    world of woodcraftWOmadeOD

    Reply 3 years ago

    Congradulations. It's a bit more than a shirt. I'm sure you will have a great time with it


    3 years ago

    Congratulations on winning the String contest! Your instructable is very well written and clear :)

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    To get the string through you could also use a thin steel wire and thread that first, then attach the wire to the thread you want to thread through(put it in between the weaves?) and then pull it through :)

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks, that sounds a good idea. I tried tying thin thread to a safety pin that hooked the main string, but sadly my string just pulled off the safety pin! :D