Dovetailed Star Box





In the market for a beautiful wooden box? Look no further! The beautiful thing about this box is its versatility in construction method and the fact that it is beautiful. I used dovetails which are daunting to new woodworkers. Don't feel like cutting dovetails? Use mitre joints with some well-placed spline. Want to go for simplistic beauty? use rabbet joints with some contrasting pins. The grooved top panel will fit into any of those grooves and obviously, the bottom panel would too.

Watch the video on YouTube if you would like more details and links to everything I used.

Step 1: Wood Selection and Cutting

Make sure the wood you select is dry, square, parallel and flat. Sounds like a tall order, but there are plenty of guides online to help you get your lumber ready to go. Any reputable lumber supplier that doesn't have "depot" in the name should be able to help you out!


Step 2: Box Construction.

As I said, hand-cut dovetails are optional but they aren't that bad to do if you have some time and watch some how to videos on YouTube.

I laid out my dovetail placement and used the Katz-Moses Dovetail Jig to help ensure my cuts were perfect. I cleared out the waste with a coping saw and chiselled out to my cut lines. Once the dovetails were done I transferred the lined to the pin boards. Just like the dovetail side, I used the Katz-Moses Dovetail Jig to cut perfect lines, removed the waste and chiselled down to the lines.


Haste makes waste! Take your time and enjoy the journey.

Step 3: Cutting Grooves for Panels

I used a router table and a 1/4" router bit to cut grooves in the side boards for the top and bottom panel. I slip the router bit in from the top of the dovetail so when the joints assembled the groove is completely hidden. Depending on your joinery choice you might be able to cut these grooves on the table saw and make things simple.

I also routed a slight relief in the bottom edge of the side panels to create integrated feet. A nice touch and it makes box levelling much easier.


Step 4: Top Panel

This is a method I came up with that make it look like the top is one solid piece of thick wood, but allows for wood movement so the box doesn't blow itself apart with humidity changes.

A groove that's 1/8" deeper than it needs to be is cut on all four sides of the top panel. The top edge will overlap the top of the box and looks so freaking sexy. I've never seen this done before so I'm claiming at my own!


Step 5: Star Pattern

I found a picture of a galaxy I liked online and used a drawing program to make a drill template based on the locations of the stars in the picture. Nature is the best inspiration for randomness!

On the drill press, I drilled each hole 1/4" deep with the different drill bit sizes.

Step 6: Brass Inlay

Now get ready for some manual labour!

I cut down 129 pieces of brass rod slightly longer than 1/4". I used 4 different sizes of brass rod 1/16", 1/8", 5/16" and 1/4". I dabbed each one in CA glue, placed them in the holes and tapped them down with a hammer. I did one size at a time and would sand the excess rod down with 150 grit sandpaper before starting the next. It's time-consuming, but it can't be rushed. The closer you cut your rod to the length of the hole the less work you'll have when it comes time to sand. After all rods were sanded down with 150, I worked my way up to 400 grit to make the brass sparkle nicely.


Step 7: Glue Up

I lined the inside of the side panels with painters tape to prevent any excess glue from sticking to the wood. Serious time saver! Never glue a box together without doing this. Promise? PROMISE!... thank you.

I used Titebond 2 glue and coated all surfaces of the joint. I used a wooden mallet and a piece of softwood to whack the pieces together without denting the wood. I only glued the top and bottom panels on the short side and only with a small dap in the center. That keeps them from moving around under regular use but allows the panels to expand and contract. Wood movement is important and not to be trifled with.

I clamped everything as a precaution while it dried and let it sit for an hour before moving to the next step. Glue dry time varies so make sure you give it enough time!

Step 8: Loose Lid and Reattach

I used my bandsaw to chop the top of the box off right through the middle of the pin to keep everything symmetrical.

I attached a hinge template to the box and used a router bushing kit on the router to cut the hinge mortises. They just needed a little chisel work to clean up the round edges and it was a perfect fit. The hinges are made by Brusso (pricey but amazing)

Step 9: Adding a Lock

Full disclosure... I should have cut this before assembly; but I want to show you that everyone makes mistakes and even though it was a little more difficult, it wasn't impossible. Roll with the punches!

I chiselled out the notch, drilled a pilot hole, enlarged it and then filed in the notch so the key would fit. Once the bottom was done I used it to line up where the top latch needed to go and notched that in too.

Step 10: Finish

I used Dark Walnut Watco Danish Oil as a finish. It has a slight tint to it that makes the grain of walnut pop out a little more. This finish is easy to apply and gives a beautiful low lustre finish. A perfect contrast to the shiny brass!


Step 11: Fin

I think that's it. After the finish dried I reassembled the box and just stared at it for awhile.

It's a pile of work but the end result speaks for itself.

Once again, watch the video on YouTube if you would like more details and links to everything I used.

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    7 Discussions


    Question 8 months ago on Step 5

    That is a wonderful design. I plan on making one and gifting it to a friend. The only question I had is how did you convert an image of a star cluster to the template that you used to drill the holes for the brass.

    I am interested in making a similar box with a star cluster of my choice and I was wondering how can I make the drill template.



    1 year ago

    I love it! Hate to break it to you, but the lid construction method exists already. I've seen Paul Sellers use it before. Still, very ingenious of you to come up with it independantly.

    2 replies
    Waste Of SpaceBossyRangs

    Reply 1 year ago

    I don't believe that he said (or even thought ) that he invented the construction methods used in the manufacture of this box. The star design itself is unique to him.

    ALL of the construction methods are stock standard. The difference was the way he crafted everything - beautifully.

    BossyRangsWaste Of Space

    Reply 1 year ago

    If I may quote, regarding top lid construction:
    'This is a method I came up with that make it look like the top is one solid piece of thick wood...'
    'I've never seen this done before so I'm claiming at my own!'

    Doesn't leave much room for interpretation, does it? I would be more careful with such claims. Regardless, it's still a very nice box.


    1 year ago

    Amazing attention to detail. Ever consider using a translucent material, in place of the brass, so the stars can be lit up?

    Kink Jarfold

    1 year ago on Step 11

    I am most impressed with your craftsmanship and attention to the artistic look of this. Great build.

    Knox my socks off.pngHOWARD CARTER.png

    1 year ago

    Amazing box and I like the top lid technique. Always superb work.

    The dimensions of this box look really good to me any chance you can post them and also the thickness of wood. I would like to make a box the same size as this for keepsakes. A little simpler construction mind you ;)