This is an Instructable for a large triple-tier wooden jewelry box with 33 various-sized velvet compartments for all sorts of jewelry. I designed and created this piece by myself as a gift for my girlfriend—now my fiancé! The entire process was completed over the course of several weekends. This piece was by far the most complicated and intimidating project I had ever attempted—of course, it turned out to be the most rewarding as well. I learned so much from this project and gained the confidence to tackle just about any woodworking project I can think of now. I hope this Instructable gives you the inspiration, motivation, and confidence to achieve a similar goal! When I first started this project, I had no idea if I would be successful. But I tried anyway, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result. Experience is the best teacher!
Step 1: Design
I always like to have a well-thought-out plan in my mind before any actual woodworking begins. The process began with preliminary sketches with paper and pencil. Once a rough idea was flowing, I moved into a computer-aided model with SolidWorks in order to create a more finalized design. Once I was happy with this model, the computer design becomes the blueprint for the real-life creation.
Step 2: Preparing Materials
I chose cherry wood for this project. I love both the color and the fact that it is a more durable, denser hardwood. The walls will be made from a plank of cherry roughly 6 ft. long by 10'' wide. It is planed down to a thickness of 3/4''; this planing step (which can be done with a hand plane or a power planar) removes surface inconsistencies and creates a smooth, clean surface. Two thinner pieces of cherry are glued together edge-to-edge and planed to 1/4'' thick to create a wider piece which will be used as the top of the jewelry box lid.
Step 3: Walls, Bottom, and Top
This jewelry box design utilizes eight walls (roughly 12'' wide front and back, 8'' for the sides, and 2'' for the corners). The simplest method for jointing the walls would be to cut each edge at a 22.5 degree miter. More complicated jointing methods (such as vertical splines, horizontal splines, dovetails, etc.) provide more structural rigidity but are more difficult to achieve perfectly. The walls are cut (with a table saw or miter saw, depending on choice of jointery) from the cherry plank in the order in which they will appear on the box in order to preserve the continuity of the grain around the front of the box.
However, more cuts must be made to the inside of the walls before gluing together. Firstly, the grooves to house the plywood bottoms and cherry top are cut with the table saw. Next, similar wider grooves are cut into the side walls in order to house the wooden drawer slides. Finally, the holes are drilled into the inside (NOT through to the outside) at the precise locations for the tray pivot pins via a drill press. Additionally, the cherry lid and 1/4'' thick plywood pieces are cut to size in order to become the main compartment bottom and the lid top.
Step 4: Main Assembly
Once all the walls have been fully prepared and dry-fitted together (and double checked!), it is time to glue up the main body of the box. This is comprised of the eight wall pieces and the plywood bottom and the cherry top. In order to ease the process and ensure consistent accuracy, a special jig was created to hold a corner of the body in place during gluing. The first two corners were glued separately using this jig, and then the bottom, top, and remaining walls were glued firmly together using several ratchet straps. However, the lower portion (below the plywood bottom) of the front face of the box was left unglued: once the glue has dried, this piece is cut from the main body and becomes the face of the pull-out drawer. Additionally, several passes through a table saw allows the lid to be cut from the main body.
Step 5: Lift-up Tray
The lift-up tray consists of four walls and a plywood bottom. The walls are roughly 1.5'' tall and 3/4'' thick. As before, grooves at the bottom of the walls house the plywood edges in place. Once glued, holes are drilled into the four corners of the tray which will house the pins and screws around which the tray will rotate when the box is opened/closed. In addition to the tray itself, two small support legs are needed to lift the tray up. The exact length between the screw holes on these supports is crucial for the functionality of the tray and is determined by the careful design and computer model dimensions. These supports are cut to shape using unused scraps of cherry.
Step 6: Pull-out Drawer
The drawer is completed in a similar fashion to the tray. The three remaining walls of the drawer are cut to size (roughly 2'' tall and 3/4'' thick). The outside faces of the drawer side walls are grooved to house the wooden drawer slides (in an analogous way to the grooves cut into the main body walls). Again, the bottoms of the walls are grooved to house the plywood drawer bottom. Additionally, the drawer slides are created from leftover scraps of usable cherry. These are cut to fit neatly into the slide grooves, but not so tight as to restrict movement when pulling the drawer. Once the drawer has been done, the main structure of the jewelry box is complete!
Step 7: Dividing Walls
The dividing walls are made from cheaper pine material since they will be covered in velvet when completed. When cutting these dividing walls to size, a small gap (less than 1/16'') is left around all edges in order to leave room for the velvet wrapping. The inner divider intersections are formed by half-lapping the walls, whereas the inner dividers are fitted into grooves within the outside divider walls. The drawer contains six large square spaces, while the tray fits ten small square spaces. The main compartment fits ten more small spaces in the front and three large spaces in the back of the box for plenty of jewelry storage.
Step 8: Applying Velvet
The velvet for the bottoms of the three tiers and the back of the lid is adhered to cardboard cutouts via a spray-on adhesive. This adhesive is also used to attach the velvet to each individual piece of all the compartment divider walls, one by one. The excess velvet is then trimmed away, and the divider walls are fitted and stapled together. For the lid, four velvet pouches with elastic openings are sewn into the cardboard backing for the purpose of necklace organization.
Step 9: Final Touches
Finally, all the hardware must be attached to the box. This includes the 12'' piano hinge which attaches the lid to the body, the front knobs for the lid and drawer, the stop chain which catches the lid from falling backwards, the necklace hooks in the front of the lid, and the pins and screws which secure the lift-up tray and supports to the lid and the body. Finally, a router is used to cut decorative chamfers onto the edges of the lid, body, tray, and drawer.
Step 10: Lacquer Finish
Before applying a finish, all wood pieces of the project are carefully sanded in order to remove any tool marks and to achieve a smooth, even surface. Increasingly fine sandpaper is used, from 80 grit to 120, 240, and finally 400. All pieces are then carefully wiped down with a clean rag dampened with lacquer thinner. Finally, a finish is ready to be applied. A high gloss lacquer is sprayed evenly onto each piece. This lacquer finish is built up over the course of several layers, allowing each layer to fully dry before applying the next. Once the lacquer has completely cured over the course of a week, the assembly of the completed project can take place.
Step 11: Done!
And now it's complete, and I couldn’t be happier with the result! I hope this has inspired you to take on a similar challenge. This project has taught me much about woodworking and creating in general, and I’m confident that similarly challenging projects will do the same for you. Thanks for looking!
Third Prize in the
Box Contest 2017