Make a Bridge Set Box

Monday 9 July 2018

When the couple who ran our village film club as chairman and secretary retired from those offices I was commissioned to make them a presentation box for a bridge set, both of them being keen players.

The box was to contain two packs of cards, scoring pads and pencils. I produced four different designs and made scale models for the committee. They chose a box with rounded edges.

I am a keen user of recycled materials and a friend of mine had given me a couple of walnut (Juglans spp) drawer fronts from an old chest of drawers, photo 1. I decided to make the box from this but much of the wood was unusable due to splitting, winding and wormholes.

I managed to salvage sufficient nice-looking stuff for this box. The lid panel, photo 2, has a maple (Acer spp) burr panel surrounded by a decorative string. The bun feet were turned from an old walnut bedpost.

The box is lined and partitioned with cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus lebani) left over from a kitchen dresser that I had made for my daughter.

Timber preparation

Both drawer fronts had a moderate amount of bow and twist and one had woodworm holes along one edge. They were about 20mm thick which gave plenty of scope for truing up as the box sides are 12.5mm thick.

I have a flat board 1000 x 250 x 22mm with a shallow stop on one end which I use for thicknessing thin stuff on my Scheppach planer/thicknesser. The drawer front is fixed onto this, convex side up, with one end against the stop and the other end pinned to the board with panel pins through its edge and well below the surface.

The parts of the drawer front that do not touch the board due to bow and twist were padded up from my large box of shims so that it was well supported throughout its length. It was then passed through the thicknesser repeatedly until a flat surface was achieved, removed from the board and turned over so the other surface could be flattened with the thicknesser.

It was then left to settle for two weeks in my warm dry workshop.

A reference surface was then chosen which will be the inside of the box so should be the surface with the least attractive figure.

Any remaining wind was removed from this surface by hand planing and checked with winding sticks.

Using this reference surface the board was then thicknessed to 13mm after which it was examined carefully, the worm-eaten areas sawn off and the board marked out for the box sides and lid frame. These are cut on the bandsaw and then prepared to length and width by hand in the usual way.

Mitre joints

For the box sides I chose to cut the mitres on the router table with a chamfer cutter. A minute amount of slop of the mitre fence in its slot was sufficient to make it necessary to true up the joints with a low-angle block plane. The mitres for the lid frame were cut using a mitre jig on my radial arm saw and these required almost no adjustment, photo 3.

Before gluing up, rebates are cut in the box sides to take the bottom panel and the recess for the box lock is also cut at this stage, photo 4.

The lid frame has two rebates, one on the top surface to take the lid panel and the other, 3mm deep, around the underside edge to fit inside the box sides.

The box sides are then glued up and clamped in a band clamp. I made an accurately square board of 6mm MDF to fit exactly the internal dimensions, which was a great help in keeping the sides square while tightening the band clamp.

The corners of this board were cut off to avoid it getting stuck by any squeeze-out. The band clamp was also used to clamp up the lid frame, photo 5.

Top and bottom panels

The bottom panel was of 12.5mm marine ply which I veneered on the outside with walnut and on the inside with cedar of Lebanon and this was accurately dimensioned and then glued into its rebate, photo 6.

From some leftover 9mm oak-veneered MDF I cut the top panel 5mm oversize prior to adding a maple burr veneer to the top surface and a cedar of Lebanon veneer to the underside, with its grain at right angles to the existing oak veneer.

When dry the panel is cut to fit exactly the rebate in the lid frame, the inside of the panel is given a couple of coats of Ronseal brushing wax and the inside surface of the walnut lid frame is given a couple of coats of sanding sealer before the lid panel is glued in place.

Inlay banding

Finally a 5mm-wide decorative inlay banding was put between the maple burr panel and the walnut lid frame, photo 7. The lid was cleaned up using a cabinet scraper and 240- and 320-grit paper.

A few minute shrinkage splits had appeared in the maple veneer so I gave it a coat of sanding sealer in the hope of preventing further shrinkage. The lid was then glued to the box and clamped up.

Rounding off

The requested main feature of the design is the rounding of all edges, accomplished with a 9.5mm roundover cutter on the router table before separating the lid. A stop block is placed to stop the cutter running past the end of the edge, so preventing any breakout, and a few strokes with a block plane later cleaned up the remaining lump.

The roundover is cut in three passes, the last being a light skim, and 180-grit paper is used to round off the corners followed with 240 grit on the palm sander to clean up the whole box.

Separating lid

The lid was separated using the bandsaw and taking great care to ensure that the high fence was parallel to the blade. After separation the sawn edges were cleaned up with a finely set No. 5 jack plane to obtain an almost invisible fit.

Box lining

The box lining and partitions were of cedar of Lebanon, planed to 5mm thickness with the top edges rounded over. The mitre joints and V-grooving were done on the router table before the linings and dividers were cut to the correct width.

After masking off the gluing surfaces, all the interior cedar received one coat of brushing wax and was to buff up well after about an hour.

Before gluing in the linings and dividers the lock was fitted, the keyhole made and the hinge recesses cut. Some 9mm red velvet ribbon was used to lift the card packs out of their compartments and these were fixed by passing them through a 9mm x 0.5mm slot in the side box lining and gluing them into shallow recesses on the back with a dab of Copydex, photo 8.

A similar method was used to fix the 7mm double-sided satin ribbon lid stays but in this case a hole was cut in the lining and a plug cut to fit it. The plug was split in half with a chisel and a fine shaving taken of the exposed surface of each half. The ribbon was then sandwiched between the two halves of the plug and pushed into the hole at the correct angle to produce a neat, tight fit.

The linings were spot-glued to the sides of the box but fully glued along their bottom edges and mitre and V-joints, photo 9.


Finally the hinges were fitted and the lock catch fitted to the lid. The bun feet were glued and screwed into position.

The box was well rubbed down with 400-grit paper and given four coats of Danish oil followed by a coat of Black Bison wax.

The interior was not oiled as this often leads to a rancid smell after a while. Instead a single coat of Ronseal brushing wax, which does not compete with the smell of the cedar, was applied and polished. Small felt circles were glued to the underside of the bun feet.

The box looked good and of course there was the delightful smell of cedar when it was opened. It was much appreciated by the recipients.