Weekend Projects – Alternative amber and briar box

Monday 9 July 2018

For this article I wanted to make a box that I'd never attempted before. I knew that I wanted to combine two colours of acrylic resin and find a way to make the two parts of the box link together. Firstly, I experimented with trying to insert a button/cabochon into the lid of the box, but I wasn't sure about the look of that, so I tried inlaying a ring into the lid, which worked really well. Inlaying the ring can be a bit tricky but with careful measuring and patience, it can make all the difference to the look of the box. If you don't want to make this box in resin, it works equally as well in two contrasting colours of wood, such as boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) and African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxlyon).

Tools used:

10mm spindle gouge

3mm narrow parting tool

45° 6.5mm homemade hollowing tool

20mm negative-rake skewed scraper

20mm round-nosed negative-rake scraper


The first step is to mount the blank which will become the base of the box in a suitable chuck – the blank I used was alternative amber and measured 50mm wide by 70mm in length. With the blank securely mounted create the outside diameter of the inlay ring using a 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper. I cut this ring 39mm wide by 5mm thick


Clear away the waste material in the centre using either a round-nosed scraper or a spindle gouge, then cut the internal surface of the ring using the 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper. Try to cut this straight and as parallel as possible


Using a pair of internal callipers, check that the inside of the ring is straight and true


Using a narrow parting tool, cut the ring free. Be very gentle at this stage as the rings can sometimes break


The next step is to cut the ring free – you will see that the alternative amber is slightly translucent. To ensure that the colour stays vibrant once it's inserted into the darker coloured lid, it's best to paint the recess in the lid a similar colour to the acrylic ring before gluing it in


Now you can remove the base of the box and mount the lid section into the chuck. You can now start to do some initial shaping of the lid using a 20mm round-nosed negative-rake scraper


Hollow out a shallow curve on the inside of the lid and then, using the 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper, cut a internal tenon trying to keep the sides as straight as possible here


Using a pair of internal callipers, check that the tenon is straight and parallel – if it's not then it can affect the fit of the lid, thus resulting in a poor fit


Starting at 320 grit sand the inside of the lid – but not the tenon – to 800 grit then apply microcrystalline polish. The inside of the lid is now complete


Remove the lid, remount the base section and cut the external tenon to suit the lid, but at this stage, you don't want the final fit of the lid; you want to jam the lid onto the base so you can complete the top. There's a fine line between a jam fit and a loose fit; go slowly and try it for size often


With the lid now jammed on to the base you can shape the top of the lid using the 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper


Using a pair of Vernier callipers, measure the ring's internal and external dimensions and carefully transfer these onto the lid making sure to only touch the resin with the left-hand prong, in a very gentle manner


Carefully cut the recess in the lid using a narrow parting tool – I found it best to cut the inside edge first and make it a tight fit. You can then widen the groove to the outer edge, checking the fit often. Make sure the recess is cut with nice, straight parallel sides


Move the lid, apply a few spots of a medium viscosity Cyanoacrylate glue into the recess then gently push the ring in evenly, making sure it goes all the way in to the bottom of the recess. While the glue on the lid is drying/curing you can return to the base of the box and do some initial shaping using the 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper


Start to hollow out the base of the box – I prefer to remove the majority of the waste with a 10mm spindle gouge but a small scraper also works well


Once the majority of the base is hollowed out, use a small 6.5mm homemade hollowing tool to finish the hollowing. This will leave a smooth finish if you use a gentle touch


Jam the lid back onto the base and using the 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper, gently cut the inlay until it is flush with the box lid


Sand the lid, starting with 320 and working through to 800 grit. After sanding, remove the lid and using a freshly sharpened 20mm negative-rake skewed scraper, take a fraction of the base tenon until the lid is a good fit


Finish shaping the outside of the base ready for sanding


Sand the base starting with 320 and working through to 800 grit


Part off the base and create a jam chuck for it, using either the waste material left in the chuck or a scrap of wood. Very gently clean up the base and sand it as before. Use a three-mop buffing system, if you have one, to buff the box to a mirror finish


The completed alternative amber and briar box should look like this