Beautiful Boxes

Monday 9 July 2018

Boxes are interesting, useful items to make requiring only a few tools and a small amount of wood. With a little imagination there are endless shapes and forms that can be made.

Wood for making boxes needs to be well seasoned with a moisture content of 10 per cent or less as this will reduce any chance of the box components moving once it has been made. Even if well seasoned timber is used, there is still a chance that the box parts may move, especially with burrs and figured timber. This is because figured timber moves more than straight grain timber. Changing stresses in the wood, where the box is situated in the house and where there is a change in atmosphere, can affect it no matter how good a fit the lid is when you make the box.

Small boxes are usually best made from end grain timber. Native or exotic timber can be used as can small dry pieces of end grain burrs.

A good rule of thumb when making boxes is to allow two-thirds for the body and one-third for the lid. Boxes don't necessarily have to be small – they could easily be made into larger containers such as a ginger jar.

Boxes tend to be handled quite a bit, therefore, require a durable finish. Lacquers, oils or waxes could all be used but the choice is yours. My personal preference would be a lacquer or several coats of oil.

Mounting boxes

To start, I usually mount the piece between centres. A spigot at one or both ends is cut so that the piece can be mounted into the jaws of a chuck. This gives more freedom to work on it and I can part off the lid without any constraints. My preference would be small dovetail or gripper jaws – small being approximately 38mm-50mm (1 1/2in-2in). I often use jam fit chucks made out of off cuts of wood when making boxes, in particular when reverse chucking the bottom of a box to work on its base.