Almost every woodworker knows how to make a box. Its just four sides with a lid and bottom right? Well the fun part is not just making a box but making something different and a beautiful box that is not only fun to look at but is also useful. Me personally I love to make things that I think will passed down from one generation to the next. So with the chance to have some fun designing an heirloom box for a Marine Corps veteran. I have stated on here before that I am a huge supporter of the military and love making any project to do with a veteran or the military.
Having the chance to make something that checks two of the boxes on my list of the best projects made my day. This also added a lot of pressure to me for the outcome to be above average. There were only a few requirements. One was for the box to have a unique but clean look, nothing too flashy. The next was to incorporate the Marine Corps Insignia somehow. Using walnut for the entire box would give a clean and elegant look. So the first step was to machine down a large enough piece of walnut to carve in a large Marine Corps Insignia in to what would become the lid. For this step I started off with a 12×12 inch board of walnut that was around 2 inches thick and machined it down to around 1.5 inches.
I am not going to go into the details of setting up the 3D file at this time but will later on be doing a full tutorial to set up and cut 3d carvings on the cnc. Also if you want to try to cut this particular file it is available HERE on the website. With the full file usable in vetric aspire and also a STL file that can be imported into v carve pro. I will say that this was one carving that was a lot of fun watching come to life. I rarely do a roughing pass and watching a flat board come to life with a carving like this one is very exciting.
Keeping the dust collection off of the I2R-8 Uccnc helped with being able to video the cuts but there was a good bit of dust and shaving build up. So had a little fun and got to have a cool reveal. So broke out the air hose and got to see the final product.
The plan revolved around making the lid and a box to fit the lid. Now that the lid was to shape I could shift my focus to making the box itself. So I moved on to breaking down the walnut that would be used for the sides of the box. Starting off on the table saw and cut the board to 3 ½ inches wide. This would be the width of the outside of the box. I then used the sled to flatten one side of the board using the planer. I could then remove the sled and smooth out the rest of the board. I want to point out also that my planer does have the helical head upgrade and if you are thinking of making this upgrade to your planer it is 100% worth it. On the finishing pass setting with the planer it has close to the same finish that would be achieved with 220 grit sandpaper.
Once the board was machined flat I could then use the bandsaw to split it into 2 pieces that are then planed down to the same thickness for the sides of the box.
To cut the sides to length you have a couple of options you can use a miter saw and cut them to lenght and also cut in the bevels for the corners. I have found that this can be a bit to inexact. Yes you can take tiny cuts and get it right but I simply feel more comfortable using the table saw and the Kreg miter gauge this makes the cuts very easy and man is this a precise way to cut small amounts off of each side. As well as you can set the stop and make exact repeatable cuts.
To cut the miters for the corners of the box I set the blade angle on the table saw to 45 degrees and moved the Kreg miter gauge to the other miter slot on the saw and slowly making very small cuts cut in the first miter. Then reversed the board to cut the miter into the other end. I have the boards cut to length for the box sides so I wanted the top of the miter to perfectly fit the top corner of the board that was being cut. Once both sides were cut I then used that board to set the stop on the miter gauge so that each one of the miters would be the exact same.
The box would include a bottom that would be glued into place in a dado of the sides. For this I set up the table saw to make cuts at ¼ of an inch deep into each side. Also I marked each board so that I knew what edge I wanted to have as the bottom of the box. This would make for easier referencing while cutting the dado. I knew I wanted the dado to be ¼ inch from the bottom of the board. So I set the fence to ¼ inch and made the first cut on each board. Then moved the fence slightly and repeated this process until the dado was the exact width that I needed. I used a scrap piece of the material I was using for the bottom to check the fit in the dado. While making the dado cut I also had the I2r-8 Uccnc cutting out the panel that would become the bottom of the box.
Assembling the box is pretty straight foward. I used the tape trick. Laying down a piece of masking tape and then placing the sides of the box onto the tape with the end of the miters touching. (Tip) Make sure that all of the dados line up. Then place some wood glue into the miters and simple flip the sides of the box into place. While doing this I placed the bottom panel in the dado at the same time. I then added another tight layer of tape to hold the sides in place and allowed the glue to completely dry.
The bezel around the lid of the box took some time to come up with. I went through at least four different styles and layouts for a bezel. I wanted something that would fit the theme of the box and would stand out but not look over the top. I eventually came up with a rope style design that looked similar to the French Fourragere ( the rope on a marine uniform). I thought this tied into the theme of the box very well and after a few different layouts and cut depths in v carve I came up with a look that I really liked.
To add the bezel to the lid I used the miter saw to cut the miters into the bezel strips. I normally would have used the table saw but at that moment the saw was set up for a different set up of cuts so I decided to not change it over and use the miter saw. Like I said before to me it is a bit more difficult to get an extremely precise cut but the Dewalt miter saw is very accurate and the shadow line cutting guide helped a lot. Truth be told though I still made a few mistakes even cutting one strip too much and having to remake that piece. Remember to start long and work your way down to the perfect length. I then mock fit the trim to the lid using masking tape and once I was happy with the fit. I then blued the bezel into place. I did use clamps on this glue up to ensure there was an extremely tight fit not only in the corners but against the edge of the lid. At one point I found that the lid was slightly off of square and this made things a bit more difficult. Keep this in mind if you try this process. Then lid needs to be perfectly square for the bezel to fit properly.
With the lid drying in the clamps I rough sanded the sides of the box to prep the sides for installing the hinges.
The hinges need to be flush mounted and also placed precisely. To make sure that they are properly installed I marked out the rough placement to ensure the proper spacing and then used the hinge itself to precisely mark out where the pocket would need to be cut to fit. This will be different for each type or style of hinge. I also checked the placement multiple times not only on the outside of the box but also to the lid interior.
After check and then checking more and then test cutting on a piece of scrap multiple times to ensure the proper cut depth I then used the trim router to roughly cut the pocket for the hinges. This is a tricky cut as if you do not do it properly it can completely ruin the box. So testing is so important here. Make this cut multiple times on a piece of scrap to make sure you are comfortable making the cut. I took the approach of doing lots of test cuts to not only make sure the cut depth would be perfect but to also make sure that I was used to how the bit would cut and feel in the router. After making the rough cut with the trim router I use a chisel to clean up the edges of the pocket and the corners.
After the pockets are cut I could then place the hinges into the pockets to ensure they fit and dill the pilot holes for the screws. While installing the screws I used a screwdriver and installed the screws by hand to make sure that they did not strip out.
To install the hinges into the lid I placed the lid onto the box with the hinges installed and marked the placement of the hinges on the lid. Once the placement was marked I could then follow the same process of drilling the pilot holes and installing the screws. Keep in mind while drilling the pilot holes to not drill all the way through.
Once the hinges are installed test that the lid opens properly. If there are any problems I would need to fix them now before moving on. Luckily there were no issues and the lid worked just fine.
I went over the entire box and lid one more time to ensure that there was nothing that I missed and that there were no fit issues. I then finished sanded the wood by hand and prepped the entire box before applying the finish. I used some Total Boat varnish to finish the first coat as a very light sealer coat and then each part had at least 4 total layers applied with each one being sprayed slightly thicker. I then let the finish completely dry before hand sanding the finish with 600 grit sandpaper. I did wetsand using the 60 grit and also I made sure to only sand in the direction of the grain. This removes any small contaminants in the finish and gives the varnish a smooth finish. I then used some Minwax Finishing Wax to polish the varnish and return it to a nice shine.
For the inside of the box I had made a padded insert using a beautiful blue velvet. This was an extremely simple process using some 1 inch foam. I cut a panel only slightly smaller than the interior dimensions of the box out of some ¼ inch material and then cut the 1 inch foam to the exact same size and glued the foam into place using some Locktite spray adhesive and then cut the velvet material large enough to wrap around the foam and partially over the bottom of the panel. Then used the same adhesive to glue the velvet into place on the foam and removed the slack and wrinkles by pulling the material tighter on the bottom of the panel before gluing the material into place. The panel is slightly smaller than the opening in the box to allow for the material fit without binding.
I am proud of how this project came out. There are always some projects that you just look at and hate to let go and this is one of them. Knowing that the box will be passed down in time and will have a lot of meaning to the owner just makes it much more fulfilling. I also learned a whole lot while making this heirloom box as well. If you are not learning something new on a project in my opinion you need to push yourself more. Making mistakes and just trying something new is one of the best ways to improve your craft.
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I will see you on the next one!
P.S. If you are intrested in getting into cnc woodworking or carving go check out the i2r-8 Uccnc from i2rcnc.com use code Jpayne10 at check out and you can save $200 on the i2R-8 Uccnc!!!!