Popular Woodworking|August 2020
Jewelry boxes are some of my favorite pieces to make. There is so much versatility in the design and use! And, they give you a taste of all kinds of woodworking processes (though on a smaller scale). This project is a quick and easy way to make good use out of one board of wood. With relatively simple joinery, this is a cost-effective piece to make in batches for sales or gifts.
Grain Selection & Layout
When you are inspecting a piece of wood for this project, think about grain selection—what do you want to be the outside of your box? What do you want the drawer fronts to look like? I like to roughly draw out on a piece of paper exactly where each piece on the cut list will come from so I know I haven’t overlooked any pieces.
I picked a nice clear section of grain to use for the carcass—being sure to label what side I want facing out. Since we will be milling the wood thin, you will want to keep your pieces in longer sections and ensure you have extra for things like drawer handles and splines. It is not fun to get nearly finished with and realize you need another 3 of something. Lay out extra material to test saw setups on wood of the same dimension. When working with thin stock, it is best to leave everything roughmilled to be slightly thicker than needed and stack the boards between stickers to prevent warping. Resawn lumber especially likes warp and twist after opening up. Ideally, you would mill your wood and cut joinery in the same day.
Cutting the Carcass
We’ll start with the carcass piece, milled to 3/8 thickness, and the pieces for the back and shelf, milled to 1/8 thickness. Rip the carcass piece to 5 1/16 wide but keep at the 25-26 length.
To cut the groove that will hold the back piece, I’m using a table saw with a flat-topped saw blade. Drop the height of the blade to 3/16 and adjust the rip fence to 3/16. Run the bottom edge of the piece along the fence and the inside of the piece down against the table to cut a groove. Test both of these settings on a piece of scrap wood before cutting into your final piece.
Set up a miter sled on the table saw to cross-cut the carcass pieces into the four lengths, at 90° for now. Mark the outside face of the board with triangles or lines to help line up the grain after the piece has been cut into shorter lengths. First, cut the very end of the board offto square it up, and then use that cut end against the stop block. Working on the right-hand side of the sled, set a stop block and cut the first piece to 7 1/8. Leaving your first block in place, set a second stop block and cut the next piece to 5 1/8, removing this stop block after this cut. Cut another piece at 7 1/8 using the first stop block. The remaining piece will be your last 5 1/8 piece which you can leave long for now.
Cut the Miters
Set the saw to 45°. Cut one side of each piece to 45°, taking care not to cut offmore than necessary but not leaving a flat edge uncut. Set a stop block to cut the last side to 7, marking your piece at the correct length and slowly testing your cuts until you get to the right size. Cut both the top and bottom before moving the stop block. Repeat this step for the sides at 5.
Tape the box together to test the fit and to measure the inside dimension. Lay out each piece facing down and line up the top edges with a straight edge. Put two pieces of masking tape on each corner seam, making sure the bottom groove is lined up correctly on the inside. Gently fold the box into itself and tape the last seam to close. Test the fit of your box; the corners should come together forming a 90° angle with no gaps along the seam.
Measure the inside dimensions of your box—it should be 6 1/4 wide by 4 1/4 high by 4 3/4 deep. If your box ended up being smaller than this, you will have to recalculate the size of your back and shelf pieces. Take the piece milled at 1/8 and cut it to the final dimensions of 6 9/16 x 4 9/16 for the back piece and 6 9/16 by 4 3/4 for the shelf piece.
Routing the Shelf Dado
Label each piece of the carcass, noting the top, bottom, left and right sides. On the sides, label the front edge and the top edge. Make a pencil mark at both 1 13/16 and 1 15/16 down from the inside of the top edge. Set a marking gauge and mark 1/4 in from the front edge at the point it intersects the pencil marks. This is where we will cut the stopped dado for the shelf piece.
For these small boxes, I prefer to work with a handheld trim router and set up a jig so that the workpiece is facing me. In the setup picture on page 41, I have clamped a long, straight piece of wood to the edge of a table to act as a fence. After testing a few different layouts on scrap wood, I found a 1/2 spacer gave me the right distance to work with the base of my handheld router. Use a c-clamp that clears the router or woodturner’s double-sided tape to secure the workpiece down. The depth of the cut should be about the same as the depth of the groove for the back piece (which was 1/8 deep).
Test the cut on a piece of scrap wood before cutting your material. Cut the dado in both side pieces, one at a time. Be sure to hold the top edge against the fence each time. The dado should end at the marked line 1/4 in from the front edge and at the groove for the back on the opposite edge. Drop the running router bit into the wood while holding the front edge against the fence. Go slowly and be sure you are cutting into the blade.
Fitting Stopped Dado
Square offthe round edges of the dado with a small chisel. On the shelf piece, use the previously set marking gauge to mark 1/4 in from the front edge down along sides of the shelf piece and then 1/8 along the face to cut a notch out to fit into the stopped dado.
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