End of Days: The Pandora box is complete

And so we have arrived at the point where the box is revealed as fully formed, closed and opened. Not a pithos as was originally written in Greek by Hesiod in “Works and Days”, but the Latin “pyxis” as the original myth was mistranslated back in the 16th century.

Trays lined with felt

I had to be really patient to get to this point – lining a box (when it is done) really shows the box and how it will finally look, and this was no exception.  The bottom and inside of the main box was lined in black (as a point of difference from the ‘working’ surfaces.  I didn’t need to do the inside, but it gives a sense of completeness if both trays are ever lifted out.  Getting the lower tray out is tricky in any case – there is a bit of a vacuum effect there (not a lot, but enough to be noticeable – the benefit of a close fit).

I chose a royal blue for the two trays – giving consideration to how the jewellery will stand out on such a colour.

Dividers in place

Next, the dividers were added.  These are only a friction fit – they are not glued in.

Trays in location

Coming together.  the upper tray slides back and forth revealing the lower compartments.   It can also be easily lifted out as required.

Lid attached, and charms, bracelets and necklace added

Finally, the lid has the hinges added, and they all slide together.  Getting the hinges into the lid was a bit nerve-wracking.  It is burl after all – not the strongest of materials, and each hinge had to be carefully tapped into location.  Once all three were attached, the hinges were lined up with the holes in the box, and carefully pushed together.

It is shown here without a lid restraint  that I have since added (to stop the lid being opened too far), using a black leather cord and some fittings from jewellery-making added so it can be screwed to a small hole drilled into the top and the side wall of the box (inside).

Concealed hinge detail

Bit of a closeup of the hinges in action.  They are not the strongest hinge, but are very clever in mechanism, and fully concealed when the lid is closed.

Lid detail

A bit of a closeup of the lid beading.  Making it out of the same timber as the top worked out really well, and it has machined nicely on the router table.  The slight apparent overhang of the mitre joint is actually an illusion – it isn’t there to see or feel in reality- trick of light, or shadow.  Beautiful features in the timber – burls can be really stunning.

So finally, the last one – the completed box.  Probably should have taken another from the side – may post it here later.

Completed Pandora Box

I’m certainly happy with how it has come out, and surprisingly, the recipient didn’t have a clue.  I thought I was gone for all money, that she suspected I was up to something, but I got away with this being a complete surprise.  The best kind!



Opening Pandora’s Box

I always seem to leave my run very late, but seeminly managed to kick off a project this weekend just in time. My wife tends not to read this blog, so if you happen to do so, and also know her, best to not mention this post at all!

With her 40th approaching (in a couple of weeks), I’m wanting to make a bit of a jewellery box that is specifically designed for her collection of Pandora bracelets, necklace and spare charms.

It is getting designed as I build it, so I don’t know what the final item will look like yet- each step reveals a little more detail.

To start, I’ve taken a length of Silky Oak off the woodrack. It was really twisted, so rather waste a huge amount of the timber trying to get it flat, it was easier to rip it down the middle.This worked out ok anyway, as the resulting boards were about the height of the sides I envisaged I’d need. These were run through the jointer/planer to get one flat side, then using that side as a reference, run through some more passes to get an edge at 90o to that side.

From there to the thicknesser, running both boards through to ensure a uniform thickness, then finally back to the tablesaw to set the final box side height, then docking the boards to length.


Next, it was over to the router table, where once again I utilised the Gifkins dovetail jig to create the joints I wanted. As always, it didn’t take long, and the resulting dovetails were perfect.


Changing over to a small slot cutting router bit (one with a bearing, limiting the depth of cut to 5mm), and temporarily assembling the sides with clamps to hold the box together, a groove was cut all around the inside of the box, about 5mm up from the bottom.

Instead of wasting another piece of Silky Oak, (especially considering I am planning on covering both sides with felt), I took a piece of crapiata (Pine), and cut a base for the box, 10mm larger in each dimension than the inside dimensions of the box.

Back to the router table, and a groove was cut all round (also 5mm deep) to create the lip that will fit the groove in the box sides. Over to the thicknesser, and the extra thickness was removed leaving a board around 10mm thick, so that when it is in the slot of the box sides, it is flush with the bottom.


Later on in the build, I will cover this with some felt.

Turning the box upside down and pulling off one side, you can see how the base engages with the box side. The sides are then glued together, leaving the base unglued but captive.


My final job for the day was to experiment a bit with the dividers that will be used to separate each of the bracelets, and create cells for each of the loose charms. I will create two trays that fit inside the box, each with a different arrangement of dividers. To get the dividers, I took a block of jarrah, and cut it into thin strips, about 2.5mm thick on the bandsaw.


It was only a small block to start with, but that is the benefit of the bandsaw- resawing, and a very thin blade kerf wasting a minimum of timber.


Using my recently-created thin stock carrier for the drum sander, the strips were passed through to get them to a required finish and uniform thickness. I wanted to cut slots using a thin-kerf tablesaw blade, so sized the strips down to match that.


Ripped once more to the final desired height, that one small piece of jarrah yielded a fair collection of dividers!


There wasn’t enough time to do much more, other than a quick test of the dividers.


Next time, I will create a couple of trays, fit the dividers in, and sort out the lid and hinges.

At least I have made a start!

Pins and Tails

If you think about a joint, the intersection point of two materials, there are a number of ways they can be held together.

If the material is metal, you can weld, braze, solder, glue, bolt, screw, rivet, glue, tape, just to name a few methods!

If it is wood, obviously some of these still apply, but not all. Joints can use the strength of the glue to hold a joint together, or mechanical strength (where because of friction/fibre compression and mechanical interlock, the joint holds together), or both.

A basic mitre joint requires the strength of glue to hold it together. One with dowels, biscuits, spline or dominos start getting some mechanical benefit, along with the increased glue area. A mitre lock bit pushes up the amount of glue area. A box joint even more so.

One joint that really makes use of mechanical strength and glue area is the dovetail.

Now some people have a real passion about handcutting dovetails, and hey, more power to them.
One day I’d love to have the technique down pat to be able to do that myself, but in the meantime I’ll stick with dovetail jigs.

The are a number of jigs out there, but by far and away the easiest I have found to quickly and easily create a basic dovetail joint is the Gifkins dovetail jig. No need to reference back to a manual, relearn the steps, remember how to use it, it is that intuitive.

I’ve referenced it on a number of occasions, and hope to do a bit of a feature on it shortly.

Until then, here is the current version of the standard sized Gifkins, with the latest stops fitted.


There is a jumbo version, able to produce dovetail joints up to 480mm, and 22mm thick, which would be pretty cool too.


For more info, check out the Gifkins website.

Little Boxes made of Ticky Tacky

Christmas came and went with such a rush, that I completely forgot to even take some photos of the two boxes I made as presents.  These are a few photos of one of those boxes (taken by my old man) of the box given to my Mum.

Dovetail Box

The sides are Tasmanian Oak, from Misan Timbers.  They have been dovetailed using the Gifkins Dovetail jig, with felt on the base, and more felt on the inside base.  The finish is hard burnishing oil, followed by Ubeaut Traditional Wax applied then buffed with the Ubeaut Swansdown mop mounted in the drill press.

Underside of Lid

The top is framed with Tasmanian Oak, and the panel is Queen Ebony from SITCO Australia.  (It is looking a lot redder than in real life).

On the underside of the lid, I have added felt around the perimeter (where it makes contact with the base)

Inside of Box

The base is actually a floating panel (as is the Queen Ebony in the lid), with a rebate around the edge and sitting in a slot cut around the base.

Side of Box showing Dovetail Detail

The dovetails were perfect straight off the router table – the beauty of the Gifkins jig – once you have it set right, repeatable, perfect dovetails are almost too easy.

Croc Leather

Been given some interesting material for a project by the family. These pieces of crocodile leather (many years old now) were used by a past generation to make some leather boots, and the leftover has been kept all this time.

I’ve been asked if I might be able to incorporate it into few projects for family members, so that will be an interesting exercise. (The photo here isn’t great – taken on a mobile phone, but you get the idea).

The longest piece is about 2′ long, and up to about 8″ wide.  There are lots of interesting surface textures etc, so will be very interesting to see how it can be incorporated into some of the ideas I have.

Crocodile Leather

Gifkins Dovetail Jig

It has been a while coming for me to write about the Gifkins Jig, and you’ll have to be patient with me a little longer, so I can put together a decent sequence of photos of the jig in action.

However, with my recent project that used the Gifkins to create the dovetailed joints, I found it to be an incredibly easy system to use – surprisingly so.  I had used one a few years ago for a few test cuts, but perhaps my woodworking was not at a point where I could really appreciate how easy a task it made it, or perhaps my woodworking was not at a stage where the rest of the construction would do a dovetail justice. However, by whatever road I have arrived at the current point, I can now really appreciate the benefits of the Gifkins.

Gifkins Dovetail Jig

Gifkins Dovetail Jig

The jig pictured here is the current model, now using an aluminium body, and comes with two stops as standard.  In addition in the foreground is the finger joint template, and the associated router bits for the two templates.

To the left of the template is the variable space upgrade set – a method by which you can achieve variable spaced dovetails despite it being a fixed template jig.

Mulga Box

Mulga Box

This box, recently pictured on the site was the result from a Gifkins Jig.  I am planning on having many more examples from a number of different projects this year!

A First Box

Suppose that is a little misleading – I have made boxes before, but not with an attention to the joint, nor, from memory, with the use of nice timbers and it to have cosmetic appeal as well as a function.  Who knows why – I’ve gone as far as proving the joint can be made (by me that is!), and the other specific construction areas, but hadn’t actually bought them together to create a finished object.

So this is what I have come up with.  I’ve given away the sliding lid, and instead went for a shallow rebate around the lid for a close fitted separate one.  Leaving hinges for another day, and for a box with thicker walls (at least initially).  I’d also like to try to make wooden hinges, but again – not for this box!

Mulga Box

Mulga Box

The finish is very simple, which I like – I’ve given it a sand to about 220 grit with a ROS (random orbital), then applied Ubeaut Traditional Wax.  This was then bought to the final finish with a good buff with a Ubeaut Swansdown mop, mounted in the drill press.  I haven’t used it for smaller objects before (that weren’t turning on the lathe that is), so have always had it mounted in a hand drill.  Having it mounted in a fixed tool and bringing the work to the mop was so much easier! (Of course working on large furniture which is the last thing I used it on doesn’t exactly give you that option!)

UBeaut Swansdown Mop

UBeaut Swansdown Mop

It might look dirty etc, but it needs to have a significant wax buildup in the mop before it actually becomes functional, otherwise it just sucks the wax right out of the project!

The Box Progresses

Glueup complete, now just needs to be sanded, have the lid fitted, oiled, waxed, felt applied, and inserts constructed.  Hmm wonder if Xmas will beat me?

Mulga and Cyprus Box

Mulga and Cyprus Box

Still need the large and small trays for the various Pandora paraphernalia.  (Chains and individual charms)

Skirting the Edge of Boxmaking

I’ve been intending to get more into some of the classic projects, and time always seems to be against me, but finally got a window of opportunity to start a quick box for Xmas.

Still plenty of steps to go (did the glue-up this evening), so it is progressing at least.

Dovetailed Sides

Dovetailed Sides

The sides have all been (machine) dovetailed. (Ie, using the router table rather than cutting them by hand – leaving that for another day!)  The outside of the box is yet to be sanded, let alone have any finish applied.

The dovetails were cut with the Gifkins Dovetail Jig – a very quick, and successful method for firing out full dovetails. A slot was cut around both the top and bottom of the box.  The lower slot is for the base, with a rebated edge to fit neatly into the slot and sit flush with the table.  In this case, there is also an upper slot which is for a sliding lid.

Lid Assembly

Lid Assembly

The lid is made with a slot all round, both for the tongue and groove joint for the frame, as well as the floating raised panel.  The raised panel was made using a rounding panel bit on top, and a rebate cut on the bottom.

Not much to look at currently – will have some more photos during the finishing phase of the box.

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