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!



Pandora’s Lid

One of the big decisions when it comes to completing a box, is deciding on the lid.

I deliberated for quite a while on this one, searching through my timber piles looking for inspiration.  I noted the slice of Brown Mallee Burl a couple of times, sitting on one of the shelves where it has been since about October 2008, but was a little undecided.  I kept coming back to it though, and finally decided this was the project that it was destined for.

It needed some truing up, and for some warp to be removed.  I’ve had it under boards to try to flatten it for almost 4 years, so it was as flat as I could make it, and so a little machining was required.

Truing up the Brown Mallee Burl

I took some care to ensure the sides and back were cut to suit the box, so the two corners of the natural edge met the front corners of the box.  Not being one to throw away timber, even offcuts, the two larger pieces cut off this burl were put back on the shelf, rather than the bin (or worse).

Test of lid sizing

I wanted to preserve the natural edge of the burl, and is the first project that I have done this on.

The next big decision is the hinge.  To hinge or not, that is the question.  I wanted this box to have the lid attached, so hinging it is my best option in this case.  There are still plenty of options – metal, wooden (shop-made) or other.

I went with concealed barrel hinges, which need a couple of holes drilled to fit the hinge.

Laying out the hinges

Using my Incra rule, the holes are laid out precisely, and it is over to the drill press.  An 8mm Colt wood boring drill bit is used (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) as is the drill press laser to ensure the holes are exactly where I want them.

Fitting the concealed hinges

Here you can see a couple of the concealed hinges, as well as the laser cross hairs.  The Colt bit is particularly suited for this job, drilling clean and straight, with the double helix guiding the bit.

Once the holes were cut, I needed some beading around the edge of the lid.  This was needed for two reasons.  One, I wanted to break up the line of the lid, so it wasn’t a simple straight piece of timber (irrespective how good it looks). Secondly, I knew the lid was too thin for the hinges, and the holes would be right through the lid, so the beading was needed to disguise the holes.

Turns out it was a really good thing I kept the offcuts!

Shaping the beading

I looked at, and even tried a few different router bit (and their profiles), but in the end decided to go with one that cuts rounded beads on the upper surface.  I chose a router bit height that cut three beads, then transferred the timber to the tablesaw to cut that beading off.  These were all then taken over to the drum sander and the thin material carriage.  They were passed through a number of times until I achieved a thickness I wanted for the beading.

Cutting mitres

The beading was to look continuous around the outside, so it made sense to mitre the back corners to 45o.

Laying out the beading

I didn’t want beading across the front, so chose to end it as the burl became sapwood.

Ending the beading was a real debate, and I decided to have it chamfered at 45o.

Achieving that would be interesting.  For one, the beading is pretty thin, and narrow.  It is also a bit fragile (being burl).  The solution came to me – using a tool that I have where I want to control the angle of something as it is being ground – namely a blade sharpening jig!

I chose to use the Alisam, but could have done this with any of the blade sharpening jigs.

Creating a chamfer

Once again, you can never have too many clamps!

Gluing on the beading

This was done very carefully, so the beading didn’t slip as the clamping pressure was applied.

The lid finished

Once the lid was glued up, it was time to apply a finish.  This was done very simply, with a few coats of wood oil wiped on.  This is a combination of Tung Oil and a few others, and a drier.

Makes a lot of difference!

The lid, finished

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!

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)

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