Tuesday, July 17

Cherry Ring Box

Dan has been buying special things from us for a long time, so when he contacted me to ask if we could make him something a little different, I was happy to oblige.  Dan is getting engaged. He wants to present the ring in a really classy way: a small, wooden steamer trunk.

He sent this small box; purchased at a craft store, as a general example of what he had in mind for size and shape.

I start by selecting pieces of cherry lumber from my cut-offs bin.  The piece for the sides needs to be fairly straight grained so I can get the corners to match up.  The piece for the top can have a little more "character".  I flatten one wide face of each with a pass over the jointer.  Flip that piece up and run the jointed face along the fence to smooth one edge and square the two surfaces to each other.

The the stock gets run through the surface planer, jointed face down.  The cutters above the wood smooth the upper face and make it parallel to the jointed face.  I keep making passes and lowering the cutter head until the stock is 5/16" thick.

I use the table saw to cut the part blank to finished width by running the jointed edge along the saw fence.  Then I lay out the part arrangement.  By cutting them, long, short, long, short, sequentially from the blank I insure that three of the four corners will match up perfectly and allow the grain to flow around the box in an unbroken pattern.  To get all four corners perfectly matched requires resawing the blank first, turning the insides to the outside, then cutting one long and one short from each half of the blank.  If done properly, the grain pattern perfectly matches up at all four corners.  But the added step adds time and labor and I'm on a budget here of an hour and a half total.

I chose this piece of wood specifically because it should match up well even at the fourth corner despite taking a short-cut.

I bevel the edges so all end grain is hidden inside the corners.

When the pieces are cut I arrange them in the proper sequence and carefully stick them to a piece of wide masking tape, making sure the ends are just touching one another and the top and bottom edges are aligned.  Then I apply glue to the bevels between pieces.

By rolling this strip of parts up, the strip becomes a box.  The masking tape hold the corner joints together and if the 45° bevels were perfectly cut, the joints close up perfectly - as these do.  Because I have good wood-to-wood contact throughout the joints, clamps are not needed.  I clean up any glue squeeze-out from the inside corners and apply glue to the top edges.

Then I position the top piece - cut just a smidge large - so it hangs over evenly on all sides and clamp it to the body in a vice.

I'll let this assembly sit until the glue hardens up well.

In the mean time my supervisor, Cochise, and I will take a break, get a drink of cool water, go tinkle on a tree or two (that would be him, not me) and stretch our legs.  See you back here when the glue dries.

OK, we're back.

The first thing to do now is to sand off the overhang of the box on an oscillating belt sander: the oscillating (cycles up and down as it runs) helps prevent scratches from forming.

Once the top is flush to the sides I use a 1/2" radius router bit in my router table to round over the front and back edges to give it a domed look.

Then I begin sanding; going from 100 grit through 180 grit.  If you look close you'll see the way the grain runs around the corner of the box.

After the sanding is done to my satisfaction (this takes a while) it's time to cut the lid from the box. First I mark the box so I can be sure I don't put the lid back on backward. More sanding to clean up the band saw marks and the fuzzy bits the cutting leaves - all the while being careful not to round off the corners of the lid - need to maintain a nice tight closure line between lid and box.

I lay-out the hinge locations and cut the ends of the recesses using a flush-cut saw guided by a small square.

Then I begin the painstaking process of carving out the small recesses for the hinges.  This must be done slowly and carefully.  Take away too much and it's hard to put it back!

Once I've cut the hinge pockets I position the hinges and make pilot holes for the tiny screws that will mount the hardware.  These screws are so small that even my smallest twist drill is too large for pilot holes, so I tap a small scratch awl into the wood to make the pilots, not ideal, but better than nothing.

Positioning the hinges is important.  If I don't get them just right - top and bottom - the lid will not line up correctly with the base, and on a box this small, even just a smidge off will be noticeable.

Done, looking good.

Next comes the hasp - not nearly as complicated as the hinges; I just need to get it centered and be sure there is the proper amount of tension when the lever clips over the stud.

Then I lay-out and cut the grooves on the top that simulate ribs and give it a steamer trunk-like look.  Again I use the engineers square to guide the flush cut saw to produce a very thin clean line.  Any other saw would leave a wide, ragged kerf.  A knife will want to follow the grain.

The base plate comes next.  I cut a piece of stock to be 1/4" larger in each direction than the box.

I chuck up a 1/8" round-over bit in the router table and dress up the top edge, then sand thoroughly, making sure I keep the part flat.  If I sand more off one corner or and edge it will not mate properly to the bottoms of the box sides.

After applying glue to the box sides, positioning the box on the base, and holding by hand a few minutes to let the glue grab so the base does not slide, I put it in a vice to apply even clamping pressure all around while the glue dries.

And that completes construction of the box, so I can clean up a bit and put away the tools.  Then Cochise and I will go out for another little stroll.

When we got back I removed the hardware from the box, did the last sanding and started shooting teh finish.  It's humid today, so it's taking a while for each round to dry.

While I'm waiting for finish to dry, I use the band saw to cut off a nice chunk of Styrofoam that will fit snugly inside the box bottom.

Dan wanted the fabric liner to be pink, since that is his fiance's favorite color.  I had Marie scout around for some pink fabric: velvet preferred, but something similar will do.  She came up with a bright pink girls shirt made in a velvety, iridescent fabric of some kind.  I think it will work wonderfully to show off that diamond.  I tuck the fabric into the slot in the foam and tuck it neatly around the edges.  I secure it with masking tape at the bottom.

I slip the pad into the box base just far enough to be sure it fits snugly.  I don't want to tear it up getting it out again to do the final coat of finish.

I will not glue this pad into the box.  Once the ring is on permanent display on Bonnie's hand, this box may be re-purposed as a small jewelry box.  She *may* want to remove the pad to make for room for treasures.  Maybe not... but I'll give her the option.

Done.  Being fresh milled cherry, it is rather light in color - for cherry.  But a week or two of exposure to light will cause it to darken rapidly to the deep reddish hue for which cherry is acclaimed.

All that remains now is to package it up and send it on it's way.  I hope Dan and Bonnie will be pleased with it and that their marriage will be long and happy.  Bless you both!


  1. Absolutely gorgeous!!! Enjoying following your progress on this.

  2. That is one cute little trunk.

    I think I'll have to try and copy your design and make one togehther with my children if thats OK with you?

    Jonas (Denmark)

  3. It would probably make a great project for patient youngsters, Jonas. Feel free to give it a whirl! And thank you for taking the trouble to comment.


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