Getting Started with Making Boxes

Getting Started with Making Boxes

Woodworking can be a very complex art, but even master woodworkers started out working on simple projects. Making boxes is a great introduction to woodworking since it not only produces something functional, but it is also scalable as your skills increase. Whether you want to start making boxes as an introduction to woodworking or simply to enhance your skills, it’s pretty easy to get started.

The Most Basic Box

At its most basic, a box simply requires five pieces of wood, some wood glue, and a few screws. One of the pieces serves as the bottom of your box, while the other four will be the walls. The end result will be a small open-top box that can hold a variety of objects.

Measure the width across your bottom piece, then cut your two endpieces to be the same length as the width you just measured. Apply a small amount of wood glue to one of the ends of your bottom piece, then line up one of the endpieces so that its edge is flush with the bottom piece and they have the same width. Use two screws to secure the endpiece, predrilling the holes if desired to ensure an easier fit. Wipe up any glue that appears once the pieces are screwed together, then attach the other endpiece in the same manner.

Once you have both endpieces attached to the bottom of your box, take a new measurement of the box length; this should include both the length of the bottom piece and the thickness of both endpieces. Use this measurement to measure and cut your sidepieces. Apply a little glue to one side of the partially assembled box, then line up the side piece so that it will cover both the endpieces and the bottom on that side. Use a screw in each of the top corners to secure it to the endpieces, then add a third screw in the middle of the bottom to secure it to the bottom piece. Repeat this on the other side, then allow the glue to dry fully before putting anything in the box.

Building a Better Box

While the previous box design is functional, it’s probably not going to be the most aesthetically pleasing project of your woodworking career. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can improve your boxes to make them look better and improve the functionality of them as well. Here are just a few options for how you can improve your box designs as your skills improve:

  • Use a router, table saw or another tool to cut grooves in your side and end pieces that your bottom piece will fit into, eliminating the need to screw the sides into the bottom piece
  • Use countersink drill bits to drill holes for any screws you use, then use a little glue and a mallet to tap in wood plugs to fill the holes after the screws are in place
  • For smaller decorative boxes, skip screws completely; instead, use glue and finishing nails or other small nails to hold the boxes together
  • Build corner cleats (L-shaped pieces of wood that attach to the outside of the box) to enhance the look of the corners and attach them with glue and small nails; this will not only enhance the look but can also help to cover screw holes or other connectors

This is only the beginning of what you can do as you become more proficient with woodworking, of course. Once you gain more experience with woodworking tools and working with different types of wood you can add features such as a cedar lining or a lid with inlaid wood cutouts. Even a project as simple as a wood box has nearly infinite scalability as you learn new skills and techniques.

What’s your favorite beginner-level woodworking project?

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