Project - Boxes are Best

Boxes are best for practicing woodworking skills. Box construction varies from the simple to the very complex depending on the type of joints used. The crudest boxes like the one in the photograph below are made of pieces screwed or nailed together while more complex ones would entail dovetail joints, well-fitting lids and so on.

This simple box for storing hardware is made from accurately cut pieces of half inch plywood held together by pocket-hole screws and a few nails.

Regardless of the type of box you choose to make there are many invaluable lessons to be learnt in the process. The good part about making boxes to hone skills is that these projects are usually small in size, do not consume much wood and can be trashed without much remorse if things go wrong. Moreover, boxes do not need to be perfect to be useful; even a badly made box will find a permanent place in the house or in the workshop.

This simple box for storing chisels was made with Teak wood sides and small dovetails. It was good practice.
I have been practicing make box and dovetail joints for some months now and although I haven't perfected my skills, I have produced a few very usable boxes for my workshop.

A large number of skills useful for larger and more complex projects could be first developed while making boxes. These practices would include:
  • Cutting pieces accurately and cleanly
  • Marking and identifying the pieces
  • Cutting housings, rebates and so on
  • Making mitres, dovetail  and box joints
  • Cutting mortises for the hinges, catches and so on
  • Fitting the lid and other parts
  • Attaching hardware
  • Staining  & Finishing

Measuring and marking the parts of a project are crucial

I have learnt a lot making my boxes and have begun to realise how crucial it is to measure and mark the pieces before commencing with the cutting. I have also made many mistakes caused by cutting or sizing the wrong parts. Now I painstakingly mark every piece of my projects.

Since I have been preparing my stock by hand, I have come to appreciate the value of good hand planes and hand planing techniques.

This box was my second attempt at cutting dovetails by hand; the dovetails were far from perfect but the project was nevertheless a source of great satisfaction
The best part of it all is the realisation that even imperfect pieces such as the one above with its odd sized dovetails and less than perfectly fitting lid, can be a source of great satisfaction.

This small box was a gift to a friend

Boxes also make great gifts as I found out when I gave away one small 5 inch by 5 inches box I had made with box joints. My friend, a visitor from Kazakhstan, was delighted when I gifted the box to him along with a set of stone coasters inside it.

I would strongly recommend box making for hobbyists venturing into woodworking. Not only is box making a great learning process but it can also be fun and extremely satisfying.

Indranil Banerjie
9 November 2013


  1. Yet another good article again! I don't know how many would understand your emphasis on satisfaction of using hand tools.

    The plywood box (first image) is not how I would like it to be, IMO. With the invention of routers it is completely a different world. Rabbet or lock mitered joint is usually used in plywood. There are so many other kinds of joinery bits from Freud and Amana.

    Here is one more interesting lock mitered joint well described,

  2. Praveen: You are right about the plywood box not being the best example of how a box should be put together but that was just to show the many ways boxes can be put together. There are better ways as you have rightly pointed out.
    Best wishes.



    above is few pics of ww articles i have made.



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