Trinket Boxes

Building a Trinket Box

It’s been a while between blogs but, hopefully, this makes up for my slackness – cause it’s a big blog. This is a bit like a photographic recording of the build of a trinket box; I have tried to limit the number of photos as it was getting a bit out of hand. Normally, it takes me about two weeks to finish a single box; seems like a long time but I do have a full time job (bugger I know) and I will work on several projects at once – so it is not so bad.

The journey starts with some scrap timber and in this case old, disused pallets. Some are locally built so are mainly either hardwood (like Tas Oak) or Radiata Pine but others come from as far afield as the US and they are made from quite different timber than we’re used to here (some of it really nice). The pallets need to be dismantled (hard work) and the nails removed, then they are ready for the first stage of milling.

Trinket Box Build 1

Most of the timber is rough sawn and can be quite twisted and warped – so that needs to be fixed first. I have a thicknesser but I don’t use that initially; I find the flattest face of the board and use that as my starting point to remove the outer edges (which are usually quite damaged). At this point nothing is really square but I start to get an idea of what the timber may look like.

Trinket Box Build 2

Next, I run the boards through the table saw to get one good face which I then hand plane – this is where I start to square everything.

Trinket Box Build 3

Using the hand plane ensures I have a flat board which can now be used to square up the edges – once again, through the table saw. Finally I run the board through the table saw again to finish the last face, hand plane again and I have my dressed stock ready for cutting to length.

Trinket Box Build 4

Before I start cutting the boards I move on to the internal dividers that will fit inside the box. The reason I do those now is that the final dimensions will be based on the size of the compartments inside.

Trinket Box Build 5

The stock for the dividers is prepared in the same way as the rest of the timber (time consuming) and the notches cut out using a hand saw.

Trinket Box Build 6

The box sides are cut to length with the table saw (faster that way) then I put each piece in the vice and plane the surfaces and fix up any splits or tear out.

Trinket Box Build 7

The lid and base are next to be milled and planed flat; then they are glued using sash clamps to keep everything flat.

Trinket Box Build 8

I can now start on the joints for the sides; in this case they will be rebates. To remove the bulk of the waste I do some shallow cuts with the table saw then use my trusty Stanley router plane to clean it up. The critical part here is making sure the rebates, faces and edges are all square; otherwise when you do the glue up of the sides the whole thing can end up a twisted mess.

Trinket Box Build 9

Doing the end rebates doesn’t take all that long but the internal divider rebate (or dado) is trickier. I can’t use a saw at all for this; it is all done with chisels and, although it is precise and time consuming, I really like this part.

Trinket Box Build 10

Once I am happy with the joints I do a test assembly to make sure all the joints are OK and everything is reasonably square. Before I do the actual assembly I sand the internal faces of the sides; easier to do now than when it is glued in position. Now I add glue to the joints and, as quickly as possible, set everything in place and tighten up the clamps. The glue sets quite quickly so I make sure everything is as square as possible while I can still move it.

Trinket Box Build 11

To fully harden I allow a few hours or overnight and while that is happening I can work on the lid and base. The base just needs planing to flatten it and remove any glue marks and the same for the lid. I don’t do any edge profiles yet – that is one of the last things I do. I can add any inlays at this point and, again, this is all done with the marking knife and chisels – this requires extreme precision but I love doing it.

Trinket Box Build 12

With the sides all set and hardened the lid and base can be glued in place; this is not so difficult and the lid and base I always cut a little oversized. They can be planed off later and that is far easier than trying to plane the sides to fit a too small base or lid.

Trinket Box Build 13

The box is then cut through to form the lid and main base part and all the outside sanded and edges bevelled, etc. Then I add the hinges, latches and drill and insert the end dowels – these just give the joint a little more strength and add another decorative element.

Trinket Box Build 14

That is the box part finished pretty well; next is to fit the internal dividers. This can be really fiddly as the pine sides are so thin; any slight errors and it’s back to square one.

Trinket Box Build 15

I don’t glue the dividers in place as they are a tight enough fit to not require anything else; also, if someone wanted to remove them it wouldn’t damage the internal faces of the box. Next I do a final check and sand – then ready for the finish.

Trinket Box Build 16

There are two stages to finishing; the application of the boiled linseed oil and the final polishing with beeswax. I normally do just a couple of coats of linseed oil by rubbing it in with a cloth, letting it set for an hour or so then repeating the process. I buff off any excess then apply our own recipe natural beeswax – this just gives the box that final light sheen. Done.

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