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A Hand Dovetailed Black Walnut Jewelry Box

Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.
Albert Einstein, Theoretical physicist…1879 – 1955.

Black walnut Jewelry Box with dovetails

Black walnut jewelry box with dovetails

One weekend a while back while in the shop I came across a few pieces of scrap black walnut that had some beautiful grain patterns. Before long I began to think about how I could maximize the amount of material that was available. The walnut was just over 3/4″ thick and the next thing I knew I was ripping the wood to a thickness of about 7/16″ on the band saw. For some reason I ran the pieces through the planer just to see how the grain looked and to my amazement I started to get more involved with this wonderfully beautiful black walnut.

After squaring a few ends I found myself laying out dovetails. I figured it would be a good practice and so I grabbed my dovetail saw and then before long I had my chisels paring away walnut for the fitting of tails and pins. To tell you the truth I had no idea that I was beginning to build another jewelry box. It’s as if one step of the process was leading me towards the next step. It was an unconscious act tho and I was going along for the ride. The next thing I knew I had the four corners dovetailed.

Jewelry Box of black walnut with handmade dovetails

Jewelry Box of black walnut with handmade dovetails

In the scrap bin I found some black walnut that was veneered to 1/4″ MDF on both sides. It would serve as the base of what was becoming a jewelry box. I now rabbeted dovetailed walls to glue and let in the base.

Finding another scrap of black walnut I sized a lid for the wooden box and then created a decorative profile on the router table. Now, I just needed a handle for the lid and I was a bit concerned because I was running short on the black walnut material. I suppose I could always accent the box with a different wood however, I really wanted it to be just black walnut.

As luck would have it I found a practice piece from woodturning and it became the jewelry box handle. I had previously turned a black walnut disk with a rim on the circumference. As you can see in the photos I cut the disk and then face glued it to form an arching handle. Next I installed the supports to house the lid. The final steps were applying various coats of shellac and then applying Liberon fine paste wax.

This 6-1/2″ x 12″ x 3-1/4″ box simply evolved in the workshop as I was just fascinated by the beauty of the grain. One thing led to the next and suddenly it took shape. So, now the jewelry box is in the hallway where I pass by it quite often. For some reason this black walnut hand dovetailed box continues to hold my attention.

Watch the Let’s Build a Jewelry Box videos.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

23…Let’s Build a Jewelry Box…Part 6…Joinery

“If you do not expect it, you will not find the unexpected, for it is hard to find and difficult.”
…Heraclitus 500 B.C.

This woodworking online episode is part of the Let’s Build Series

Woodworking Tips and Techniques:
1.) Creating a wedged tenon joint.

We continue with Part 6 of our arts and crafts wood project, how to make a jewelry box with Koa wood veneerdrill bit, . We begin our joinery process by finding the center on the wooden box lid. To do this we use a straight edge of a combination square to mark diagonally across the corners of the lid. Once the center is located we line it up to the center of the brad point bit at the drill press. To secure the lid of the jewelry box for the boring we adjust the hold down clamps and sliding stop blocks of the drill press table. This makes for a safe, reliable, and accurate method of drilling. The drill bit we have chosen is slightly larger than the tenon of the handle because the tenon will be expanding inside of the mortise.

A wedged tenon joint.

We are making a wedged tenon joint. The mortise and tenon will be very tight once the wedge is set in place and pressed to fit. At the workbench we set the jewelry box handle in the woodworking vice and proceed to bore a 1/16″ hole through the tenon to where the tip of the wedge will be pressed. Next, we saw into the center of the tenon with a thin kerfed japanese saw. Our cut is made across the grain and down to the hole we just bored.

Now, we make the wedge. We could cut a wedge on the band saw however, we are working quickly today due to the 103 degree desert heat. In this case we pick up a leftover piece of Koa veneer and flip on the switch of the disc sander. Within a few seconds we have created a wedge that will work perfectly for our joinery. We then cut the wedge to length and focus on taping around both sides of the mortise with green tape. This will protect the Koa wood from getting excess glue.

We are using cyanoacrylate glue as the adhesive for our wooden joint since we are working quickly. We spread the super glue at its location on the lid and also on the tenon. The bottom of the handle and saw kerf also receive a dab of glue. Now we place the tenon into the mortise and carefully set the tip of the wedge into the tenon’s kerf.

The next step is an important procedure in this process. We place the assembly of the lid, handle, and wedge into the workbench vise and once lined up we slowly crank the handle of the vise to press-fit the wedge into place. This locks the mortise and tenon and creates a very secure joint.

Some woodworkers may be inclined to tap the wedge home with a mallet. This may work some of the time however, it can create problems as well. Keep in mind that when hammering the wedge there is vibration taking place that can lead to misalignment of the joinery. Vibration can lead to cracking of the wood as well. However, we line up the joinery in the vice and then securely squeeze the wedge into the tenon for a pressed fit. .

Notice in the video that a spray accelerator was used to set the cyanoacrylate glue on the lid’s bottom. This further helped to speed up the process so that the exposed joint could be sanded and prepared for the finish.

We choose to use a Watco natural danish oil for our finish. We apply multiple coats of the oil to bring out the beautiful chatoyance of the premium curly Koa. Note: (Be sure to safely dispose of oily rags to prevent fires.)

We have completed the Koa wood veneered jewelry box utilizing a variety of woodworking tools that include the band saw, vacuum press, table saw, jointer, open drum sander, drill press, wood lathe, and the disc sander.

Our accuracy and skill level for this woodworking project has been improved by the use of various table saw sleds. We have used the cross cut sled, dedicated miter sled, and the flat board miter sled. We have also applied a few woodworking tips for this wood project. These tips include the use of tape to hinge our miter joints when gluing the joints. We also used blue and green tape to protect the wood from the excess glue. Furthermore, we used paper shims against the stop block of the cross cut sled to achieve pin point accuracy when fitting wooden components of the jewelry box.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Let’s Build a Jewelry Box…Part 5…Woodturning

Woodturning a Handle for a Jewelry Box

This woodworking online episode is part of the Let’s Build Series

Woodworking Tips and Techniques:

1.) Using cyanoacrylate glue for a quick glue-up…along with a spray accelerator.
2.) Turning wood using a spindle gouge with a fingernail grind.

Koa Jewelry Box - Woodturning the KnobIn this episode we continue with our woodturning project, a Koa wood veneer jewelry box. If you recall we started out this woodworking project with a small amount of Koa and our goal from the beginning was to test our woodworking skills to see how far we can maximize the amount of wood we have available to us. Our focus throughout has been on accuracy.

“Continuous effort- not strength or intelligence- is the key to unlocking our potential.
Sir Winston Churchill
1874-1965, Former British Prime Minister

The wooden veneered box is already made. The lid is beveled and trimmed to size to fit on the box so now we need a handle for the lid. At this point we have a decision to make about the design of the handle. Should it be long and arched? Should it be of Japanese influence? We are going to do something different. Why? One of the goals with this project is to exercise various learned woodworking skills. So far we have covered slicing wood veneer on the band saw and using the vacuum press as a clamp for laminating the veneer packets. We have also demonstrated the use of a number of table saw sleds which include the dedicated miter sled, the flat board miter sled, and the cross cut sled. Also we have made use of the sacrificial fence for the table saw when we used the dado blades to cut the rabbets. On top of that we have also beveled the lid with the aid of a shopmade tenoning jig. So, we are going to move forward and head over to the woodworking lathe to woodturn a handle out of Koa wood for the jewelry box lid.

Versatility is key when building fine woodworking projects and many times it helps to know how to get results using different methods. We have a small amount of Koa remaining so we are going to use glue to laminate pieces of wood into a turning blank. Typically, we will use yellow glue and let the glue-up cure overnight. However, in this case we are moving full speed ahead. Since it is about 103 degrees in the desert today we are going to use cyanoacrylate glue to laminate the Koa for the woodturning blank. Along with the glue we are using a spray accelerator for a faster cure. (Obviously, be very care when using a super glue like this. Do not let it get on your skin or in your eyes!)

Laminating three wood blocks for a Koa Jewelry Box Knob - WoodturningAfter we cut three pieces of 5/8″ thick Koa we head to the woodworking bench where we bond the woodturning blank together. When cured we then put fresh cuts on the end of the blank. We then find the centers of the blank and set the drive spur. From here it is just a matter of setting up the blank on the wood lathe between the drive spur and the live center. Now it is time for wood turning.

The woodturning tools used for this wood project are the roughing gouge, the diamond parting tool, and a spindle gouge that has a fingernail grind. Note: (You will notice in the woodworking video that the fingernail grind has a unique angle. The reason for this angle is to allow for a wider range of cutting action.On the other hand a typical spindle gouge has a conventional grind. If a woodturner is going to use a spindle gouge with a fingernail grind then it is commonsense that the wood turner will need to know how to recreate this angle at the grinding wheel at the bench grinder when the tool dulls. Some manufacturers of lathe gouges market expensive signature gouges that come with a fingernail grind. Chances are you will need to sharpen the tool before you start turning on the lathe so keep this in mind when purchasing. One way or the other you will need to know how to grind the tool. You can get the same cutting results by just learning how to produce a fingernail grind on a spindle gouge that came with a conventional grind. Chances are you will save some money as well.)

Koa Jewelry Box with Knob - Woodturning  on wood latheThe woodturning video pretty well speaks for itself. You will see how a tenon is made and you will notice how the tenon held in the lathe chuck for the turning of the handle. Once the handle is shaped we begin sanding as the lathe is turning. We move up in sandpaper grits as we go and then finally we burnish the Koa handle with the wood shavings. So, now that we have learned how to woodturn a handle for the koa wood jewelry box, we will focus on joinery in the next posting.


More Woodturning Videos:

Segmented Woodturning a 9″ x 12″  Vase

Segmented Woodturning a Fruit Bowl – Part 1

Segmented Woodturning a Fruit Bowl – Part 2


The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

21…Let’s Build a Jewelry Box…Part 4

Earl Nightingale…”You become what you think about.”

This woodworking online episode is part of the Let’s Build Series

Woodworking Tips and Techniques:

1.) Green adhesive tape is used to control the spread of the wood glue.
2.) The MDF is concealed by gluing a rabbeted top onto the veneered side walls.
3.) Paper shims are used against the adjustable stop block on the cross cut sled when trimming the box lid.
4.) The lid is placed directly onto the existing box to mark for cutting its width and length. (no measuring is needed.)
5.) The jewelry box lid is cut for length by using a cross cutting sled for the table saw.
6.) Bevels for the lid are cut with a sliding woodworking jig for the table saw.

In the woodworking shop we continue the building of the jewelry box by preparing to glue the rabbeted top onto the wood veneered side walls. To control the spread of the yellow glue we place green tape next to the area that is to be glued. Once all the adhesive tape is in place we curl the bottom of the tape so it becomes a catch for any possible dripping glue. The next step is to spread the wood glue onto the top of the walls and also onto the bottom side of the Koa rabbeted top. When we have spread the glue we place the top in its place and adjust for the 1/16″ overhang in each direction. For the purpose of clamping we set the oversized lid on top of the jewelry box and then place a few weights on this fine woodworking project.

How to make an accurate fit for the lid.

When the adhesive is set we turn our attention to fitting the lid to the rabbeted top. Here we will place the lid against the rabbets and mark for width and length using a sharp pencil. Next it is time to rip the lid on the table saw and return to the jewelry box for fitting. Since the lid is just a hair wide we take the piece to the jointer to remove a very small amount. Once the width is OK we cut for length at the table saw using the cross cut sled. When we test for length we are a bit long so we head back to the cross cut sled. In this situation we keep the stop block in place. We simply fold a piece of paper over to act as a shim and place it next to the stop block. Then we slide the lid against the shim to make our trim cut. Next, we successfully fit the lid into the rabbets where there is an even margin at all four sides.

Our lid will have beveled sides and ends so we will cut the bevels at the table saw with the aid of a shop made woodworking jig. This table saw accessory fits over the Biesemeyer fence and slides along table saw fence in a controlled manner as there is a convenient handle that forces the jig downwards and forwards. The lid is secured in the jig with a horizontal quick-release toggle clamp. Note: The table saw jig also serves as a tenoning jig.

Watch more woodworking videos!

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

20…Let’s Build a Jewelry Box…Part 3

”Dreams are made possible if you try.” …Terry Fox

This episode is part of the Let’s Build Series

Woodworking Tips and Techniques:

1.) Using blue adhesive tape to aid the gluing process.
2.) Using Ulmia spring clamps for assembly and fitting of miter joints.
3.) Cutting perfect miter joints on the table saw using the Dedicated Miter Sled.

In Part 3 of this how to build a jewelry box video series we are back in the woodworking shop as we continue working on the Koa wood veneer jewelry box. We have previously fit the components together during a dry run so it is now time to apply yellow glue to the miter joints. First though, we need to tape the walls of the wooden box with blue tape. This will act as a hinge as it will allow us to spread the glue into the open miters and then swing the walls to close the joints. Also, when you only have two hands the blue tape greatly simplifies the task.

Koa wood veneer packets prepared for wood glue.

When the miter joints of the box are closed we can now clamp the corner woodworking joints tight with the Ulmia clamps. These pinch clamps are worth their weight in gold as they secure the miter joint while the adhesive sets. Notice how each miter joint has a spring clamp at the top and the bottom. This give equal pressure throughout the joint and assures alignment along the length of the joint. Note: We will make sure to check our wood project for square by measuring diagonally across the jewelry box and getting equal measurements.

When the wood glue is firming up we can apply blue adhesive tape next to the rabbets since we will be gluing the rabbets to receive the base. The application of the blue tape will help to contain the yellow glue and prevent it from reaching the surface of the wood veneers. We want keep the glue in the joints only. Any excess glue that reaches the veneer surface will create unnecessary work for us and can complicate the wood finish that will later be applied.

Since we have glued the rabbets we will continue by gluing the edges of the base and fitting the base to the rabbets of our woodworking project. When the veneered base is set in place we can proceed to securely clamp the wooden box. Note: Because our base is comprised of an MDF core with both sides veneered we can glue all four edges of the base because there is virtually no wood movement unlike a solid wood base.

After the glue has dried we take the jewelry box to our woodworking bench where we set up our bench dogs to the bench top adjacent to our woodworking vise. With our Koa veneered box we prepare to clean off the glue residue with our card scraper. When we are finished scraping the glue we then sand by hand to smooth the surface.

Our attention now turns to the box lid and how it will be housed in place. We are using solid Koa wood for the lid as well using Koa to cover the tops of the veneered walls. The tops of the veneered walls will have a slight overhang and will also be mitered at the corners. These tops will include rabbets to allow the lid to seat. We create the rabbets on the table saw using dado blades along with a sacrificial dado fence. In this section of the video we pay close attention to the safety accessories employed. Notice the handled push block used when cutting the rabbets. It controls the stock being cut and also keeps our hand away from the blades. When the rip cuts are made we use a splitter and a long push stick that keeps our hands at a safe distance as well as secures that the material is flat on the table saw top as the material is fed through the saw blade.

Our next job for this woodworking project is to cut the miters on the dedicated miter sled while ensuring a proper fit to the top of the veneered box. No tape measure or rule is needed as we mark everything based on its placement to the box. This eliminates any chance of error in measurement while creating a very accurate marking. With this procedure in place we will simply mark and cut as needed and then secure the miter joints with spring clamps. When all four miters are fit we will glue and clamp them.

The box lid is dimensioned for thickness by using two power tools; a bench top planer and an open drum sander. The planer does most of the work, however for the final dimensioning and smoothing the lid is run through the open drum sander. Woodworking Tip: Because the lid is of curly koa there is a chance for grain tearout so this is one important reason why the final dimensions for the lid take place on the open drum sander.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

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