Large Walnut Memory Box Set
A grandfather in California reached out to me about making a set of memory boxes for his four grandkids. He wanted something that would be around for many years to come. The best part of it, outside of some basic requirements of size and wood type, the rest of the design was up to me.
He wanted the boxes made of walnut and lined with aromatic cedar. I was happy to oblige as walnut is one of my favorite woods to work with. The aromatic cedar was a new one for me but it was good to try something new. Given how well my shop smelled while working with the cedar, I think it will happen more often now. The walnut carcass of the boxes was 12″ x 12″ x 18″ and 3/4″ thick. For the cedar lining, I took it down to about 3/8″ thick.
For the joinery on the carcass, I did a rabbet joint that was reinforced with 5/16″ brass pins. The brass pins add a lot of mechanical strength to the joint as well as a subtle visual enhancement. Since I did not have 12″ wide walnut for the sides, I did a book match resaw on 8/4 walnut stock and butt-jointed them together and reinforced with biscuits. With the biscuits reinforcing the book matched pieces, wood movement issues should be minimal.
The cedar lining was pretty much friction fit inside the boxes. This was done by cutting the pieces slightly oversized and then using a shooting board and a sharp hand plane to dial in the size. Despite the friction fit, I still did a little reinforcement with some glue on some of the pieces. To ensure the lining would clear the lid as it shut, I chamfered the top outside edge of the exposed lining 45 degrees. This allows it to close and open easily but also allowing a bit of friction to hold the lid shut. Speaking of shutting, it does the nice whoosh sound when it closes.
Brusso hinges are the star of the show in terms of the hardware. They are not cheap, but they are worth every penny and then some. Solid brass with a steel pin, these will likely outlast the boxes. After using their hinges on a few projects now, I don’t know if I could ever go back to using cheap hardware. No, they did not sponsor me, I just love their product.
We decided on using Mahoney’s Walnut Oil to finish the boxes which turned out great, in my opinion. Just before gluing the box up, I applied a coat of oil to each piece of walnut and wet sanded it using the oil as I applied. This led to a very smooth finish. I was careful to avoid oiling the glue joint areas to avoid any possible issues there. That initial coat before glue up also prevents those awkward light spots where glue overflow gets in the pores in some spots and resists the finish.
Once the box was almost done, I went over it again with another coat of oil. This filled in lighter spots from finish sanding and other spots that may have sucked up more oil.
- Brusso© Hinges: https://amzn.to/2WIrOz0 (Amazon)
- Mahoney’s Walnut Oil: https://amzn.to/2KiEHJu (Amazon)
- Tools: Resources (AlthoffWoodshop)