Coved Jewelry Box

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This article is from Issue 41 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Sleek, with a slide top, and built totally at the tablesaw

By Geoff Noden

Dimensions: 21⁄2"w × 17⁄8"h × 12"l

I like the way a coved pencil tray in a desk drawer allows you to easily scoop out the contents. Borrowing the concept, I designed this sleek jewelry box that occupies very little space on a dresser or desktop. The box is compartmentalized with dividers, which also close off the ends of the cove. I used a sliding lid, beveling it to complement the upward flare on the box sides, as shown in Figure 1.

To make this project you need little more than a tablesaw and block of wood. For flat-bottom grooves and rabbets, outfit your saw with a combination blade that includes flat-ground teeth. I’ll show you how to make a 21⁄2"-wide × 17⁄8"-high × 12"-long cherry box of a certain style from a single block of wood, but you actually have various design options. For example, you can use a complementary wood for the top and/or dividers. The top can be beveled, left flat, or even augmented with banding or inlay. Once you understand the basic steps of building this particular box, you’ll be able to make larger and smaller versions, adjusting your saw setups to suit. For efficiency, consider making multiple boxes at the same time. Believe me, you won’t have any problems finding takers for them.

Separate the lid and sides

1 Mill a block of wood to 21⁄4" thick by 33⁄8 × 12", as shown in Figure 2. Rip a strip from one edge that will serve as the divider material. Make it just over 1⁄4" thick to allow belt sanding or hand-planing later for a perfect fit into a 1⁄4" dado.

2 Rip 1⁄2" from the most attractive face to create the lid. Then rip a 3⁄8"-thick slice from each edge to separate the sides from the core. Holding the sides against the core in their original orientation, draw reference marks across their ends for reassembly later.

Nibble away the cove with a series of light passes, feeding the box core diagonally across the blade with a shoe-style pushstick.

Make the cove and grooves

1 Adjust your blade so its apex is at the level of your tabletop. Use a protractor and bevel gauge to set up your tablesaw with an angled fence as shown in Figure 3; then clamp the fence to your saw table. Note: This setup will get you pretty close to your target, but you may have to finesse the fence angle as described to fine-tune the cove as you work.

2 Secure a secondary fence to the table, offsetting it parallel to the primary fence by the width of the box core. Make sure the core slides easily between the fences without side-to-side play.

3 Saw the cove by taking a series of light cuts, raising your blade about 1⁄16" for each pass (Photo A). As you progress, make sure the cove is centered on the core, adjusting the fences if necessary. Continue until either the cove is within 1⁄8" of the box bottom, or until you’ve created a 1⁄32"-wide flat on the peaks of the edges, whichever comes first (see Figure 2).

4 Sand the cove (see sidebar at right). Then apply two coats of a wiping varnish to the interior and let it dry thoroughly. (You can skip the varnishing if you plan to flock the interior, as discussed in “Flocking” on page 49.)

Use pushsticks to hold the coved core safely and securely against the table and fence to trim the peaks.

5 Remove the clamped fences, and set your saw’s rip fence 11⁄4" from the blade. Then trim off the peaks at the edges of the cove as shown in Photo B.

6 Relocate the rip fence about 1⁄32" further from the blade, and set the blade height to project 1⁄8" above the table. Saw the 1⁄8 × 1⁄8" grooves for the lid where shown in Figure 2, feeding the bottom edge of each side against the rip fence. (The 1⁄32" offset ensures that the dividers on the completed box won’t impede lid operation.)

A Custom Sanding Block for Coves

To make a custom sanding block for use on a cove, first adhere a sheet of 120-grit sandpaper to the cove using double-faced tape or spray adhesive. Saw a block of rigid insulation to match the width of the cove. Then sand the block to shape as shown.

Using the rip fence as a stop and a miter gauge with an auxiliary fence, saw the divider dadoes with a dado head.

Create the compartments

1 Outfit your saw with a sharp dado head configured to make a 1⁄4"-wide cut, and locate your rip fence 1⁄2" away from the blade. Raise the dado head so the teeth will just lightly graze the bottom of the inverted cove.

2 Mask the leading half of the cove with heavy tape to minimize exit tear-out inside the cove. (I used Gorilla Tape, available at home supply stores.)

3 Using the rip fence as a stop, and the miter gauge to feed the workpiece, cut the outermost dado at each end of the box. Next, adjust the fence 41⁄8" from the dado head, and cut the two innermost dadoes (Photo C).

4 Crosscut the divider strip you made earlier into pieces about 1⁄4" longer than the width of the core. Then thickness each piece individually for a perfect fit into its dado. (I used double-faced tape to attach a small wooden cube to each divider. Using the cube as a grip, I pressed the divider against an inverted belt sander clamped in a vise.)

5 Glue the dividers into their dadoes, roughly centered. Let the glue dry.

6 Make a notched feeder board as shown in Photo D; then trim the sides and divider ends down, adjusting the rip fence as needed to create a 1⁄16" flat at the top edges of the cove.

7 Smooth the outer edges of the core and the interior faces of the box sides, using a hand plane or 220-grit sandpaper backed by a hardwood block. Then glue the sides to the core, carefully aligning the bottom edges of the pieces (Photo E).

Trim the edges of the core using a notched board. A tab taped to the pusher applies side pressure. 
Glue the sides to the core, clamping down across the dividers to press the core flat to the assembly table.

Make the lid

1 Measure the distance between the bottoms of the mating lid grooves, subtract about 1⁄16", and rip the lid to that width.

2 With the inverted lid lying flat on the saw table, cut the rabbet on each edge. Aim for a snug, but easy sliding fit in the box grooves.

3 Set your tablesaw blade angle at 10°. With the ends of the installed lid aligned with the ends of the box, tape and hold the parts firmly together while crosscutting each end of the box.

4 Make a jig like that shown in Photo F. Angle your saw blade to 20°, and set up the cut using a piece of 1⁄2"-thick scrap. Adjust the rip fence to yield a bevel that leaves a 3⁄16"-wide flat on the end of the scrap (see Figure 2). Then saw the bevels on the ends of the lid.

Bevel the ends of the lid using an L-shaped board with a vertical fence to support the workpiece at 90°.
To bevel the lid edges, tape the workpiece to a carrier board. (Note that I am feeding from the left of the saw.)

5 To safely saw the bevels along the length of the lid, make a carrier board as shown in Photo G. Then, making test cuts, creep up on the final setting by adjusting the fence location to avoid sawing into the tongue at the edge of the lid. Aim to leave enough material so that a final cleanup with sandpaper or a hand plane yields a neat intersection at the corners of the lid where the adjacent bevels meet. After sawing the first bevel, remove the lid from the jig, reattach it at 180°, and saw the opposite one.

6 Hand-plane and/or sand the lid to clean up the bevels.

7 Reset your blade angle to 10°, and rip the bevel on each side of the box.

8 Sand the box through 220-grit. Smooth the ends with the lid installed to maintain the proper angle at the ends of the lid.

Flocking

Flocking the interior of a box softens and dresses it up while eliminating the necessity of applying finish to the cove. To apply flocking, first paint on a coat of adhesive, using the same color as the flocking. Then dump the flocking into the box, close the lid, and shake it well. Let it dry for a day, and then tap out and gently blow off the excess, which can be used for your next project.

Finish up

Apply your choice of finish. I used three coats of wipe-on polyurethane varnish. Top it off with a coat of wax for a lustrous finish and smooth lid operation. 

About Our Author/Builder/Designer

Geoffrey Noden has been working wood for over 30 years. The first American graduate of the John Makepeace School for Craftsmen in Wood in Dorset, England, Noden now builds custom furniture in Trenton, New Jersey. He is also the inventor of the Adjust-A-Bench and the Inlay Razor. For more info, visit adjustabench.com.

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