Japanese Gift Box

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Build this stylish box with a sliding lock.

It’s a tradition among Japanese woodworkers to build a box for their prized hand tools to keep them secure and close at hand. Although these utilitarian boxes tend toward very basic joinery, many feature a simple, but ingenious wedge-locking mechanism to secure the lid. Intrigued by this austere yet functional design, I set out to construct a scaled-down, modified version of these traditional boxes to house any small collection of keepsakes.

For my gift box, I added tapered legs and a pagoda-style handle on the lid to lend visual interest. I also chose to forgo the traditional nailed butt-joint construction in favor of mitered corner joints. The box battens and bottom serve to strengthen the otherwise unreinforced miters.

Traditional Japanese toolboxes typically feature lightweight wood to ensure they are manageable when loaded with tools. Without weight restrictions, my design criteria were different. I elected to use sapele for its subtle grain pattern and excellent joinery attributes. The contrasting maple used for the legs and handle lends another level of eye appeal.

This Japanese toolbox takeoff is a rewarding weekend project for woodworkers who enjoy creating appealing and functional pieces in their shop.

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