Classy Boxes Make for Easy Magazine Management

Since Woodcraft Magazine wraps up its first year of publication with this issue, we thought you might enjoy this project – a handsome box to keep all your issues together in your shop library. Doug Stowe’s simple design lends itself well to making several boxes at once so you can be prepared as your magazine collection grows.

Look Ma – No nails! No screws! You’ve no doubt heard the claims that a properly glued joint is stronger than the wood itself. Well, it’s true – but only if a woodworker really knows what “properly glued” truly means. Gluing endgrain to endgrain, or long grain to cross grain are definite “nono’s” even in this day of vastly superior glue and its amazing holding power. 

These magazine boxes, made of a combination of solid woods and dimensionally stable Baltic birch plywood, present an excellent opportunity to put polyurethane glue through its paces, creating a strong glued joint with no additional support from mechanical fasteners. The long grain of the walnut front and the long grain of the basswood bottom and back mate perfectly with the stable qualities of the 1/4" ply. (I chose basswood for the bottom because it finishes very similar to the Baltic birch used for the sides, giving a match of color and texture without requiring stain.) 

One strong word of caution, however, when working with polyurethane glues: They expand as they cure and need to be used sparingly, or you will have a mess on your hands as the gooey stuff oozes out of tight-fitting joints.

Getting started

Since I designed these magazine boxes to hold copies of Woodcraft Magazine, I began by measuring the size of the magazines and the full width of a two-year subscription, so keep in mind that the dimensions for the boxes seen in this project are specific to this publication. However, you can easily alter the sizes to make boxes for any magazine, simply by measuring the size of the cover and adding 3/4" in width to determine the width of the side panel. Then add 5/8" to the magazine height to determine the length of the walnut front piece. The width of the box is determined by measuring the thickness of the magazine and multiplying by the number of issues to be enclosed. Add 3/4" to this dimension to allow for the thickness of the two 1/4" sides, plus 1/4" of clearance on the inside to make it easier to load and to accommodate occasionally heftier issues.

In cutting the Baltic birch sides to size, I chose to keep them shallow enough so the title of the magazine could be read, and shaped the sides low enough at the back to be assured that the dates of publication could be easily read from the spines without taking the magazines out of the box.

Cutting to size

Rip the plywood panels to width, then use a miter gauge on the table saw to cut the panels to length. Use a stop block so that the left and right sides will be exactly the same (Fig. 1). 

To prepare the 3/8" basswood stock for the bottom and back, straighten one edge on the jointer and then cut it to the finished width. Use a sled or miter gauge on the table saw to cut parts to finished lengths. Note that this bottom piece has a tenon on one end, so cut this part oversize by 1/2" in length. If you’re making more than a single box, always use a stop block to make certain that all similar parts are exactly matched in length. After planing, jointing and ripping the front parts, use the sled or miter guide to cut them to length (Fig. 2).

Use the table saw with fence to cut a 1/4"-deep kerf at the bottoms of the fronts and backs. I use a 1/8"-kerf combination blade for this task and set the fence with 1/4" space between it and the blade to match the 3/8" thickness of the box bottom. Perform the same operation on the box bottom, but first move the fence closer so that the tenons formed will be 1/4" long. Then turn the stock on end and form the tenons by passing the stock between the blade and fence (Fig. 3). You could also cut these tenons on a router table using a straight bit. Note on the right side of Fig. 3 how two pieces go together, showing proper fit. This may require some trial-and-error fitting, and it is best to be prepared with some scrap on hand.

Setting up the router table for the next operation requires a story stick cut on the table saw (Fig. 4). The story stick is cut to the exact length of the box front, with a notch cut so that the outer edge of the notch is exactly 91/2" from the end of the stick, as controlled by a stop block. Cut the story stick at the same time you cut the box front to prevent inaccuracies. As you’ll see, the story stick allows changes to be made without loss of exact reference points. 

Align the cutting edge of the router bit with the outer edge of the cut in the story stick to guide the placement of the stop block on the router table. This ensures that your cut will exactly match the height of your side pieces. Raise the 3/4" straight bit to the thickness of the plywood above the router table, and set the fence so that only 3/4" of the bit protrudes from the fence (Fig. 5). I prefer to make a series of cuts rather than hog things out in a single pass and risk the kinds of random self-adjustment routers can make under extreme load (Fig. 6). After routing one side of the fronts, flip the story stick end for end and use it to set up the stock blocks for routing the other side.

When making several boxes at once, it’s easier and more accurate to use a 3/8"-radius roundover bit in the router table to shape the box sides to fit the top curve of the joint you just routed into the box front. Tape the whole stack of box sides together for this operation, and use a waste block or an extra sacrificial side piece to follow through the cut to prevent tearout (Fig. 7). The corners of the box sides could be rounded in a variety of ways – with a bandsaw, jigsaw or even a disk sander – but routing several at once with a 3/8" roundover bit guarantees that the curve of the box sides will exactly match the one routed into the box fronts.

With the box sides still taped together, bandsaw them to shape (Fig. 8). Then use a random orbit sander to remove the bandsaw cut lines (Fig. 9). 

Use a 3/8"-radius core box or cove bit to cut the decorative cove on the box fronts, setting it only 1/8" above the table height and 3/8" protruding from behind the fence (Fig. 10). Rout the endgrain first, so that routing side grain will remove any tearout. I chose not to rout the bottom of the fronts in this manner, but you can if you like the look.

Sand all the parts thoroughly before assembly.


Use a very narrow band of polyurethane glue to prevent excess glue from squeezing out and making a mess of things (Fig. 11).

Use clear plastic packaging tape to pull the parts tightly together while the glue sets (Fig. 12). The packing tape holds more than securely enough and allows parts to be adjusted slightly during glueup. The important thing here is not the amount of clamping pressure, but that the parts be held in exactly the right position as the glue sets up. Tape also has the advantage of being far less awkward to use than the vast array of clamps and blocks to distribute clamping pressure and prevent marring of the surface. One minor disadvantage is that it may leave a sticky residue if left on too long, but this will disappear with final sanding.

Double-check and triple-check that the parts are aligned properly because there will be no chance to adjust things once the glue has permanently set. Fortunately, polyurethane glue is slow-setting, giving you plenty of adjustment time. On the downside, it’s somewhat slippery when wet and parts can slide unexpectedly, so keep a careful watch.

After the glue sets, begin sanding the outside by using the stationary belt sander to level the bottom to 150-grit (Fig. 13). Use great care to avoid oversanding, which could prevent the box from sitting level on the shelf.

For the rest of the sanding, work steadily through increasing grits to 320. Use a shaped sanding block to sand the decorative routing on the box fronts (Fig. 14). I made a sanding block for the task, using a 1/4" roundover bit in the router table to rout the stock to shape, but you can also wrap sandpaper around a short length of dowel. 

Hardware installation

When these boxes sit side-by-side on a shelf, any errors in attaching the brass hardware to the fronts will be immediately obvious. Accurate installation of the hardware requires lots of careful measuring, or a simple jig. The choice is yours.

To make the jig, simply cut a piece of scrap plywood to the width of the box front, and long enough to mark the desired location of the hardware. Cut out a rectangle at one end so the hardware fits in place (Fig. 15). Clamp the jig firmly in place and drill pilot holes for the screws (Fig. 16).

Finish the magazine boxes with three coats of Danish oil or your favorite furniture finish.

As a final touch, photocopy the tag above onto heavier-than-normal paper (maybe even an off-white), trim just outside the line and slip into the brass card holder.

Doug Stowe

A 30-year maker of furniture and wooden boxes, Doug Stowe teaches at the Clear Spring School, Arrowmont, Marc Adams School and the Eureka Springs School of the Arts. His most recent book is “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making.”


Table saw, miter gauge, stop blocks, router table, 3/4" straight bit, 1/4" and 3/8" roundover bits, 3/8"-radius core box or cove bit; packaging tape; 100-320-grit sandpaper, random orbit sander, belt sander, drill


Brass card holder w/pull,
#127402, $11.99 

Woodcraft Supply
(800) 225-1153

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