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Turned Lidded Box Saint Charles IL

Why hollow end grain when you can make a box from face grain? The answer is simple: an end-grain box is more stable. That means your lid will fit well all year long. Face-grain turnings change shape more dramatically with changes in humidity causing the lid to fit perfectly one day and fit too tight the next. If you want a loose fitting lid and a different grain look, then a face-grain box is acceptable.

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Turned Lidded Box

Turned Lidded Box

A Precision Fit Lid that Snaps Shut

by Alan Lacer

Of all the different forms of woodturning, I find the most delight in creating lidded boxes. The satisfying snap of a well fit lid as it closes, the beauty of the shape and the wood combined with the usefulness of a lidded container just do it for me. Turning a lidded box is a demanding project, but anyone with a few bowls and some spindle work under their belt can produce these wonderful objects. All it takes is a methodical approach and sound technique.   

A lidded box presents two unique challenges. One is creating the perfect fit between the lid and base. Think of it as a precise joint that’s designed to come apart.

The other challenge is hollowing end grain. End grain can be up to five times harder than side grain and is prone to tear out. Even experienced bowl turners are surprised when they first try hollowing end grain. Fortunately, these problems can be overcome by switching from a gouge to a scraper when hollowing end grain. If you fall in love with lidded boxes, you might consider purchasing a ring or a hook tool that’s designed specifically for cutting end grain. 

Why hollow end grain when you can make a box from face grain? The answer is simple: an end-grain box is more stable. That means your lid will fit well all year long. Face-grain turnings change shape more dramatically with changes in humidity causing the lid to fit perfectly one day and fit too tight the next. If you want a loose fitting lid and a different grain look, then a face-grain box is acceptable. 

For this story, I will take you through the entire process of making an end-grain box with a snug, friction-fit lid. We’ll cover chucking the parts in different manners, cutting end grain, tight tolerances, hollowing in a narrow space, creating the desired “perfect fit,” and dealing with a joint designed to come apart. 

What You'll Need


Choosing Your Wood 

If you are new to box making I suggest using walnut, soft maple or cherry.   These woods are easy to turn and make fine looking boxes. Select a piece that’s 3-in. square and 5 to 6-in. long. The wood needs to be dry throughout, as you can afford very little dimensional change as you turn these boxes.  Move up to exotic domestic or imported woods as you gain experience.

A perfect fitting lid is best achieved by roughing out the lid and base interiors first, then letting them sit for a few days or more before finishing the box. Almost all species of wood will change shape when extensively hollowed, no matter how well they are dried.  

Prepare The Blank For The Chuck

1. Mount your blank between centers as you would for spindle turning.  Create a cylinder with the spindle-roughing gouge.

2. Cut tenons on both ends of the cylinder (Photo 1).

Click here to read the rest of the article from American Woodworker