Archive for the ‘ sliding lid ’ Category

More Sliding Lid Boxes – Hexagons

I had good success last year making simple sliding lid pencil boxes for the Dupage Woodworkers Club. My construction method is documented in this Weblog post. This spring I adapted the method and jigs to produce six sided boxes. The hexagonal box construction is very similar to the earlier rectangular pencil boxes so please refer to that post for details. Here I will describe the few differences.

Obviously there are two more side pieces to deal with. That’s the bad news. The good news is they are all the same length so the spacer is not required. I expected the glue up to be a big problem with the additional surfaces but with slow setting Old Brown liquid hide glue it hasn’t been an issue. There are two handle pieces to cut instead of one, and making the hexagonal lid plates is more complicated.

First, the math. The hexagonal lid plates are made from rectangular blanks. The length of the rectangular blank is the width divided by cosine of 30 degrees. To find the length of the side pieces, take half the lid blank width, add the thickness of the side stock, subtract 1/8″, then divide by the cosine of 30 degrees. Trust me, it works.

I’m using a Diablo 7 1/4″ 40 tooth finishing blade now, it cuts a very narrow kerf. I modified my regular cross cut sled to cut the lid hexagons. There is a batten tacked to the sled to establish the 30 degree angle. Actually it worked better to measure 150 degrees from the fence face on the obtuse side of the batten. This angle is critical. Next I added a movable stop to position the rectangular blank at the correct spot.

Hex Lid Jig Stop Down

Hex Lid Jig Stop Down

The stop has a hinged end, as I quickly found the small triangular cutoffs would catch on the saw blade and be launched into low earth orbit. Raising the stop lets the cutoff fall free.

Hex Lid Jig Stop Raised

Hex Lid Jig Stop Raised

The movable stop has to be calibrated to match the lid stock. I draw the hexagon onto one of the blanks then the long side of the rectangle is placed against the batten with the corner touching the stop. The stop is tweaked until the blade cuts on the line. I cut the marked blank half way to see how it’s going, then loosen the stop screws and adjust. Once the stop is calibrated it’s simply rotating a rectangular blank until the four edges are cut off.

I made a you tube video of the jig cutting a hexagon. It’s the best way to see what’s going on.

Here’s enough lids to make sixteen boxes. It goes very quickly.

Completed Hexagonal Lids

Completed Hexagonal Lids

Cutting the six side pieces requires a dedicated cross cut sled with the blade set at 30 degrees off vertical (60 degrees from the saw table). I use an adjustable flip stop as described in the sliding lid box post. There is a note at the end of the pencil box post for Doug Stowe’s method that does not require the stop to flip up.

30 Degree Crosscut Sled

30 Degree Crosscut Sled

To calibrate the stop, make the first bevel by raising the stop and bringing the stock in from the left with face side up. Note if you have a saw with a right tilt blade, these directions will be reversed.

Side Jig Second Cut

Side Jig First Cut

Measure and mark the side length on the stock then with the stock on the right side, carefully place the mark right at the saw kerf in the sled fence. Adjust the stop to that position and cut the second bevel. Once the stop is calibrated the rest of the sides go quickly. 16 boxes will need 192 cuts. For these boxes I saved time by cutting the lid grooves in the long stock before the stock was sliced into sides.

Side Jig Second Cut

Side Jig Second Cut

The side pieces are dot marked to maintain grain direction.  Designating the two pieces with three dots for handles makes the opening side exactly opposite the starting grain discontinuity. Rabbiting the lid plates and cutting off the handles is similar to the rectangular box procedure.

Gluing the hex box is similar to gluing the pencil boxes but the assembly jig is different. It now has three sides, one adjustable to account for different sized boxes. People with six hands might not need the assembly jig.

Adjustable Hex Box Assembly Jig

Adjustable Hex Box Assembly Jig

This is the jig with a box nestled between the battens. It’s a dry fit with rubber bands. I use stronger bands cut from bicycle inner tubes for the real glue up.

Hex Box Assembly Jig In Action

Hex Box Assembly Jig In Action

These are the first couple of boxes made from construction pine during the debugging phase of the jigs. Cupped lid stock is more a problem with these than it was with the narrower pencil boxes.

First Hex Boxes

First Hex Boxes

I made a number of boxes from Cherry. These two were specially done for the Beads of Courage project. Before slicing the sides, I glued on a beveled strip of Cherry at the top and bottom, and inset a small strip of Maple in the top edge. They are about 7″ wide.

First Hex Boxes

Beads of Courage Boxes in Cherry

These are the sixteen boxes made for the club Christmas drive. Menards had glued up, 1x12x48″ Poplar panels on sale for $5, I bought two. With careful measurement and calculations each panel made eight boxes.

Completed Run Sixteen Hexagonal Boxes

Completed Run Sixteen Hexagonal Boxes


Update August 2018:

Five boxes made for the Dupage Woodworkers fall Beads of Courage project. Cherry with strips of Aspen as accent.

Beads of Courage boxes

Beads of Courage boxes


Update September 2018:

Trying a vertical pencil box design. I like it. Doesn’t take up so much room on your desk. If I make them a little bit longer, will be good to store spaghetti.

Crosscut sled not needed, just tilt the blade and use the fence. Gluing is easier because it’s all long grain but the top and bottom edges are now end grain which makes the lid slot weak. Each one of these used about 11 inches of a 1×6.

Vertical Pencil Box

Vertical Pencil Box


Sliding Lid Pencil Boxes

Sliding Lid Pencil Boxes

Update September 2018:

I had trouble with getting the two lid handle cutoffs to align with each other. Sometimes there is a small step where the two glued on pieces meet. It is caused by a small amount of play in the vertical kerf of the old wooden miter box I use to cut off the handles. The Adria tenon saw is slightly narrower than the slot.

I have come up with a sure fire way to ensure the two handles are cut off the side pieces at an identical distance from the top. Note here, I always center the lid handles on the two sides with three dots so the three dot junction defines the front of the completed box. These two 1/8″ x 1/4″ wood splines fit precisely in the lid groove slots. I use them to index the two side pieces back to back before placing them in the miter box.

Two Hardwood Splines for Aligning Front Pieces

Two Hardwood Splines for Aligning Front Pieces


The splines are inserted in the top and bottom lid slots in the two front box pieces. The two pieces are sandwiched back to back.

Fitting Front Pieces Back to Back

Fitting Front Pieces Back to Back


Both three dot ends are nearest the saw handle. The sandwiched sides are shoved up against the stop, set about a half inch from the miter box kerf. Sawing down the kerf will now cut off handle pieces of identical height.

Back to Back Side Pieces Ready To Cut

Back to Back Side Pieces Ready To Cut


When I remove the cut off handle pieces, I mark the end that came from the three dot edge of the side pieces. This helps align the handles over their original side piece at glue time, which ensures there is not a vertical grain discontinuity.

Marking Three Dot End of Lid Handle Pieces

Marking Three Dot End of Lid Handle Pieces


The cut off handles are tested for fit on the lid plate tenon. I have my Miller Falls 85 rebate plane clamped upside down in the bench vise to do any tuning necessary.

Fitting Handle Pieces to Lid Plate

Fitting Handle Pieces to Lid Plate


Update October 2018

Someone on YouTube asked how the dimensions of the rectangular blank used to make the lid hexagons were derived. I made this drawing while working through the math myself.

Analysis of Hexagonal Lid

Analysis of Hexagonal Lid

Here is a circle with a hexagon inscribed. Almost everyone has done this with a compass at some time, draw a circle then step off the hexagon points by marching the compass around the circle. So sides of the hexagon are the same length as the radius and I have drawn one of the side-center equilateral triangles formed. Now I have drawn a rectangle (red) outside the hexagon representing the wooden blank needed to make the lid. What are the dimensions of the blank? The long dimension left to right is equal to twice the radius of the original circle. The short dimension top to bottom can found by looking at the small triangle formed by dropping a vertical line from the top left point of the hexagon. The vertical adjacent side of this triangle will be equal to the radius times cosine 30 degrees, and this is half the short dimension. Thus the total short side of the red rectangle is equal the the diameter of the circle (long dimension of the rectangle) times cosine 30 degrees.

More typically, the short dimension is known first as it is usually the edge to edge dimension of the board forming the blank. The long dimension will then be, short dimension divided by cosine 30 degrees.

When setting up the crosscut sled jig to cut the hexagon from a properly sized blank, the long side (bottom) of the rectangle is slid down the angled batten until the top right corner of the blank contacts the flip stop. The flip stop is adjusted until the saw cuts exactly to the right hand hexagon point which is the exact center of the blank’s short side. The easiest way to do this setup is to actually draw the hexagon on the first blank, then adjust the stop until the saw cuts right down the line. Initially move the stop in farther then necessary and make a partial test cut halfway down the line. Then move the stop out a bit at a time until the blade is cutting exactly on the line and the cut finishes at the midpoint of the short side. Beware of sawdust accumulating on the angled batten which will throw off the calibration.



Sliding Lid Pencil Boxes


“The Woodwright’s Shop”, Season 36, Episode 2 shows Roy Underhill’s method of quickly making many small wooden boxes for Christmas gifts.  The show is not really about boxes, but about jigs to make them.  I decided this would be a good project for the Dupage Woodworkers Club annual charity Christmas toy drive. Club members make a lot of toy cars which are most appropriate for boys. These boxes will appeal to girls or boys. I adapted the Woodwright’s ideas to mass produce boxes using a table saw, apologies to Roy, but my goal is to make 14 in a day.

Saws cut fingers as easily as wood. In many of these operations hands are very close to the blade. Pay attention, think through each cut before moving the wood,  and turn the saw off to clear chips. I will not be responsible if you injure yourself.

Small boxes can get away with mitered corners simply glued. Three things are necessary for a box to come together perfectly:

  1. Miter cuts must be perfectly square to the edges

  2. Opposite sides must be exactly the same length

  3. Mitered edges must be cut to a precise 45 degree angle

Given that standard pencils are 7 1/2 inches, the first boxes were designed for an inside dimension just under 8″. They are made from 1×3 stock from the local Home Center (really 3/4″ x 2 1/2″) resawn and planed to 5/16 thickness. I need 39 3/4 inches of stock to make one box and It’s possible to get fourteen out of three 8 foot boards. Dimensions are:

  • Height: Full stock width 2 1/2″
  • Front width: 2 7/8″
  • Side length: 8 1/2″
  • Top and bottom lid width: Full stock width 2 1/2″
  • Top and bottom lid length: 8 1/8″

These dimensions were calculated to fit using 5/16″x2 1/2″ stock. See this paper for details.

The main tool is a table saw with a 3/32″ thin kerf blade to cut out the parts, and a standard 1/8″ thick blade to make the top and bottom grooves.  I resaw the 3/4″ thick boards with the thin blade. You could of course use a band saw but I don’t have one. Finally a lunch box planer cleans and thicknesses the resulting 5/16 stock.

You also need a miter gauge, or better (and safer) a crosscut sled, equipped with a flip down stop like this Rockler part. I made a stop from two pieces of hardwood scrap, two quarter inch bolts, and a makeshift T track.

I carefully adjust the fence to 90 degrees from the bar using an engineers square to satisfy the first rule above.


This is the dedicated crosscut sled I fabricated. A piece of half inch MDF core plywood and two pieces of leftover oak flooring. Did not take long to make, the critical things are the rear fence has to be flat and exactly perpendicular to the saw kerf. I used 3/4 inch pine for the two runners. The sled is now the only thing I’m using to cut the box miters. It is much easier to control than the extended saw gauge. I use the saw mitre gauge only for the vertical lid cuts.


This is a closer view of the flip stop. Placing the board against the rigid stop satisfies the second condition above.


And this is with the stop flipped up.


You also need a spacer block so you don’t have to reposition the flip stop to cut the shorter end pieces after cutting a longer side piece. The length of the spacer block is the difference between the long side and the shorter end pieces, 5 5/8″.


Because it takes time to set up each operation, every piece of stock is handled in parallel. In other words, if you are making 14 boxes from three 1″x3″x8′ boards, do step 1 on all boards before moving to step 2, do step 2 on all pieces before setting up step 3, etc.

  1. all the 3/4″ boards are crosscut according to the cutlist
  2. all the boards are resawn to half thickness
  3. all boards planed to 5/16″
  4. cut four mitered sides for every box
  5. cut top and bottom plates for every box
  6. cut grooves in each side to receive top and bottom
  7. rabbit edges of each top and bottom plate
  8. slice the half inch handle portion off the front piece

At that point you should be ready for glue.

Here is  a cut list for the project, also available as a PDF. It’s easier to resaw the 3/4″ stock if it is cut into shorter lengths.

Note: Drawings and files can be downloaded from Dropbox.


I do the resaw in three passes, raising the blade about a half inch each time, ripping both top and bottom edges. I first check the blade for exact squareness using a Wixey digital angle gauge and set up a feather board. If my saw had a bigger motor I could do this in fewer passes.

I always try to move my lunchbox planer to the driveway when thicknessing stock so I can clean up the mess with a leaf blower.  Since these boxes are destined to be unfinished gifts for small children, it’s not necessary to do a perfect planing job but any snipe or defective spots should be marked to go to the inside surface. Actually, in this cold weather, I have been planing most of the resawn boards with hand planes. It goes quickly and warms me up.

Once the 5/16″ stock is ready, the first step is to mitre one end. The saw blade is tilted to 45 degrees measured with my digital Wixey (love that thing) to satisfy the third condition above, and raised through an aluminum insert for zero clearance.  Note this is a left tilt saw.

Stock is positioned on the right side and aligned using the tilted fence kerf to cut the first bevel. The stop is lowered and adjusted for this set of boxes so the outside measurement to the blade is 8 1/2″.


Move the stock to the left side and make the second cut by holding it against the lowered flip stop. This completes the first long side.


Raise the stop, return the stock to the right side, and make a new initial bevel as before. The cutlist measurements are tight so it’s necessary to cut exactly on the previous bevel line.

For the second cut the spacer block is placed against the flip stop to create a 2 7/8″ end piece.


Repeat the above two operations to create another long side and another short end piece.  Cutting out the four sides of a box takes only a couple of minutes once the initial setup is done.


Cutting box sides sequentially from a single board lets the wood grain wrap around three of the four corners, a nice touch. To make that possible, the box has to be ultimately glued up in the same order as it was cut.  Turn the pieces in order bevel side up and mark each beveled edge with it’s mate. If you make marks on the bevel near the center, they won’t show when the box is assembled.  Use a dark Sharpie so you can see the dots through a layer of glue, (but not too dark, I found sometimes the Sharpie bleeds through to the outside face). In this photo, see a one dot corner and a two dot corner for box #5. Note how the grain flows through the three pieces.


Care in squaring the fence, setting the blade angle, and using a solid flip stop is rewarded with perfectly closed corner joints.


Finish the six box components by cutting out two plates for the top and bottom. Return the thin kerf blade to vertical, adjust the stop for an 8 1/8″ cut and make two pieces. That little bit is all that’s left over from one of the 40 inch boards.


Here are four box kits ready for grooving.


Next, set up the table saw to do eighth inch deep grooves at the top and bottom of each side piece. The same setup can be used to make eighth inch rabbits around the top and bottom plates.  I use a 1/8″ brass setup bar to help set the saw to just over 1/8″ height and spaced 1/8″ from the fence. The blade in the photo is one side of a Freud dado stack. It makes a clean cut and has the correct width.


Roy’s video shows cutting the groove before slicing off the beveled side pieces. With the table saw it’s easier to do this after the sides are cut out.

Here I am grooving a long side using a push block.


Grooving the short side. Have to be extra careful where you put your fingers.


Now all four sides of each top and bottom plate get rabbited. You need an eighth inch tongue on each edge that makes a sliding fit in the groove around the box sides. It may take some fine adjusting of the spacing between saw fence and blade to get the fit just right. The plate should slide easily in the groove but not rattle around.

Hold the pieces vertically, pushing them across the saw blade. Cutting the tongue with a single eighth inch blade leaves a thin sliver of material on the inside edge of the top and bottom pieces. You can eliminate that by adding a second Dado blade on the saw arbor to make a kerf wide enough to remove all the wood.  Or just break off the sliver.

Here I have added a tall fence to help guide the lid plates, and I’m using a push block for the end grain cuts. Even with the push block, the piece tends to wobble and cut unevenly, so I usually make two passes to make sure the rabbit is full depth. It’s best to do the short edges first, then the long edges.


Rabbiting the long side is straight forward. Again, fingers are close to the blade so extra care is needed.


The final milling step is to mark and slice one of the ends off a half inch down. I do this in an old fashioned wooden miter box with a saw that makes a fairly thin kerf. Pick the end that has the grain wrapping around both sides, this should be the end piece with one dot and two dots. You can clamp a stop block inside the miter box to speed things up if there are many boxes to cut.


Here is a completed set of pencil box components.


Finally the glue up which takes more time than cutting out the parts. Use a long open time adhesive like Liquid Hide Glue or Titebond III. I apply with an acid brush that has half it’s bristles clipped off to make it stiffer.

Here’s all my gluing tools. Bottle cap to hold a puddle of Titebond or LHG, wood stick wrapped with damp towel to clean grooves, cut down acid brush, burnisher to close corners, thin snap knife to cut lid handle free if it’s gotten stuck from squeeze out. The tools are sitting in a two sided tray I use to hold the box while assembling the parts.


Roy says to rubber band the parts so I made Red Neck glue clamps from something I have a lot of, punctured bicycle inner tubes.  Just slit a length of tube top and bottom. They will stretch about 25% so make the slit an inch or so shorter than the box. It helps if you use the two sided tray to corral the box parts while you’re stretching the rubber over the outside.

A 45 degree miter will be half end grain. To get good adhesion, I paint glue on the bevels in two stages,  I give each a first coat to fill the wood pores, then after a minute, another coat to do the joining.  Try not to get glue in the corners of the eighth inch grooves, it will stick the lid plates in place and you don’t want that. Make a groove cleaning tool by folding a damp paper shop towel around the end of a putty knife. Do NOT apply glue to the bevel area at the box front where the half inch handle will go.

Put the box together by inserting the top and bottom plates in the two long side pieces first (watching those Sharpie dots), then press on the end pieces. The half inch handle is not glued at this time but do put it in place to help shape the rest of the box.  Apply two Red Neck rubber band clamps, then fuss the side corners to get good miter alignment.  Also check that the miter joints are aligned vertically so the top and bottom edges are all in the same plane.  It doesn’t take much of a vertical mis alignment to make the sliding lid hard to seat. Finally check with a small square to see if the corners are 90 degrees.

Allow a few minutes for the glue to take hold, then pull the half inch handle off.  Slide the top plate out. If it won’t budge, you have squeeze out on the back corners. Get a pair of pliers and wiggle the lid until it lets go. Now apply glue to the end of the lid that will receive the handle. Press the handle on to the end of the top plate, centering it on the plate and clean up any squeeze out on the bevels.  Place one or two thicknesses of paper towel in the groove at the rear of the box top. This will force the lid plate into the handle groove. Push plate and handle back into the box against the paper towel, making sure the handle seats properly against the box sides. Slide the rubber band up over the handle.


Remove the Red Neck clamps the next morning, sand off any glue squeeze out, and lightly break sharp corners and edges with fine sandpaper. If there are any gaps in the miters, you may be able to close them by burnishing the two edges. The lid should slide smoothly. If it doesn’t, tune with sandpaper or a shoulder plane. For extra credit, plane the top and bottom edges flat. I use a 5 1//4 for this, the bed is long enough to use the opposite side of the box as a reference surface.


This has been a very satisfying project. Thanks to Roy Underhill for the inspiration. Here is the first crop in Poplar and Pine from Menards cut off bin.


Update 12/26/16

I had a few of the lids stick hard due to squeeze out in the back corners. Had to pull them out with pliers which runs the risk of damaging the wood. Now I’m nipping about 1/3 of each corner off with a chisel which gives squeeze out a place to go. I don’t nip the front corners of the top lid where it will be fitted to the handle piece.


Update 2/1/17
I typed up the page of arithmetic for sizing the box parts. Also made a spread sheet to do the calculations. All this and more is in this zip archive.

Update 2/11/2017
Trying an alternate design. These 4″ x 4″ x 4″ cubes are each made from a 24 inch piece of 4″ by 5/16″ stock which was ripped and resawn from a 1×10. Since the sides are square, I don’t need a spacer. Also learning more about Titebond Liquid Hide Glue, you do need to paint on two coats or the joint will be weak. And I’ve found that a small amount of warp is tolerable, because cutting the stock into short pieces means the warp in each piece is small. Warp can complicate resawing though, and if the board is cupped, you will have trouble with the glueup. A cupped board will not allow an accurate miter unless it’s forced down flat on the crosscut sled.

I made these 12 in one afternoon, glueups were done the following morning in the house where it’s warmer. I cut up my last bicycle inner tube to make shorter redneck clamps, using a paper punch to make a hole at the ends of each slit which should reduce strain at that point.



Update 2/20/2017

Revised some photos and text to emphasize use of a crosscut sled. It really does work better.

Update 4/3/2017

Nineteen pencil box sized “kits”. This batch was made from steeply discounted lumber and will bring my count to 110 boxes. I think that’s enough, I’m running out of places to put them.When I go through the production process I line up all the box parts on the bench to keep them together. After the last operation each is rubber banded into a package ready for glue. It’s still too cold to work liquid hide glue in my garage so these will be finished in the house.


And here are the 19 pencil boxes assembled, sanded and ready to go.


Also built several mongrels out of scrap. Making a box from bits of different boards has it’s own set of problems. I’m keeping these two and applying three coats of Watco oil.


Update 5/13/2017

I can’t stop making these things. Over 130 now. This batch is mostly mongrels, made from scraps but the four cubes on the right came from a single 24 inch 1×10 from Menards’ cut-off pile. The board was was $1.75 so less than 50 cents per box.  Two Cherry cubes on the right have a center divider, both lids slide open. I’m keeping and finishing that nice grained Yellow Pine bottom center, and some of the Cherry boxes.


Update 11/18/2017

I’m presenting my methods to the Dupage County Woodworkers Club next week and since I can’t fit a table saw into my car, have created a slide show.

It is downloadable from dropbox at

The miter sled is upgraded to a real TTrack and there is a different setup for making the grooves. The calculations are now done with a spreadsheet.


Update 05/17/2018

The spring 2018 episode 35 video from Highland Woodworking, about 22 minutes in, shows Doug Stowe creating mitered corner boxes using a crosscut sled and spacer block in a manner similar to mine. His method does not require a flip stop though.