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Treasure Box For Eliza

Updated: Nov 7, 2021


Eliza is my nephew’s daughter and in a couple of days she’ll be five years old. I decided to make a treasure box for her birthday and since I imagined that this box might end up in her toy chest, together with the rest of her toys, I thought that it should be a simple, sturdy little box that can take abuse without falling apart, and still look like a treasure box fit for a “princess”.

Because of the time constraints and a five-year old’s lack of appreciation of dovetails and refined inlay work, I decided to nail, yeah, nail it together. Some purists out there might be scoffing, but the important thing here is for Eliza to like her present. And for that I have to try and think a bit like a five-year-old does.

I decided to use walnut and maple from a good supply of cut-offs accumulated over many years. I found pieces that were just the right thickness, 5/16 for the front and back, 5/8 for the ends and 1/2 in for the top and 1/8 plywood for the bottom. Whatever I decide for the dimensions of the box, the two end pieces need to be 1/2” taller than the front and back, the reason for that will become obvious when the lid will be installed.

Most of the dimensioning will be done on the table saw, including cross-cutting for which I use the miter gauge. The blade cuts a 1/8” kerf and since the bottom will be “captive”, I cut a 3/16” deep groove 1/4” from the bottom, on the inside of all four pieces, front, back and sides. The two side pieces will receive a rabbet 1/4” deep and 1/2” wide. This provides a positive stop for the front and back and using a rubber band I put the four pieces together to measure for the plywood bottom.

With the bottom cut and put in place, I re-assemble the box with a little glue where the front and back overlap the end pieces, and hold it together using the rubber band again. I use brass plated carpet nails to attach the front and back pieces in place. To prevent the thin wood from splitting, I place one nail with the head removed in the drill and go part-way into the wood where the nails will be.

I cut the lid to fit between the end pieces and 1/4” wider. It will pivot on two1/8” brass pins. I drill the holes on the drill press with the lid in place with two play-cards as shims between it and the back, going about 1 and 1/4” deep.

A drop of Super Glue (cyanoacrylate) on the end of the pins before I drive them home will keep them from falling out.

At this point I clamp the 3" by 21" belt sander upside down (with the belt up) and do a little free-hand sanding of the whole box, rounding up corners and shaping the sides and lid so that it won't look clunky, followed by some fine sanding with the orbital sander with 180 grit disc.

A small piece of padauk cut in the shape of a heart and attached to the top with a drop or Super Glue and a coat of Danish Oil, finishes the box.


Happy 5th Birthday Eliza!

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