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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.

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Turn your blank into a cylinder then cut tenons on each end with a parting tool. Use a caliper to size the tenon to fit your scroll chuck.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Use a thin-kerf parting tool to separate the lid from the base. This tool removes as little material as possible and helps maintain the grain match at the joint.

Rough out the inside of the lid with a 1/2-in. side scraper. Hollowing end grain is best done from the center out to minimize tear-out. 

Check that the mortise does not taper in towards the center of the lid by holding a rule against the mortise. The perfect mortise will position the ruler so that it sits parallel with the lathe bed. 

Mount the base in the jaw chuck. Cut a tenon that tapers so the lid just fits on the end. Twist the lid to create a burnished line then shave the tenon down to that line. The fit has to be tight so the lid won’t spin as it’s turned on the base.

Shape the top of the lid with a shallow gouge. Let your creativity be your guide for the top design. Shoot for a 3/16" – 1/4" thick top.

Use a spindle-roughing gouge to shape the rest of the box. A groove cut with a parting tool marks the bottom of the box.  

Cut a shallow V-groove at the joint with a skew. This detail helps disguise slight changes in circularity that may show up at the joint over time. 

Use a side radius scraper to continue hollowing the base after drilling out its interior using a drill chuck mounted in the tailstock. Start in the drilled opening and work from the center out.

Part the base off from the blank. Be sure to leave enough wood on the base so the bottom can be scooped out in the next step. 

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker April/May 2007, issue #128.

April/May 2007, issue #128

Purchase this back issue.


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