Celtic Finger-Joint Box

November, 2015

I recently purchased an X-Carve CNC Mill and wanted to see what it could do.  In the Easel online control software, it has a tool to generate a pattern for a finger-joint box called “Box Maker”.  It generates a pattern for a 5-sided box with tabs that fit together to create a nice-looking fit.  Not content with a plain box, I decided to add some nice Celtic patterns on each side. I used Inkscape to import some images and traced them to create path files that could be imported into Easel.


For the box, I chose some nice Paduk wood that I bought at WoodCraft.  They come pre-cut in 1/2″ deep stock about 24″ long and 8″ wide.  I adjusted the pattern design to accommodate the wood stock.

I was eager to get started, so I set everything up and let ‘er rip without any testing.  The X-Carve performed very well and I had my box pieces very quickly.  I found the Paduk wood to be quite nice to work with, although it did create a lot of sawdust that seemed to hang in the air.


Once complete, I was surprised to find the pieces did not fit together!  After a 2nd attempt and much filing and sanding, I was able to coax the pieces together.  Extra effort was required to fine tune the interior corners so they would fit nicely.  I created a 6th piece for the lid with a large, intricate Celtic pattern.

As an after-thought, I thought it might be interesting to attempt an inlay for some of the designs.  I was able to quickly program the Easel to invert the design  to create inlay pieces out of Pine wood.  After a bit of coaxing and a few broken pieces, I was able to get the pine to sit inside the cut pattern.  I didn’t cut the pattern very deeply, so the pine sticks out about 1/8″.  I could have sanded them down further, but risked breaking them.  After some consideration, I found that it gives a nice 3D effect, so I kept it.

I finished the wood with Formby’s High Gloss Tung Oil. I used a cotton cloth to apply 3 coats.  I think the results look really nice.  I used wood glue to join all the finished pieces together – it dries clear and holds tightly.  Finally, I found a strip of black leather that fit perfectly into two of the patterns.  I was able to force the leather into one of the design patterns.  I used wood glue to keep it in place.

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I added hinges, and found a small gap around the lip of the lid (used the wrong kind of hinges), so I added a thin, black adhesive foam strip to make the lid sit nicely.

For now, the finished product sits on my desk holding a small collection of unused USB sticks.  Perhaps I will gift it to someone in the future.


Lessons Learned

  • I used a 1/8″ bit on the router, but should have used a smaller bit in order to make the pieces fit better with less effort.
  • For my first attempt, I used the Easel setting “cut on the line” which resulted in pieces that did not fit.  I got much better results which I used the setting “cut inside the line”.  It was an expensive mistake – I ended up wasting quite a bit of nice wood.
  • I should have invested in some nice wood chisels to clean up the inside corners.  I attempted to use some wood files, which required a lot of effort.
  • Next time, I’ll use thinner wood and more, smaller fingers for a cleaner look.

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