The Liquor Box
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The Liquor Box, Part 5 Finished

Hey y’all. We left off last time with the box components completed, but not glued together. There remains three steps which need to be accomplished before I can call the box finished.

First, the box lid and the box itself are basically a frame and panel assembly. The sides of the box and lid form the frame and the top and bottom are the panel. The top and bottom are sized to allow for seasonal wood movement and will float within their frames. Due to this, I need to apply the finish to the top and bottom prior to glue-up.

Applying finish means I need to get the top and bottom ready for finish. The material for both is walnut which was sourced from a friend. The board given to me had some of the pith or center of the tree in it. Some of the pith was soft resembling rot, but I’m not sure it was actually decay associated with wood rot. Regardless, I needed to remove a small amount of loose material and fill it prior to finish. And there were additional repairs needed (which gave this material it’s rustic look).

To do this, I turned to Starbond Brown Medium CA glue. I had seen this used as a filler a number of times on Instagram. Combined with an activator, this filler/adhesive dries almost instantly. Upon application, the look is pretty horrible, but ultimately it worked well as a filler…

Filler applied to the bottom of the box. I hope the final look is much better.
Much better after sanding.
This is the top after an application of a clear water based polyurethane.

After multiple attempts to get the finish just right, I saw again how beautiful walnut is. The photo above does not pick up the subtle tones of pink/purple. Again these highlights are subtle, but these hints of color make walnut a truly beautiful wood.

I applied finish to the interior dividers and the interior faces of the ash components and completed the glue-up giving the box its final shape.

Glue-up complete. The box still needs it’s keys and handles.

Adding Walnut Keys

One of the design features of the liquor box are walnut keys or splines used at each corner. This type of joinery is both effective as well as decorative. I think these keys adds a contemporary design element to the box and the fact that the keys will be walnut all the better.

But this step is especially stressful. Imagine all the work leading up to this point only to have the box ruined by an errant cut meant to make way for the keys. Another thing: I have never made this type of joint before. I have no experience here.

To cut the slots for the keys, I needed to make a sled which will hold the lid and box at the correct angle as it moves through my table saw blade. I created a model of the sled in SketchUp which helped me plan this step. Sorry for the bodacious number of photos below, but I think they better explain what I needed to do…

Nervous: ready to cut slots for keys.
Slots cut with no errors. Thin strips of walnut seen will become the keys.
Small pieces of walnut keys being sanded to fit.
Walnut keys glued in place and trimmed with a saw.
Keys planed flush with the outside edge of the box.
Keys installed and a little finish on the ash previewing the final color combination.

All the planning payed off as the keys were installed without any issues; a great relief. And I love the look of the double keys evenly spaced along the corner of the box.

All that remains is a handle for the top which was screwed in place. Then handles for the box ends where were glued on.

The Finished Liquor Box

Here it is. I could not be more pleased…

Careful viewing of the image at the top of this post shows the original walnut handle which had some sapwood along the top. I removed it when I became unhappy with the finish for the lid. I re-finished the lid and decided not to make a design statement with the second handle; no sap wood.

When completing a project, I normally reflect back on the original design, below. Note that all the handles have an additional slender strip attached. This was added afterwards (no photos of it added) helping provide a better grip to the handles.

So, there it is; my first box project. Just like the many other forms of woodworking, box making is its own sub-category of the craft. I would like to continue to make more boxes in the years ahead. I tend to build large projects, so box making is a fun change.

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During the week, I work in the flooring industry. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


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