How To Make Coin Boxes
I have a few family members who are big Tennessee football fans and coin collectors. So it seemed fitting to make them coin boxes as gifts this year, to make them more personal I dyed them my best imitation of Tennessee orange.
Boxes are always a great woodworking project because so many other projects are really just some sort of a box. Boxes are also a great project because they’re incredibly scalable, put a lot of detail on the fundaments of being flat, square, and flush, and fit every skill level. You can start with rough or surfaced lumber, use fasteners like like nails or screws or build one to practice the latest double half blind waxing moon mitered dovetail that Dorian Bracht has demonstrated. Plus, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a bunch of random junk or paper around that could be thrown in a box, so once you’re done with them it’s easy to find an unwitting friend or family member that will easily believe it was a very thoughtful gift.
I decided to make these boxes out of some quarter sawn white oak I had on hand, you’ve been watching me break it down and mill it to size. But if you’re not set up to work with rough lumber, you can just pick up some lumber that is already surfaced, just be mindful to pick really straight and flat stock or you’ll have a lot of headaches getting everything to line up well.
I started with 4/4 stock which is just over an inch thick, but even after milling they are a lot thicker than I want for small boxes so I resaw them in half on the bandsaw. For small pieces like this I like to completely mill the pieces before resawing so after the resaw cut has been made each piece has a good side to go right to the planer and prevent having to run thin boards through the jointer.
These finished out at about 3/8” thick which is honestly still a bit thick for boxes this size, but I plan on doing unreinforced mitered corners and want to make sure there is plenty of glue surface in the corners.
The sizes on these boxes ended up being tricky. Not being a coin collector myself, I assumed that the protective plastic coin slabs were all the same sizes so I looked one up and just went with that. Turns out there tons of “standard” sizes, so one super obvious take away here is if you’re building a speciality box, make sure you actually know the dimensions or what will go in it.
To cut the miters on all the pieces I swapped my rip blade for my crosscut blade in my tablesaw and cut them with my miter gauge. I cut a miter on end of each board, and then set up the stop block on my miter to cut each piece to length. Which is a key part of having a box come together well, it matters less what size each piece is, so long as they’re the same size.
Off camera I performed the trick to getting perfect miters, making test cuts. I just took two scraps, mitered them and checked the joint with a square. If you want to be over zealous, you can take four scrap pieces and miter them all to the same size. If your blade isn’t right on 45 degree, it will be really obvious when you try to put them together because each corner will have gaps.
After all the mitering was done, I cut a dado for the bottoms and top to sit and ride in. I switched back to my rip blade for this because it leaves a flat bottom. The board is thicker than my blade so I’ll have to make multiple passes. Again, the trick is to use a piece of scrap as a test piece to confirm your set up before cutting your project pieces. After all the dados are cut, I cut the top off of what will be the front pieces, this is how the tops will slide on and off.
Now it’s time for assembly. Now if you’re expecting me to do the typical blue painters tape instead of clamps for the glue up then you’re in for a treat… because I used green tape. Getting the glue squeeze-out out of the inside corners of a box is a real pain, so I went ahead and tape off the inside corners to make clean up a lot easier. And pro tip, don’t forget to put the bottoms in, also.. sand your pieces before you glue them up.
To make the tops slide in their dados better and give a better look, I chamfer the top edges with my block plane. Then I take the pieces over to the drill press to put in a finger hole, make sure to sand this well, especially if you’re using a splintery wood like oak.
Now it’s time for the fun part, finishing. As I said before, these are going to some Tennessee fans so I put two coats of General Finishes orange dye stain on the boxes. I’m normally not one for dying hard wood. But the way dye stains work they don’t hide the grain as much, and the way the color brought out of the grain and highlighted the rays in the wood really grew on me. The dye stain looks cool, but doesn’t over any protection so I took them outside and sprayed them several coats of lacquer to get a durable protective finish.