DIY Keepsake Box: The Body

The following instructional will help you make an elegant, simple DIY keepsake box that will store a reflection of a special someone’s special memories. (Also known as a memory box, these items are used for storing token reminders of people, places, or time!) As a result, they are an ideal project for perfect gifts to give to family and friends during major life events like:

  • Christenings,
  • birthdays,
  • graduations, and
  • weddings.

Items Used:

Materials:

  • Body: 1” Cherry Stock
  • Dividers: ¼” Cherry Stock
  • Bottom: ¼” Plywood Stock
  • Wood Glue
  • Stain
  • Spray Lacquer

DIY Keepsake Box Body

Routing the DIY keepsake box sides.

First, you need to determine the box dimensions to ensure the correct length of stock needed. When routing the profile onto the stock that will make up the sides of the box, use one long piece of cherry stock. Eventually, you’ll cut it into four pieces to make up the sides of the box.

  1. Initially, install the Box Side Bit (#175-1405) into the router table.
  2. Then adjust the cutting height of the router bit in order to get the desired profile look.
  3. Now rout the profile along the full length of the board.
  4. After cutting the profile, create a 3/8” x 3/8” rabbet along what will become the bottom inside edge to accommodate the ¼” bottom panel. Cut an extra 1/8” for the feet to sit recessed and have a place to lock in.
  5. Finally, cut the four pieces that make up the box sides. Ensure all 8 inside edges have 45° miter cuts. *Tip: This is easily accomplished in a miter or table saw. Once the miters are cut it is easy to lay out and dado for the dividers.

Cutting the Keepsake Box for Dividers

Eagle America's DIY keepsake box layout.

For the purpose of this DIY keepsake box, we’re adding three (3) ¼” thick dividers—one (1) running the width of the box and two (2) to break up one side of the long divider into smaller compartments. (Therefore, your box will have three smaller uniform compartments and one large space to accommodate bigger items.)

  1. Immediately cut ¼”-deep dado slots for the dividers, set up the stack dado blades to a width of a ¼” on the table saw.
  2. Because the compartments are to be equally sized, determine where the center of the dado slots will be located. First, take the overall length of the inside dimensions of the back of the body. From that dimension, subtract ½” for the width of the two (2) ¼” dividers and divide by three (3).
  3. Now center the layout line over the dado blade.
  4. Using a crosscut sled, set up a stop block, resting the end against it and make the first ¼”-deep dado cut. *Tip: Here, the use of the stop block is crucial when maintaining an equal distance from each end.
  5. Then flip the piece, placing it against the stop block and make the second dado cut.
  6. Next, determine the position of the long divider. Repeat this process for cutting the dado for the long divider.
  7. Last, determine the position and the stop block is in position on the crosscut sled, cut a ¼”-deep dado to receive the long horizontal divider on both side pieces of the body. *Tip: Make sure that if the divider is positioned anywhere but centered on the sides, that you mark and cut from the correct end on each side piece to prevent from having the long divider on a diagonal.

Making the Keepsake Box Dividers

  1. To begin with, use ¼”-thick stock and measure the length needed for the long divider. *Tip: Measure from the bottom of each dado in the sides.
  2. When you cut to length, check for fit. *Tip: Do not glue the divider at this time—wait until the box has been stained and the felt has been installed with the bottom panel of the box before gluing in place. Provided your preference, the divider can either be glued in place for a permanent installation or left dry fitted in case you wish to remove it at a later time.
  3. With the long divider in place, measure the length of the (2) small dividers. *Tip: You can cut these ¼” dividers after the box is assembled. Consequently, they can be tested and fine tuned to fit within the finished box.
  4. Additionally, you can choose to glue the small divider to the long divider using a simple butt joint glue up, or 1/8” deep by ¼” wide dado slots can be cut in the long divider to accept the small dividers. *Tip: If you choose the dado option, be careful as the long divider is only ¼” thick to start. Then you can either glue or dry fit the small dividers into the long divider.

Finishing & Assembling the Keepsake Box

The MLCS Merle Multi-Corner Clamp in action.
  1. Before glue-up and assembly of the body, make sure to give the interior and dividers a good sanding. Stain and apply a finish to the box and dividers separately. *Tip: This is imperative due to the fact that once assembled it becomes more difficult to do so.
  2. However, before applying any glue, roughly expand the Merle Clamp band to a size that is just slightly larger than the overall length and width of the box.
  3. Then position the adjustable corners in their approximate locations along the steel banding. *Tip: You can remove the pivoting corner inserts from the Merle Corner clamp to help you produce a square glue-up, or left in place as long as you check for square after the clamp is tightened.
  4. Apply glue to mitered ends and assemble the box. *Tip: A piece of masking tape can act as a second set of hands to hold the pieces together as you fit each corner together.
  5. Next, place the box into the clamp. Quickly turn the handle to apply enough pressure to hold the parts together. Make sure the corner profiles match up properly.
  6. When you have all four corners secured, check the box to make sure it’s square and make any adjustments needed to maintain a square box.
  7. At this point, it is safe to put the body aside and allow the glue adequate drying time.
  8. After the interior finishes drying, add the dividers.
  9. Now cut the bottom panel to fit the rabbeted opening on the bottom of the body and apply adhesive-backed felt. Finally, insert the bottom panel into the rabbeted opening of the body and nail the bottom into the 3/8” rabbet.

Once you’ve finished this article, be sure to check out the rest of the series to finish crafting your DIY keepsake box:

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