Box design problem

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    Hi everyone,
    I’m currently building a walnut box that will be used to store A3 high quality photograph prints. So the idea is basicaly a box in a box: there is the outside box (photo below) with one side opened (a bit like a matchbox but with only one side opened) and the inside box fits inside like a drawer and is locked by a wooden spring system.

    The problem is on the outside box. I fitted the pannels in the sides with a rebate but didn’t realise that panels should not be glued to let the wood expand and shrink. But gluing them would be the only way to make the box hold together. Do you think I can glue them anyway? Or do you have another idea that could make it work?
    Panels size: 340mm (13 3/8″) wide / 445mm (17 1/2″) long / 10mm (3/8″) thick, solid walnut

    Thank you for your help

    walnut box

    Philipp J.

    Easiest way is to drill oblong holes in the sides and secure it with screws. The oblong holes make sure the screw has room to move when the wood expands or contracts.
    However looking at the way the grain is going you can probably get away with glueing it.


    Can you say more about what the concern is? The box you show can be glued, no problem. Wood changes dimension mostly across the grain and very little along the grain. In your box, you have the grain running along the long dimension of the large panels *and* running along the length of the narrow side panels. When you glue it together, there will be very little movement along the length of the groove, so the joint will be stable. The amount of movement is proportional to how long the dimension in question is. The width of the grooves is across the grain, but the distance is so short (1/4″?) that the total change in size is negligible. So, nothing in the structure will be put in tension or compression.

    What’s going to change size is the drawer opening. The width of the opening (the width of the A3) is going to expand and contract with moisture. The height (the height of your stack of paper) will change too, but since that dimension is small, it will not be much.

    So the problem you have isn’t gluing the box, it’s making the drawer not stick. This is why cabinets generally have face frames or, in some way, seat the drawer in openings that are defined by grain running lengthwise. If you make your drawer snug in this case and if it dries a bit, it might shrink around the drawer making the drawer impossible to move.

    One option is to cut the drawer with generous play so that it cannot bind and use a front on the drawer that is larger than the opening. When the drawer is closed, the front will cover the end grain of the outer box. This will hide the gap between the inner and outer box that you need to leave. Then, in some way, fashion a single runner in the middle of the box for the drawer to run on so that it doesn’t wobble. I’m putting the runner in the middle so that the change in dimension of the outer box doesn’t matter. If you put two runners out at the edges, the will move with the box and cause problems. Or, you could make the inner box in some way look attractive with the gap around it, but that can be hard to do because any misplacement will stand out to the eye as variations in the gap.

    I’ve not built something this way, but that’s my guess for what I’d do. Unfortunately, I think the width of A3 is wide enough that there is a real chance of having the drawer bind if you don’t leave room.

    (sorry for the multiple edits…kept messing up a critical thing…final try)

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by Ed.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by Ed.
    Dave Ring

    My biggest concern here would be those wide, thin top and bottom panels. Even though you took care to use quartersawn stock, they are liable to warp ever so slightly –enough to jam the drawer unless you allow lots of space all around it.



    As long as the top and bottom expand and contract roughly together (and it appears they’re from the same board, so they should do so), they’ll push the sides away (and drag the sides in) equally, so there won’t be stress on the glue joint. Glue ’em up, I think.


    Than you all for your replies, it helps a lot!
    I think I ‘ll glue the panels since it seems ok for most of you.

    I think I will not glue the panels to the rear side though.

    : The problem with a large front on the drawer is that I need the drawer to go further back inside the external box for the locking system to “click” then springs pushes it flush to the front. Can’t do that with a front that covers the endgrain. I thought I would veneere the endgrain.

    : Do you think inlaying strips of wood across the grain on the panels could reduce the warpage a little?

    Thanks again

    Hugo Notti

    I don’t think, the shape of the box will be endangered by shrinking and expansion. In order to ensure, that the drawer doesn’t stick, you could store the finished box in a very dry place, while keeping the wood for the drawer in a more humid place – perhaps a bit above the humidity of the room, where the box will be later on. Then make the drawer to the current dimensions of the box, less a hair or a bit more. The drawer will dry to the same level as the box and become slightly smaller. From that point on, the drawer should never bind, because it will never get more humidity than the outer box. I assume, that you let your prints dry properly, before you put them into the box…

    This is just a theoretical idea, so I might be completely wrong. But it makes sense to me…


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