Keepsake Box: Episode 2

Keepsake Episode 2 Keyframe

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The next step is to size the top and bottom in preparation for cutting the grooves and rebates in their edges. Paul uses a cutting gauge to minimise damaging the edge when using the plough plane. The rim is planed before the sides and ends are grooved to receive the lid. Then the optional housings for the divider can be cut and the sides can be rounded. The final step before gluing up is to cut the pins flush with the main body of the box.

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  1. bytesplice on 31 May 2017 at 3:23 pm

    This is the first project that doing a prototype build-along, and Paul has saved me a great frustration: since I’ve never done a box where the top has to be cut-apart, it never occurred to me how difficult it would be to separate a dry fit without damaging the sides!

  2. Farred on 1 June 2017 at 5:47 am

    I was wondering how Paul would do the rounding. A bit more satisfying than hogging it off with a belt sander 🙂

  3. stevenrey56 on 2 June 2017 at 4:37 am

    That plow plane trick on end grain was brilliant!

  4. jakegevorgian on 3 June 2017 at 3:17 am

    Don’t be fooled by the size of this box.

    Paul, I think this piece could be used for final exam 🙂

    I love the complexity of it!

  5. larryl49 on 6 June 2017 at 8:28 pm

    Hi enjoying this one, not only the content, also observing the tools in the back ground, in the cupboard and on the bench, that’s one classy looking cutting gauge you have.
    Regards Larry.

  6. bigaxe on 13 June 2017 at 8:15 pm

    I bought a plough plane and it is one of my favourite tools. I find it easier to use than a power router to cut grooves. But occasionally I get a board that wants to tear badly when I cut a groove. I notice Lee Valley sells a left handed version of the plough plane which would allow me to cut in the opposite direction. It is fairly expensive. Is it a worth while purchase or is there an easier work arround ??

    • Marc D on 14 June 2017 at 12:44 am

      Check Derek Cohen’s website… he puts a small back bevel in the cutters which eliminates tearout. I’ve done the same to my straight and bead blades with excellent results.

    • Philip Adams on 14 June 2017 at 3:52 pm

      A lot of plough planes are reversible by removing the fence and placing it on the other side. Might be a little easier on the wallet.

    • Edmund on 14 June 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Or you can do as Paul has done many times — cut the edges of the groove with, say, a marking gauge. That way, the tear-out won’t get outside the groove, and if the bottom of your groove is a bit ugly, who cares? It’s not a show surface, and the quality of the groove is not affected by the texture of its bottom

      • Edmund on 14 June 2017 at 5:22 pm

        Ooops – I meant a cutting gauge, not a marking gauge

    • Michael Ostrander on 17 July 2017 at 4:17 am

      As Phil mentioned, I have a Stanley #45 that I like a lot. I’m also left handed so I simply did as Phil explained. I flipped the fence to the other side and now I have a left handed #45. Works great!

      • Patrick Rippl on 25 July 2020 at 10:36 am

        Concerning Minute 24:00 : Are we shure about the 10 5/8″ radius for the rounding of the box?
        I made all the pieces to spec, but when I used my template to mark the rounding I am nowhere near of 3/8″ left on sides of the box. So it seams that the radius of 10 5/8″ is much too tight. Where could I have made a mistake?

        • Patrick Rippl on 25 July 2020 at 10:44 am

          Disregard… I’ve caught the mistake… There’s a slight difference between radius and diameter 😅

  7. Hugh Roche Kelly on 20 October 2017 at 6:29 pm

    A question about the cutting gauge.
    Would the veritas marking/cutting gauge Paul reviewed before on the blog (here provide enough of a cut to prevent tear out from the plough plane? I don’t have either a cutting or the veritas plane, but I get the impression the cutting gauge Paul uses in this video makes a slightly deeper cut than the circular cutters on the veritas. (I may be very wrong on that of course!)

    I’m eying the veritas gauge as it is a bit easier to find here on mainland europe than trying to get a mortice gauge AND a cutting gauge online- I just have a single point marking gauge at the moment. Would be nice to know if it can multi task to be an effective cutting gauge as well…

    As always thanks for the videos, aiming to get the keepsake box done as a christmas present this year.

    • Peter Bernhardt on 22 October 2017 at 1:31 am

      Hugh, I have the Veritas gauges and a nice Colen Clenton cutting gauge. I used the cutting gauge on the top/bottom and the Veritas gauge for the sides to prevent tear out on either sides of the groove. The cutting gauge cuts deeper, but the Veritas did the job for me on a pine version of this box. For hard woods, I suspect a marking gauge may not do as well.

      Great minds think alike – I’m working on a batch of these boxes for Christmas, too. 😉

    • K S on 3 March 2022 at 12:33 pm

      Japanese cutting gauge about $18 on amazon
      KAKURI Wood Marking Gauge. Excellent!

  8. Peter Bernhardt on 22 October 2017 at 1:18 am

    Even after carefully measuring and cutting the top/bottom, expect to do quite a bit of fine tuning to get a good fit. Patience is mandatory. 😉

  9. chaywesley on 20 November 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I feel like I missed something here… According to the cut-list, the top and bottom pieces are to be 5/8″ thick, but this episode (and also the drawing) shows centering a 3/16″ groove around the edges of the top and bottom pieces, leaving 3/16″ on either side of the groove. That adds up to a total thickness of 9/16″. Did I miss some step where the thickness of the top/bottom was reduced from 5/8″ to 9/16″?

    • Philip Adams on 30 November 2017 at 2:42 pm

      That extra 1/16″ on the cutting list can be put down to surface planing I think. Otherwise, just make sure to do as Paul did, and set the plow 3/16″ from the inside face so that any excess goes to the outside. All the best.

  10. ted clawton on 26 April 2018 at 6:17 am

    What is the teeny-tiny saw Paul uses to cut the nubs? Brand and make?

  11. Allen Schell on 2 June 2019 at 8:20 pm

    Is this website incredibly slow sometimes?

  12. Jeffrey Light on 11 August 2019 at 4:50 pm


    I am confused about what is actually done with the top and bottom pieces in regards to the interior measurements and adding the 3/4”, because If all the pieces are made to the correct lengths, etc., then there is no adjustments needed.
    When I cut the grooves in the top and bottom, I made a catastrophic error and I am unable to determine why.
    Thank you

    • Izzy Berger on 13 August 2019 at 4:06 pm

      Hi Jeffery,

      Paul says:
      The ¾” is to facilitate the tongue aspect of the top and bottom going into the grooves ⅜” each side or end.

      Kind Regards,

    • Phil Merrell on 31 January 2022 at 3:35 pm

      I believe I ran into the same issue, I cut the top and bottom exactly as measured in the cut list…..and it was too large. So to everyone who is building this box don’t forget to measure the inside of YOUR box once the dovetails are cut and then add 3/4″.

  13. Kris Williams on 5 September 2019 at 12:53 pm

    What did people use to get the curve radius? I don’t have a compass big enough.

    • Izzy Berger on 9 September 2019 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Chris,

      Paul suggests using a long thin piece of wood with an awl holding this in place at the far end, you can then use your pencil against the other end to create a radius.

      To see this in action, you can view it on Paul’s ‘Tuesday Tips’ on Instagram stories (it is the 28th clip in).

      Kind Regards,

      • K S on 21 January 2022 at 7:48 pm

        A piece of string held down at one end with a pencil at the others is also very easy

      • K S on 22 January 2022 at 1:12 pm

        A piece of string held down at one end with a pencil at the other is also very easy

  14. Scott on 16 March 2021 at 2:35 am

    I laughed when Paul pulls out a 3/16″ chisel to take the corner off inside the lid groove. I quietly asked myself, “How many people have a 3/16 chisel?” Luckily I had another plough plane, so I used its 3/16″ iron, gingerly tapping a hammer on the bare end. Problem solved.

  15. Scott on 16 March 2021 at 2:49 am

    I had an extendable aluminum trammel set that I bought for nothing at a tool sale years ago. One end holds a point, and the other standard drafting lead. Not as resourceful as Paul’s suggestion, but it proved itself very useful.

  16. Craig Alderson on 28 October 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Here’s another trick to mark out the radius: get a wooden yardstick from the hardware store or fabric store. Drill a small hole on the centerline at 1″ and another hole at 11-5/8″. Pin, nail, or awl goes in one hole, pencil point in the other — an instant and totally affordable compass. Handles radii up to 35″, and, with a meter stick, works in metric too.

  17. K S on 3 March 2022 at 12:51 pm

    As I understand it, Paul makes the tongue, using a plow plane, creating a grove with tongues on both sides, then he removes the tongue from one side, actually creating a rebate.
    Unless I missed it, Paul often mentions alternative approaches like using a rebate plane. (Is there an advantage in using a plow plane to create the rebate?)

    • Benoît Van Noten on 3 March 2022 at 8:55 pm

      As I remember
      No he makes the internal tongues shallower but he doesn’t suppress them.
      Otherwise how would the top and bottom stay attached in the side’s grooves?

  18. Benoît Van Noten on 3 March 2022 at 9:00 pm

    look at 7’46 it clearly says “reducing the tongue” not removing it.

    • K S on 3 March 2022 at 9:40 pm

      Please tell me what I misunderstand:
      making a 3/16′ groove leaves two 3/16″ tongues on either side of the groove. If you remove one tongue, the other tongue remains to engage the side grooves. Because this remaining tongue was made proud, it must me reduced to fit in the side groove

  19. K S on 3 March 2022 at 9:51 pm

    After review I stand corrected I now see that the groove was 3/8 deep and paul removed only 3/16 from one the tongue
    He describes this in his drawings
    Thank you for your help

  20. K S on 3 March 2022 at 10:50 pm

    The narrow edge goes in the groove while the wide edge conceals the sides of the box
    If there was one tongue going into the groove, the interface between the lid (or bottom) and the side would show.
    I hope discussion is useful to others
    thanks for the help

  21. joeleonetti on 10 May 2022 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Below is a email I sent to a fellow woodworker based on an observation I had from this episode. I was so excited to see a technique from you on how to make through grooves on a through dovetail box that didn’t show the grooves that I couldn’t sleep. If you are looking for “new” how to content for YouTube, I could see where you could make a stand alone video on this approach (more make it part of a series on different ways to attach box bottoms. Just a thought.

    Hi Ralph. I have an idea for a project for you that I think you would like. It involves making a through dovetail box (I’d suggest 3/4″ stock) and using through plough plane grooves that remain hidden and don’t need to be plugged. Curious? I picked the idea/concept up from episode 2 of the 2017 Paul Sellers Master class on making the walnut keepsake box. I’m currently making this box for my wife as a Christmas gift. The gist of it is to use deep housing dados on the back of the tails. You are likely familiar with using shallow housing dado’s to help firmly register the tail piece when you then register it to use a knife to transfer the pins. If you use a deep housing dado (say 1/4″), you can easily run a 3/16″ groove via plough plane without it showing on the pin. The corresponding groove on the tail location is never an issue. This might be hard to visualize. It was for me and mostly I was confused watching Paul work and not understanding why he didn’t need a stopped groove. Once I actually did the work hands on, it totally made sense. Yes, Paul mentions this but it was subtle to me. Once I figured it out, I got so excited that I couldn’t fall asleep that night. It provides a whole new way of making box bottoms with through dovetails that isn’t that hard to do. I think you will like it. Would love to see your thoughts when you do it. I will eventually post about it on my blog but more folks read your blog and I think this is such an awesome technique we should get the word out to as many folks as possible. I am sure craftsmen hundreds of years ago knew of this but it is new to me and I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere outside of Paul Seller’s one class. In fact, I plan to email him as I think he should make a stand alone video on this as it’s such a handy technique.

  22. joeleonetti on 15 May 2022 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I thought I would add a comment here that might help others. You are an advocate of never undercutting your dovetails when chopping out the waste. I just realized that in this piece it is even more important because when you curve the sides, any under cutting will show as a gap. Forewarned is forearmed. This box has all kinds of nice added features to it. I suspect I will make a second keepsake box as I’m leaning a lot on the first one.

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