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A carved tea box

1804 opens
535 copies
John Wallin

Project by

John Wallin
Murfreesboro, USA

General Information

A CNC carved tea box with a floating lid and hidden mortise and tenon joinery. The dog-bone generator was used for the mortises, and grooves support the lid and bottom of the box. The design was selected from the Easel Pro collection.

Like this project Open in Easel®

Carve the design and the lid

70 minutes

For this project, you need to carve four pieces of wood (excluding the plywood bottom of the box.

The top piece:
An 8″ × 12″ × 0.5″ piece of wood with a strong grain pattern. I used canary wood for this piece.

The side pieces with a contrasting color and texture:
- 2 pieces: 8.5″ × 13″ × 0.5″
- 1 piece: 8.5″ × 9″ × 0.5″ pie

You will also need hinges and a latch, along with the normal finishing materials. It will help if you have access to a router table to fine-tune the tenons.

Carve the top of the box with a design of your choice. This phase will create the floating panel element as well. I used canary wood for the image in the photos. Any design should work well but liked the abstract circles available in the Pro Design Library for this tea box.

Don’t remove the box from the machine until you do step 2!


Define the edges of the box

15 minutes

Using the same machine position, cut the panel out of the wood using the lid-top-outline. I separated this into a separate carve to make it easier for the software to do the cuts that are immediately adjacent to the carve.


Carve the front and back of the box

20 minutes

Cut the box front and back using a contrasting piece of wood. My project used cherry.

You have two options for the tenons:

1) If you have a router table, can remove the pieces at this point and adjust the tenon later.

2) If you don’t have a router table, you will want to turn this into a two sided carve and put tabs over the tenons that align with the wood edge. The depth should be 0.15", and the cave should on the opposite side of the wood from the groove.

I found using a router table to do the final adjustment was a bit faster than doing a two-sided carve.


Carve the sides of the box

25 minutes

The sides of the box was carved from the same wood as the front and back. The mortise holes are designed to accommodate a tenon 0.35" wide that is offset by 0.15" from the box edge. The dog-bone generator was used to create these holes.


Carve the frame for the box lid

40 minutes

The frame for the box lid should be from the same wood for the box sides. As with the sides of the box, the mortise holes are designed to accommodate a tenon 0.35" wide that is offset by 0.15" from the box edge. The dog-bone generator was used to create these holes.

As described above, you can either do the tenons by turning this into a two sided carve or adjust them with a router table.


Fine tune the joints and dry fit the pieces

10 minutes

The pieces connect together using mortise and tenon joinery. Once the box sides are carved, you will need to adjust tenon to fit the slot. I used the dog-bone generator to make the hole, but I didn’t want to have the dog-bone carves visible from the outside of the box. I opted instead to use a more conventional tenon for this piece.

For will need to take off about 0.15 inches on the outer part of the tenon on the stiles. As I mentioned above, you could do this using a two-sided carve. However, I found it was faster to do this on my router table. Make sure your fence is aligned for the right wide so the bit is just touching the carved edit of the tenon from the bit. With the grove for the floating lid and bottom facing upward, slowly adjust the fit of the tenon so it matches the mortise. For this box, I removed everything except the last 0.03" with the router, and completed the final adjustments using a wood file. I also used a wood file to square the tendon edges that result from using a 1/8 bit. This only takes a few seconds, to get a tight fit.

The bottom piece for the box is a 0.25 in plywood. cut to the same size as the lid. It fits perfectly (with VERY light sanding) into the 0.22" groove. The top fits snuggly into the top grove for the box top with light sanding as well.

Make sure everything is fits together nicely.


Glue it together

15 minutes

Glue up is straight forward. I used a strong wood glue in the tenons, and left the panels so they could float freely. I did a careful pre-fit before I used the glue. Protip: Make sure you square the top and bottom when you glue them. It was quite a surprise when my first lid ended up being a parallelogram instead of a rectangle.


Finish the box!

30 minutes

Make sure everything is flush and square. i had a few small edge issues that were easily fixed with a belt sander. You should then sand the box to about 400 grit to make it feel smooth to the touch.

To finish the box with your favorite coating. I like to use shellac and wax.

The hinges and latch are added after you have finished the carve.

For the inside, I am building an interlocking grid to separate the teabags and covering the bottom with self-adhesive felt.

Clifford Mayo
good kitty
Clifford Mayo
Stuart G
I love it! I'll have to get some poplar or maple and build one. Nicely done!
Stuart G