Cedar Cigar Box

When I was a kid, a cigar box was something you made other things out of, not something you made.  But now I’ve gone and made a cigar box–by request.  Let’s hope this cigar box doesn’t meet the fate of many other cigar boxes down the ages.  (All you back-alley luthiers stay away!)  This box is made of red cedar, and the overall dimensions are 12″ wide, 9″ deep, and 3.5″ tall.  Here’s the finished product:

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I was given a whole load of cedar scraps a while back, and I thought this box would be a perfect opportunity to use some of them.  My goal was not only to fashion a pretty box, but also to use as many of the odd-sized scraps as I could.  I wish I had taken a picture of the armload of shorts and offcuts I started with, but I had to get this box made in a hurry, so I kept the process pictures to a minimum.  The customer needs it tomorrow morning!

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For ease of construction as well as durability, I chose to join the corners of the case with nailed rabbets.  Cutting the rabbets is simple–just a couple of saw cuts on each end of the board.  I glued the box together first, and once the glue had set, I nailed through the rabbets.

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Here’s a random shot from the building process.  Checking for square across both diagonals is crucial.

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The nails are cut headless brads made by the Tremont Nail Co.  Because I was nailing into a wood that splits very easily, I cut each brad down to about 2/3 of its original length before driving them in.  You can barely see the ends of the nails in each corner.

The top and bottom required me to glue up a couple little panels.  The top was fairly easy–two boards glued up.  The bottom was trickier, as the boards were quite thin (about 1/4″ thick), and there were three of them.

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I used a tape trick to keep everything aligned: you squeeze the boards together and tape over the joints.  Then open the joints as you would a book, spread the glue, and close the joints again.  Just a little pressure from clamps makes for a firm glue-up.

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I rabbeted the inside of the case (before glue-up) so that the bottom is inset and will have a bit of room to expand and contract.  I made the bottom oversized initially so I could cut it down to exactly the right dimensions.

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A few nails through the sides keep the bottom in place.  The nails will allow for seasonal expansion and contraction.  It’s not a piston-fit by any means, but it doesn’t have to be.

The top is attached with hardware-store hinges surface-mounted on the back.  I chamfered the underside of the lid as well as the rim of the case so the fingers have an easy way to open the lid.

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For the lid itself, I chose a particularly knotty piece.

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Cedar is typically a knotty wood, so you can either waste a lot of wood trying to eliminate knots and other defects, or you can choose to use them as accents.

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For this box, I chose character.  I think it works.

A bit of sanding and some paste wax on the outside of the box finished the job.  In all, it probably took me under 3 hours from start to finish–and that includes taking the pictures at the end.

 

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