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:
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!
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.
Here’s a random shot from the building process. Checking for square across both diagonals is crucial.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the lid itself, I chose a particularly knotty piece.
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.
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.