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Box Joint Jig | Build It | Ask This Old House

In this Build It video, Tom Silva and Kevin O’Connor build a basic serving tray as a means for illustrating the box joint—a commonly used method for joining corners for drawers, boxes, trays, and the like.

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Kevin O’Connor joins general contractor Tom Silva in the woodshop to build a sturdy serving tray with the help of a custom jig and box joints. Tom makes the tray from half-inch walnut and explains how the box joint is one of the strongest joints you can choose. He shows us how to make a dado sled to efficiently and evenly cut box joints with a table saw. Finally, once the glue dries, it’s time for sanding and a mineral oil finish.

Skill level: 3/5
Cost: About $150
Time: 4-6 hours (a few hours to wait for the glue to dry)

1/2 inch pine stock [] (for the sled)
1/2 inch walnut stock []
Wood glue []
Painter’s tape []
Food-safe oil []

Table saw [] equipped with a dado blade
Drill/driver []
Bar clamps []
Straightedge []
Pencil []
Tape measure []
Jig saw []
Router []
Palm sander []
Sanding block []
Plane []
Acid brushes []
Rags [] (to apply the mineral oil)

How to build a box joint jig
1. Start by building a special sled for creating the box joints. On the table saw, cut the base and the glides.
2. Attach the glides to the sled base. Make sure the glides slide easily in the miter slots, and ensure that everything is square to the blade.
3. Add 2x stock along the back to register the pieces as they’re being cut. This also protects your hands from the blade.
4. Make sure there are enough slots or fingers in the width stock to make a strong joint without leaving one that’s too small or big at either edge. Tom notes that 1/4” to 3/8” is his typical reference width.
5. Set the dado blade to the width, then make the cut.
6. Establish the point for a reference peg on the sled. This will keep the spacing consistent.
7. Fine-tune the placement until the joint fits the way you want it to.
8. Cut all the notches on all four pieces using the peg as a spacer.
9. Cut the bottom tray pieces on the table saw.
10. Assemble the tray by spreading glue throughout the pieces, including the area that will accept the bottom.
11. Put the pieces together. Tom notes that the joints will overhang a bit because he wants some extra space to sand the pieces down smooth and even—which would be hard to do if the joints are not cut correctly and if they lined up perfectly.
12. Clamp the pieces and wait for them to dry.
13. Sand the assembled piece until everything is nice and flush.
14. Coat the finished piece with food-safe mineral oil.

Where to find it?
Tom uses an old milk crate that has a series of box joints to demonstrate the amount of glue surface that the joint creates. Each of these “fingers”, as Tom calls them, presents more gluing surface, and therefore more holding power. Building the joint can be done on either a router or a table saw. Tom decides to use a table saw [] equipped with a dado blade []. He and Kevin build a box joint jig which is a simple table saw sled equipped with adjustable stops and a pin. The pin allows for even spacing between dados. Tom and Kevin use black walnut to make the tray, which they sand, assemble, and then finish with food-safe oil [].

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Build It:
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, This Old House host Kevin O’Connor, and special guests including Jimmy DiResta, take you through step-by-step DIY projects in this popular video series. From end-tables to cutting boards to wine racks to chicken coops and more, learn how to build from the best pros in the game. Segments include mention of all tools and materials needed to get the job done.

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Box Joint Jig | Build It | Ask This Old House

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