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    Hardwood Edging for Small Boxes

    Learn how to add hardwood edging of a contrasting color for more beautiful boxes.

    The box seemed a bit plain before the addition of the edging. click to enlarge

    While building a small cherry box recently, I decided to add some edging into the design. By incorporating this maple edging on a cherry box, I’m left with a nice contrast and a truly finished look.

    This is essentially a three-stage process. After milling up some narrow strips of maple, I cut rabbets into all 12 edges of the box, then cut and glue in the edging. You'll need a tablesaw and a very basic router table equipped with a rabbeting bit to get the job done.

    Here's how I did it:


    Rip the Edging Stock

    I began with some stock that had been planed down to 3/16-in.-thick and ripped several strips at that same dimension, resulting in perfectly square stock. To do this, I set up a featherboard on my tablesaw and used a long push stick to guide the wood through the blade. Featherboards help to press a workpiece against the tablesaw’s rip fence and when cutting such small stock like this, make for a much safer operation.

    Setting up a featherboard to hold the stock tight against the rip fence.
    click to enlarge

    Using a long push stick, I guide the stock over the blade safely and securely. click to enlarge

    Rout the Rabbets

    Next, I had to rout out some 1/8-in. rabbets on all 12 edges of the box. I did this on a router table outfitted with a rabbeting bit. Using a scrap piece of wood as a backer block, I guided each edge past the router bit, beginning with all the cross-grain passes, and then going on to the long grain passes. By making the cuts in this order, any blowout suffered in the cross-grain routing is erased when making the subsequent long-grain passes.

    Use a backer block to guide the box over the rabbeting bit. This will also prevent blow out. click to enlarge

    Here's what you're looking for: a perfect rabbet along all 12 edges.
    click to enlarge

    Cut and Glue the Edging

    This is where things become very tedious. On the edging lining the bottom and top perimeters, I joined the corners using 45-degree miters cut using a small miter block and handsaw. These small pieces are much easier to cut by hand than with a power tool. I made the first cut, line the miter up with one corner, marked the opposite end, and made the second cut. Fit all eight mitered joints (top and bottom perimeters) first. We’ll come back and add the vertical pieces next.

    The ends of the eight pieces that line the top and bottom are cut using a miter block.
    click to enlarge

    Notice how I've applied tape in order to avoid squeeze-out from sticking to the cherry.
    click to enlarge

    With the glue applied, it's just a matter of using more tape to clamp the edging onto the box.
    click to enlarge

    Here’s an advanced technique for getting super sharp joints and tight fitting pieces. While you can cut the pieces to the exact lengths needed using the handsaw alone, it’s a lot easier if you can sneak up to the fit using a handplane. To do this, I use what’s called a “shooting board.” This homemade tool allows me to set a handplane on its side to trim small parts that are held against a fence that’s situated at 90-degrees to the plane. You can read up on shooting boards at FineWoodworking.com.

    Cut and fit one piece at a time. When you’re happy with the fit, go ahead and glue it in. Notice how I’m just using tape to clamp the edging to the box. With these small pieces, you don’t need much pressure to get a good fit.

    Plane the Edging Flush

    I like to fit a couple of pieces, and then break out a small block plane to flush them with the box, then move on to gluing up the next piece. Once you’ve glued and flushed all the perimeter pieces, you can go back and insert the vertical edging pieces. These just fit into place with simple butt joints—no miters required.

    Use a small block plane to flush each piece of edging with the box.
    click to enlarge

    The vertical pieces don't require miters, they meet the top and bottom pieces with butt joints. click to enlarge