Dewayne Colwell

Northwest Oklahoma Woodturners Association


     Lidded Containers or “Boxes” make great gifts to give to family or friends on special occasions.  They are easy to make and don’t take much time. They are small and can be made from common woods or exotics.  They can be decorated or simply left plain.  They look nice either way.  Let’s get started.


1.  Select a piece of wood that you would like to use.  Do not to use very soft or punkey woods.  They tend to be a problem when you hollow.  Your wood piece needs to be about one inch longer than the height you would like your project to be when finished.  Try not to make your box too deep.  The deeper they are the harder they are to hollow.  You will turn the wood as a spindle turning which means the long grain is running parallel with the ways of the lathe.



2.  First, mill the wood you have selected so it is square and cut to the length you desire.  I used a block of wood about 2 7/8” x 5”.  This size seems to work well.  Mark the centers on each end of the work piece. Using a set punch or awl make a divot in the center of each end.


3.  It is now time to mount the work piece between centers on the lathe, using a spur drive or safety drive and the live center.  Turn the work piece into a cylinder using a roughing gouge.  Using a skew, cut small dovetail tenons on each end of the cylinder.


4.  To know how large to cut the tenons, close the #2 jaws on the chuck, then open them so that there is about a 1/8” gap between each of the jaws.  Measure the inside diameter of the jaws.  This diameter is how large the tenon diameter needs to be.  It is also important not to make the tenon too long.  You should measure the depth of the dovetail jaws and cut the tenon just short of this measurement.


5.  It is now time to remove the work piece from the lathe.  Using a knockout bar, remove the safety drive or spur drive from the lathe.  Place the chuck onto the lathe. Mount the work piece in the chuck.  I use the tailstock and live center to help center the work piece.  With the work piece centered, tighten the chuck.  It is sometimes necessary to true up the work piece so it is running true, not out of round.


6.  It is now time to determine which end is going to be the top and which end is going to be the bottom. If your project is going to have very much height, you should make the bottom about 2/3 of the total finished height, leaving about 1/3 the total height for the lid. If you are going to incorporate a fennel or knob on the top you will need to leave enough wood on the top section to do that. Where the top meets the bottom of your project, mark a 5/16” place for a tenon and room to part the two pieces.


 7.  Using a parting tool, cut down to a depth of about 1/8” and 5/16” wide between the top and bottom of the work piece.  This will become the tenon on the bottom of the project that the lid will sit over.  Leaving a 1/64” space on the top of the project, separate the top from the bottom using a 1/16” parting tool, separate the top and bottom.



8.  After parting most of the way through, I sometimes use a small saw to complete the operation.




9.  Mount the bottom onto the chuck, and hollow the inside to the desired depth.  Hollow the bottom, leaving about a 1/4” thickness for the bottom of the project.  It is sometimes easier to use a forstner bit to complete most of this operation.  Then you can use a box tool to finish the inside walls and bottom of the project.  Don’t forget to soften or round over the top of the tenon.



10.  You may sand and apply a finish to the inside of your project at this time.  After the finish has been applied, remove the bottom from the lathe.



11.  It is now time to hollow the lid.  You may do this by using a bowl gouge, round nose scraper or a box tool.  Use the box tool to fit the lid on the bottom. Don’t make the lid fit too tight on the bottom.  If it fits too tight the person you give it to will not use it.  Also the wood will change shape after a while making the lid almost impossible to get on and off.



12.  It is now time to sand and finish the inside of the lid.



13.  After the lid has been sanded and finished on the inside, it will be time to reverse chuck, so you can finish shaping the outside.  This can be achieved by either chucking on the inside of the lid that fits over the tenon on the bottom or building a jam chuck for holding the lid.  You can use the bottom of the box as a jam chuck.


14.  After reverse chucking the lid, it will be time to turn the outside and shape the knob or finial.  It may be desirable to place the bottom back on the chuck shape and detail the bottom and top as a unit.




15.  To finish turning the lid, reverse mount it on the chuck.  Then turn the outside shape.  Then shape the knob.  I shaped my knob like a chocolate kiss.



16.  Now you may sand and finish the outside of the project.  The last step is to finish off the base of the bottom.  This can be achieved by either reverse chucking or building a jam chuck for the bottom.  Sand and finish the base.




17.  The finished project.