Maple Key Seed Pod Box
With the main section of this box dressed to thickness, and the overall shape laid out, I drew a full-size pattern of the outer shape of the seed pod cavities on paper. I then offset the line by 5/16″, towards the outside of the pattern, creating a larger pattern than I want to finish with. This offset distance will account for the distance from the outer edge of the tracing collar to the outer edge of the router bit. Cut the paper pattern out. Position a piece of ¼” thick template material on top of the box, overhanging the rear, straight edge of the workpiece by ½”. The ½” overlap is to ensure there’s enough material left on the ¼” template once the routing pattern has been cut out.
Place the paper pattern on top of the template in the exact location you want the cavity, relative to the workpiece. Make sure the short, straight end of the pattern is perpendicular to the back edge of the template. Trace the outline onto the template and cut it out, ensuring the edges are smooth.
With the template fixed to the base of the box, Brown uses his router and inlay set to create the perimeter of the seed pod cavity. Notice the extra collar attached to the rest of the inlay set.
After removing the collar from the inlay set, Brown then uses the same template, fixed to mahogany, to create the shape of the lid.
Textured Under Surface
A gouge will create an interesting effect on the hidden portion of the lid.
The lid fits in the cavity fairly tight at this point, but Brown wanted to make sure it didn’t come out while working on it. He added some masking tape to the outer edge of the lip on the lid to create more friction, then power-carved the lids to rough shape.
Rather than using hand tools to slowly remove the waste, Brown slowly used a dish carving bit and router to level the bottom of the cavity (above). The resulting surface was then fine-tuned with some gouges (below).
Rout the box cavity
Position the template on the workpiece, overlapping the rear edge by 1/2″, and clamp it in place. I secured it with screws, into extra material I left on the workpiece. With a 1/4″ diameter straight bit in my router, and an inlay set (Lee Valley #04J28.07) fixed in its base, I routed the shape. I used multiple passes to finish with a 3/8″ deep groove. I then removed most of the waste with a 5/8″ Forstner bit and chisels, but left it rough.
Rout the lids
I started with scrap wood to ensure I had the process straight, and the lids would look nice. Once I had routed its under-surface, and it fit the base nicely, I experimented with shaping its upper surface. Full of confidence, I reached for the mahogany and dressed it to 1-1/8″ thick. I needed a lid that finished at 3″ wide, but I used a piece much wider. I marked a straight reference line off center of the mahogany board. This line assisted me when positioning the 1/4″ template on the mahogany, so the grain of the two lids aligned when the lids were complete.
With the template aligned with the reference line, and fixed in place, I removed the collar from the inlay set and routed a 1/8″ deep groove in the underside of the lid. I made sure the inlay set stayed firmly against the edge of the template, or any variation would be transferred to the finished lid. I also moved the router in a clockwise direction to ensure the bit stayed against the template.
I removed the template and repositioned it on the reference line, so the second lid would mirror the first. To keep the grain running true, the straight edge of the lids should be separated by the same distance as the straight edges of the seed pods in the base of the box. In my case this distance was 3/4″.
Hollow underside of lid
Before cutting out the lids I clamped the workpiece to my bench and worked on their undersides. I used a 5/8″ Forstner bit to remove some of the waste, but could easily have gone straight to the gouges. Gouges add a pleasing textured surface. I carved to about 5/16″ deep, and left the outer lip at its full height – 1/8″.
Shape the lids
After cutting the lids out with my scroll saw I pressed one of them into its mating cavity. The fit was not overly strong, so I added a piece of masking tape around the edge to tighten the fit of the lid. Now I could carefully power carve away most of the waste from the outer edge of each lid. I did the finished shaping with a 3/4″ straight chisel, leaving smooth facets on the surface.
Smooth the cavity
I fixed a dish carving bit in my router, set the depth and removed most of the material freehand. With the workpiece clamped to my bench I was very careful to remove minimal material and to stay away from the inner sides of the cavity. A number of small gouges allowed me to smooth the transition between the sides and bottom of the cavity, then I sanded the surfaces smooth and finished all the parts.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.