A Brief Guide to Commisioning a Custom Box
Al Ladd Fine Edge Woodworking
A word about cost: a custom made box is always going to be more costly
than an off the shelf box. Making even the most simple
custom wooden box, one at a time, is a labor-intensive process. So
expect to pay more. If you want a dozen or thirty of a custom item, cost
per unit will go way down.
Size--The first thing I'll need to know is how large the custom box
needs to be. Usually this is related to the size of the object you need
to contain. Best to add about .25-.5" in each dimension. We'll
start with inside dimensions, and after deciding what style box to make
I'll let you know the outside dimensions necessary.
Wood type-this is one area where I can provide you with a lot of
guidance. Take a look at the My
page of this web site for some ideas, and if you really don't
have a wood in mind I can make suggestions once I hear about your
project. Good basic options to consider are always walnut, maple,
cherry, and sapele, (a mahogany-like wood) but many others are possible.
I do not generally get involved in staining wood, preferring to use the
woods natural colors. One exception is the process of
, usually starting with walnut, and creating a jet black
finish that still allows the grain of the wood to show.
Budget- This is important to consider early on, and being up front about
cost can save both of us a lot of time. I really can't make a
single simple custom box for less than $100, though I can
make a group of boxes at the same time for about half that
amount. Things like drawers and interior trays add significantly
to the cost, (each of them is essentially another custom box) .
Custom engravings, even fairly complex ones, can be done for as little
as an extra $12, and inlays for as little as $35 --though complex inlays
will be much more. The cost of any carving or inlay can be reduced if
you can supply me with excellent graphics, ideally in a vector file
format, though I can work with line drawings or photos. Text is
Box construction - The simplest box construction is to carve the
box out of a single piece of wood, with either a hinged top, a sliding
top, or a lift-off top. For a single box this won't necessarily be less
costly than a joined box, but if you're looking for multiples, as for a
high quality product presentation, a carved box can be an economical and
very nice alternative.
Miter joints are what we typically associate with a picture frame, and
miters are a very clean and fairly quick way of making a custom box.
Depending on its size and use I may use any of several techniques to
strengthen it, but it's fairly strong on its own if its clamped well,
and I clamp miter joints very well.
Dovetails are a higher end option that carry a fine woodworking
pedigree. For a traditional feeling box through dovetails are a fine