How to Make a Box Joint Side Table

The Beginning

I saw a product online that had a beautiful box joint mid century modern design. It looked simple enough with the tools I had, and I absolutely loved the way it looked. Plus I happen to really need my own furniture and dislike most of what I find in stores.

I know there are much better approaches than how I built mine. I chose my box joint method mostly because I am not 100% comfortable using the table saw and especially using it without the anti-kickback safety. Watch this video to see why.

I built this pretty much on the spot as I went without plans. I know, I know – it’s ridiculous to not have plans, but I live for the thrill. I had a general idea and reference – and just rolled with it. Through the process I did notice some things I might do differently if I were to make another.

Ripping, gluing, measuring twice and cutting once.

First I ripped some hardwood maple with a table saw. I measured the strips in a way that would minimize waste from the lumber dimensions I bought.

Then I planed the edges using a bench top planer. This removes any irregularities to the ripped edges from the table saw and ensures a flush fit when glued.

I cut these strips to length and then glued the strips together using a combination of bar clamps and parallel bar clamps. In hindsight I should have glued them all together and then cut the lengths afterwards. Live and learn!

Cutting out the box joints

After the pieces were glued and then sanded down – it was time to figure out how to cut the boxes. The ideal way from what I’ve found online is to use a table saw with a special dado blade for removing material. That method would also use a push sled to guide the piece.

Instead I used a scroll saw to cut out the box joints. It isn’t the greatest method because the cutouts won’t have a straight, flush fit. But with some practice on the scroll saw, I felt more comfortable this way!

I measured the joints to leave some excess so when they were pieced together, I could easily cut off the excess with a Japanese pull saw. This way none of the boxes should be inset from the rest which would require a LOT of sanding.

Finishing up

After cutting off the excess it was time to sand. I used a palm sander for all of the sanding on this project. After sanding to about 320grit – I removed excess sawdust with a tack cloth.

I used three coats of Minwax Polycrylic. I’m not a fan of regular polly for how yellow it seems to make things. The finish I used drys clear without the yellow! In between coats I sanded using the 320grit again to ensure the finish adhered properly.

Lastly, I attached some beautiful white hairpin legs from a seller on etsy. I’ve tried painting regular hairpin legs myself but haven’t been happy with the outcome. I kind of cheat when it comes to legs – one day I’ll design my own out of wood… maybe.