How to Make a Keepsake Box with Hidden Compartment

This box that we’re about to make has mitered corners that can easily be done on the table saw and reinforced with easy-to-make splines. The inside has a top sliding tray that when moved left and right reveals two trays below it. When all the trays are lifted out, a hidden compartment is revealed underneath to hide your valuables. All these trays are lined with a soft flocking that feels like velvet and I’m using solid brass quadrant hinges with lid support from Brusso Hardware. For this box I wanted to use special exotic woods so I went to Kencraft, my local hardwood dealer and picked out some Bocote for the sides, Zebrawood for the top and bottom and ebony for the splines.

miter spline box Although I can’t give you an exact amount of hours it took to make this I can tell you that if well planned this could easily be made in two days. On day 1 all the pieces can be cut and glued together. On day 2  the splines, chamfers and hinges can be added. If you choose to use a lacquer finish you could also get multiple coats done on the second day as it will dry fast. The tri-blend finish I recommend on exotic woods takes 4 days but each day only requires a couple minutes of work with a full day to dry between coats. The price of wood can be very dynamic depending on the choice of woods and your location. I chose to get a little fancy and paid $73.58 for the wood used in this project without any leftovers. I also decided to use the well made Brusso hinges that come in at $49.99. Yes, the Brusso hinges cost a pretty penny but you can feel the difference in quality as soon as you hold them in your hand. They have high standards and a very good reputation for being the best in the business. So after taxes and shipping the total cost of materials was $135.62 which doesn’t include the flocking and finish.

I’m really happy with the way this box came out. The top tray slides effortlessly across the bottom tray and everything lifts out to reveal the hidden compartment. All of the joinery is mitered corners that are easily done on the tablesaw and reinforced with splines. And the solid brass hinges compliments the exotic woods and the the design. You learn more about the jigs I used as well as the flocking and finishing techniques in the links below. Plans are available in my store. I hope you enjoyed this video as I’ve got a lot more projects like this coming out as well as bigger builds and non-woodworking projects. As always, be safe, stay passionate and make something!

miter spline box

Tools and Supplies

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resaw on bandsaw

Step 1: Resawing

I start off by resawing all the wood down to rough thickness on the bandsaw. If you want to learn more about how I resaw, check out my video “Resawing without gadgets.” The Bocote I got was nearly 2 inches thick and I can easily get two 5/8″ thick boards out of it. And the 3/4″ Zebrawood will be resawn into two 1/4″ boards for the lid and bottom.


Step 2: Planing

I’ll then plane everything down to final thickness on the thickness planer.

ripping on tablesaw

Step 3: Crosscutting and Ripping

Next I’ll crosscut the four sides to length and then rip to width on the tablesaw. For the Zebrawood used on lid and bottom, I’ll roughcut to size and then cut to an exact fit in a later step.

mitered corners

Step 4: Mitered Corners

I’ll then set my tablesaw blade to 45 degrees and miter the ends. I’ll sneak up on the cut carefully until the mitered edge creates a point without shortening the length of the board.

miter cut on tablesaw

Step 5: Mitered Lid

The lid will be made up like a picture frame so I’ll start out by ripping to width. Then using my picture framing sled, I’ll miter the corners and cut to length. You can learn more about this miter sled and how to make it in this miter sled video tutorial here.

cutting groove

Step 6: Cutting Lid Grooves

Now I’ll cut a groove in the 4 lid pieces to accept the 1/4″ Zebrawood panel. I’ll run a pass over the blade and then flip the board around and run another pass. This will center the groove. I’ll then move my fence out slightly and repeat until my panel fits.

cutting groove

Step 7: Cutting Bottom Panel Groove

Then I’ll cut a groove in the 4 side pieces to hold the bottom panel. I’ll make a pass on all 4 pieces and then bump my fence over and make another pass. Again, I’ll do this until I get a nice fit.

cutting top panel on tablesaw

Step 8: Cutting Top and Bottom Panels

Next I’ll cut the top and bottom panels to fit. There should be some wiggle room across the width so the panel can expand and contract though the seasons.

glue up

Step 9: Glue Up Box

Gluing up the mitered box is pretty easy and you don’t need clamps. Painters tape will do the trick. I’ll also apply some painters tape along the inside so any glue squeeze out ends up on the tape and not on the wood.

glue up lid

Step 10: Glue Up Lid

I’ll then repeat the process for the lid, again using only painters tape.

cutting splines

Step 11: Cutting Spline Grooves

Once the glue dries I’ll then cut a groove in the corners for the ebony splines. This will add plenty of strength to the mitered corners as glue alone will not last since there is no long grain to long grain contact.

bandsawing splines

Step 12: Cutting Out Splines

Now I’ll bandsaw some ebony to the thickness of my table saw blade and then cut them into triangles.

Gluing in splines

Step 13: Gluing in Splines

Then it’s just a matter of adding some glue and popping them into place. Once the glue dries you can sand them off or use a flush trim saw to remove the excess.

box glue up

Step 14: Glue Up Trays

The trays are made up of 3/16″ pieces of zebrawood butt jointed together.


Step 15: Flocking

For an added effect I’ll flock the insides of the trays giving them a velvet-like feel. If you want to learn more about flocking check out my how to add flocking to boxes video here.

routing a  chamfer

Step 16: Route Chamfer

Here at the router table I’m adding a 45deg chamfer to give the box a nice shadow line along the bottom and a place to put your fingers when opening the lid.


Step 17: Box Finishing

Now it’s time to do some final sanding and adding a finish. I’m using a tri-blend mix of boiled linseed oil, polyurethane and mineral spirits. I go into deal in this video: how to mix and apply an oil/poly blend.

route hinge mortises

Step 18: Hinge Mortising

A box like this deserves some nice hinges so I got these Brusso solid brass quadrant hinges from Rockler. If you’ve ever tried to install hinges like this then you know how stressful it can be to cut the mortises to the exact size while having everything line up properly. So to make this task much easier I’ll be using the Jit It hinge mortising system from Rockler. You can get different inserts that are made for the particular type of hinge you are using. With a plunge router, straight bit and guide bushing you’ll get perfect mortises every time with this system. If you want to learn step by step on how to use this system check out this video I made for Rocker here (video coming later in the week).

installing hinges

Step 19: Installing Hinges

All that’s left is to install the hinges.

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