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Review: 7 Books On Boxes

posted Feb 3, 2012, 4:04 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:17 AM ]
400 Wood Boxes book
Boxes and boxmaking have always been popular subjects for many hobby woodworkers. What other project type offers such variety in technique, finish, and final application? A box project can often be completed in a weekend, and noone can ever say they have too many boxes!

The first place to start when considering making wooden boxes is to get some inspiration. Since the best place to get inspiration is to see other finished boxes, I suggest you start by looking through some books on wooden boxes.

Not every book on wooden boxes is all about plans and techniques. Some of the books available are more like pictoral books that resemble coffee-table books, with pictures of boxes and artist profiles. Other books are like the pictoral books, but have very basic joinery or assembly images to assist you in constructing a similar box. And the final type of box book is filled with detailed plans and cutlists to guide you through the details of the specific box construction.

I have had the pleasure of using some of these books myself, so I wanted to share some of my experience with them.

Box-Making Basics
Box-Making Basics – Design, Technique, Projects

(David M. Freedman, 1997, Tauton press, ISBN 1-56158-123-2)
Box-Making Basics offers a pleasing mix of general boxmaking knowledge, good pictures of finished projects, assembly diagrams and cutlists. Many of Freedman’s projects incorporate a combination of beautifully contrasting woods to produce a practical yet attractive box. Definitely worth a look for any prospective boxmaker, this book gives enough detail for even a beginner to follow to a satisfactory finish. Experienced woodworkers will also enjoy the book for its interresting projects that span a wide variety of assembly techniques.

Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques
Creating Beautiful Boxes with Inlay Techniques

(Doug Stowe, 1997, Betterway Books, ISBN 1-55870-443-4)
Doug Stowe presents 16 detailed wooden box projects in this book on wooden boxes. After an introuction to the basics of inlay techniques, he delves right into the projects. Each project has detailed measured drawings and great photos of Doug going through the steps of creating his boxes. This book is an easy read for any woodworker even a beginner, and is a great addition to your bookshelf.

Simply Beautiful Boxes – Making jewelry, art & heirloom boxes
Simply Beautiful Boxes – Making jewelry, art & heirloom boxes

(Doug Stowe, 2000, Popular woodworking, ISBN 1-55870-514-7)
Doug Stowe is a master of wood inlay techniques to give his projects astounding visual appeal, and the boxes displayed here are no exception. Similar in style to his book Creating Beautiful Boxes With Inlay Techniques (see above). With only the briefest of introductions, Doug jumps right into the first of 15 projects. Each project includes a cutlist, measured drawings, and great photos of the box’s construction from start to finish. Even if you do not use the inlay techniques he suggests, the boxes are still beautiful to behold.

400 Wood Boxes
400 Wood Boxes – The Fine Art of Containment & Concealment

(Veronika Alice Gunter ed., 2004, ISBN 1-57990-459-9)
This book treats wooden boxes as works of art. Each page is devoted to a different woodworker and one or two of his boxes displayed in wonderful detail. Almost all of these boxes are truly unique, and will be a challenge for most woodworkers to reproduce. There are no construction details provided other than the basic size and wood type, but truly these beautiful boxes are pieces of art. If you are looking for inspiration for a unique box, this book should definitely be on your bookshelf. Actually, the format of the book (approximately 8”x8”) strongly reinforces it as a coffee-table book, of the sort that you display prominently in your living room as a conversation starter when friends come over. And if you complete a project from the book, I’m sure that will also be a wonderful conversation starter!

The Art of Making Small Wood Boxes
The Art of Making Small Wood Boxes – Award Winning Designs

(Tony Lydgate, 1997, Sterling/Chapelle)
This book has a solid introduction to the construction of wood boxes, followed by over 23 projects, each designed by a different woodworker. The boxes are beautiful, and the photos are great. The projects include a cutlist, basic measurements, and some very free-form construction instructions, so this book is not recommended for a beginner woodworker. There is not enough detail in the measurements or instructions to help a beginner work their way through a project, however intermediate woodworkers may find the text to be enough of a guidance. The last section of the book is purely a gallery of unique art that is so beautiful that you often forget they are boxes. Some are so whimsical that they resemble modern sculptures than anything else, and the artist who constructed them must be given kudos for their imagination and skill.

The Art of Making Elegant Wood Boxes
The Art of Making Elegant Wood Boxes

(Tony Lydgate, 1993, Sterling Publishing, ISBN 0-8069-8838-X)
After a brief introduction on box construction techniques, this book presents 23 projects by different artists. These projects have a cutlist and often a blow-out picture displaying the way the box is kept together, however the text is little more than a description o the woods used, a basic outline of the preparation of the wood, and a few paragraphs on the order of assembly. The final section presents a gallery of boxes and short biographies of the artist who created them. This book is great for inspiration for any level of woodworker, however the beginner will find themselves without guidance on how to proceed with creating their own versions of these boxes. Intermediate woodworkers may enjoy the challenge and will be able to create most of the boxes without too much trouble. The gallery section of the book makes it a dual function book. It can stay on your bookshelf, but it also deserves a place on your coffee table as a book about art.

Award-Winning Wood Boxes
Award-Winning Wood Boxes – Design & Technique

(Tony Lydgate, 1995, Sterling Publishing, ISBN 0-8069-8841-X)
This book is a great source of inspiration, and though I would not recommend its projects for the beginner, its projects are suitable for woodworkers with some experience. After a brief introduction, it jumps right into a large number of box projects from different designers. The text is rather sparse, and the cutlist is brief, but most projects have a suitable diagram to display how the parts are assembled. Not much help is provided for the joinery, so the woodworker is left to determine the proper joints from the diagram, and can devise their own measurements. Many of the works are whimsical and would not be possible to duplicate since they use the unique form of truly unique burl pieces or branch shapes, but they can offer great inspiration to woodworkers. A great coffee-table book as well, since it has many wonderful pictures of the projects.


Well, I hope you enjoyed this brief look into some books on boxes. If you are looking for a book to give you inspiration but are not looking for specific construction information, 400 Wood Boxes should be on your shopping list. The books by Tony Lydgate are ideal for the woodworker who has completed some projects and is not daunted by sketchy instructions. The beginner woodworker has a difficult decision to make, as the assembly instructions in any of these books are not that detailed.

And yes, there are many more books on boxes that I have not covered here. I can only compare those that I have read myself. If you have a book that you think needs mentioning, let me know!