Inlaid Box #4

IMG_1752I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “never send a boy to do a man’s job.” That holds true for magnets, too. After hinges were added to the inlaid box, I drilled and installed two rare-earth magnets to hold the lid closed. Working in only 1/2″-thick material, I decided to use smaller-diameter magnets. After drilling the first hole and wanting the two magnets to line up, I used a 23-gauge pin as a center finder to mark the lid location for the second magnet – it worked like a charm. I epoxied the magnets in place and went home for the day.


The next day, I dropped by the shop on my way to work just to check my magnetic lid setup. The magnets looked great. They were perfectly aligned. There was not enough pull, however, to hold the lid closed. Crap! Now I’d have to pull those magnets, repair the box and lid from the destruction of pulling the magnets and come up with another option to hold the damn lid closed. I thought about it for a couple days then decided to stay with the magnets, but increase the size. Go big or go home, I guess.

IMG_1747With the repairs made and the two magnets holding strong, I was ready to apply a finish, so I mixed up a little oil/varnish finish for the box. I’ve used this finish on many pieces of furniture, including a Shaker sewing desk and a Seymour marble-top sideboard. It’s easy to make and easier to use.

Mix 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 spar varnish (spar adds a bit of elasticity to the finish) and 1/3 turpentine (I’m told you can use mineral spirits as well, but I’ve never done so). That’s it. For larger jobs, I mix enough for 1-1/2 coats, then eliminate the turpentine (50/50 varnish and oil) as I add to the mixture. The turpentine simply thins the mixture so it can soak into the grain; you only need this on the first coat.


Brush the mixture onto the project and keep everything wet for about 5 minutes so the finish gets deep inside the wood pores. After five minutes, wipe away the excess. If there’s no excess, you didn’t apply enough finish. Let the project sit until the finish is dry, then apply another coat. On later coats, because the finish is only oil and varnish, you need to let things sit until the mixture feels like honey before wiping off excess. And if you missed a spot when wiping things clean or if you have a rough texture in the dried finish, take #320-grit sandpaper and sand the surface smooth.

The opening photo shows the box with its first finish coat applied. It takes three coats to build a protective finish, four coats starts to build a sheen and with each additional coat, the surface becomes even more shiny. Like I said, easy.

Build Something Great!



Filed under Finish Techniques

5 responses to “Inlaid Box #4

  1. Eric R

    Nice repair job on the magnet.
    And thanks for the tip on the finish.
    I have a Dresser I’m building, and I think this finish will work well on it.
    central Florida

  2. Tom

    You inspired to make a box with inlaid too. I made the lid totally removable, which I prefer to a hinge.

  3. wrduffield

    Why remove the magnets that you already installed? They’re not hurting anything, they will contribute to the total closure force, and you probably won’t be able to recover them for a future use. Just add two more magnets. That is a lot less work and a lot less risk, and two more small magnets will be less expensive than two more big magnets.

    • That’s certainly an option, but with the magnets located at the center of the box, a second magnets would have appeared odd or off center. I was able to dig out the small magnets and do have the option to use them again when necessary. And, I had the larger magnets on hand. Overall, I think this would look better.

      • wrduffield

        You’re right. I misinterpreted the magnets’ positions in your photos (probably because I usually align a magnet in one surface with a piece of steel in the other surface, instead of opposing two magnets). Of course, to look good, any added magnets would need to be arranged symmetrically around the center, and that would require two more pairs, not one more pair. In any case, you pulled it off, with a fix that looks flawless.

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