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Band saw boxes have a distinct aesthetic that’s hard to duplicate by other means. The possible shapes, styles and drawer arrangements – including hidden drawers, lids and lift-out trays – are limited only by your imagination. They are usually made from a single, solid chunk of wood. A band saw box can present a baffling mystery to many woodworkers and laypeople alike. But they’re actually deceptively simple to make. To demystify the process, we’re going to break it down for you step by step, with plenty of pictures. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right to it!

Grab Your Wood – Let’s Make A Band Saw Box

We’re going to make a keepsake box out of this chunk of Western red cedar.

Band saws are some of the most used stationary tools in my shop; they are amazingly versatile. And band saw boxes are an exploitation of the things band saws do (resawing and cutting curves) – and don’t do (make inside cuts) – really well. They can be made from just about any piece of solid or laminated wood. If it’s large enough, it will probably work.

In this case, I’m using a cedar offcut from the construction of a balcony. I didn’t build the balcony, but I did lay claim to the scraps, many of which became band saw boxes and other projects over the years.

I know the knots on this face will interfere with the drawers in my design, so I’m making this the back of the box.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for With most projects, I start with wood having flat, smooth faces. Since this is cedar, which sands easily, I’m going to ignore the rough surfaces and jump right into the project. Everything will be sanded smooth later on.

A Little Preparatory Clean-up

Flaws can become features, but split end grain only becomes a headache. I trimmed this away before laying out my pattern.

To determine how much wood you have to work with, inspect your blank and note any splits or other obstacles that you might want to avoid. Blemishes can often be incorporated into the final project, becoming attractive features. But split end grain can be a problem and should be removed before proceeding.

Trim away any split end grain. I cut off a little at a time, inspect and repeat until I’m past the splits.

Lay Out Your Band Saw Box Design

With the shape and size of the wood in mind, I drew up a couple design ideas. I’m going with the one on top this time.

A band saw box can be as simple as a single drawer or as complicated as you can dream up. You can find plenty of design ideas and patterns online. This one is inspired by one of my old designs having a multi-level ganged drawer. The process outlined here can be applied to countless designs, whether like mine or completely different. Simple or complex.

I made this one a few years ago as a gift. The unusual drawer layout served as inspiration for the current project and others.

In general, the drawers should have rounded corners because of the way they’re cut. It’s possible to make square cornered drawers using a technique I came up with several years back, but doing so drastically alters the build process. In other words, it’s a project for another time.

Tighter curves require smaller width blades. This chart gives you an idea of the tightest curve that can be made with different size blades. Photo: OlsonSaw.net

The size blades you have at your disposal may – to some degree – affect your design. Wider blades are great for cutting straight lines and resawing, but they limit the minimum radius of your curves. The smaller the blade (measured from front to back) the tighter curves you can cut.

An Overview Of The Band Saw Box Making Process

The most important aspect of making band saw boxes is to maintain the proper order of operations. Here’s a brief summary before we dive deeper:

1) Cut out overall shape.
2) Cut off the back.
3) Cut out the drawers.
4) Glue the kerfs closed.
5) Cut the fronts and backs off of the drawers.
6) Mark and cut out the interiors of the drawers.
7) Sand only the insides of the drawer cutouts and carcass (but don’t sand the fronts of backs of either).
8) Glue the fronts and backs back onto the drawers and carcass.
9) Make and glue on drawer pulls.
10) Sand.
11) Keep sanding.
12) Sand some more.
13) Apply finish.
14) Finish the drawer interiors with your method of choice.

During the entire process, avoid sanding any cut surface that will be glued later on. If you leave the cuts rough, they will glue back together virtually seamlessly, with very little disruption to the grain pattern.

Baby Got Back – Let’s Cut It Off!

Here, I’m beginning to cut out the overall shape. There’s a split knot I want to avoid on top, so I trimmed that away first.

SAFETY NOTE: Band saws and other power tools are dangerous. Be sure you understand how your tools work and how to operate them safely!

Begin by cutting the outside shape.

The first step is to cut out the overall shape you want.

I’m marking a cut line for the back.

Next, slice off the back and set it aside for later. I usually cut the back about 1/8 – 3/16” thick. The larger the box, the thicker the back. In this case, I’m leaving enough meat (1/4”) so that I can sand away the rough outside surface without it becoming too thin.

Using the saw’s fence as a guide when slicing off the back. I have a 3/4” blade installed for this cut.
As you approach the end of the cut, reposition your grip past the blade.
Now that the back is separated, set it aside for later.

You’ve Got Some Nice Curves In Those Drawers – We Should Hang Out Sometime

Overall dimensions of this piece are 10-1/2” long x 5-3/4” tall x 3-3/4” deep.

Now that you’ve established the overall shape and size, go ahead and lay out the drawer arrangement on the front of the box. Yours doesn’t have to be fancy, like mine; use your imagination and make it your own. To cut out the drawers, install a blade small enough the make the desired curves. You can always make wider curves with a narrow blade, but you can’t make tighter curves with a blade that’s too large.

I installed a 3/16” blade for the remainder of the project.

Cut Out The Band Saw Box Drawers

Cutting out the drawers is just a matter of following the lines, much like you do when using a scroll saw. In fact, if you’re making a small enough box, you can actually do the entire project with a scroll saw.

The problem is, how in the world do you get a band saw blade in there to cut the drawers out? Easy; you cut right through the carcass then glue the kerf (the gap created by the blade) closed afterwards. A well cut, well glued kerf will be nearly invisible.

IMPORTANT: to get the drawers started, enter the cut with the grain, not across it!

To cut out the drawers, identify a line that follows the grain – the bottom of a drawer, in this case – and approach it straight on, from the side of the box. It’s the 1 last update 2020/07/09 important to only cut through the carcass in the same direction as the grain.To cut out the drawers, identify a line that follows the grain – the bottom of a drawer, in this case – and approach it straight on, from the side of the box. It’s important to only cut through the carcass in the same direction as the grain.

When you approach a curve, take your time. And remember that the blade must be cutting to turn. You can’t spin the wood in place like you can with a scroll saw. So anticipate your turns.

Approaching the first curve.
Exiting the wide arc.
Rounding the side of the drawer.
Circle all the way around until you come back to the entry point.
Take your time around the curves. You don’t want to make the edges of your box too thin.

As soon as you break through the end of the cut, stop feeding the wood. Hold the workpiece in place with one hand and turn off the saw with the other. Once the blade has stopped, gently spread the kerf (if needed) and work the blade out of the wood.

Conclude this cut by following the curve all the way around until it cuts through. Then stop feeding and turn off the saw to avoid scarring the part you’ve already cut.

One Drawer Down, Three To Go

Here’s where we are at this point.
This kerf was the blade entry and exit point. Once it’s glued closed, it will all but completely vanish, invisible to the casual observer.

If your band saw box has more than one drawer, go ahead and cut out the rest of them now.

All 4 drawers are cut out.

Separation Anxiety – An Optional Step To Relieve Tension

See how the kerfs virtually disappear when held closed?

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for To close the kerfs, inject glue and clamp them together. Closing the kerfs causes a small amount of flex in the wood. Sometimes, when you have multiple kerfs on the same side of a band saw box, you may want to relive some of the tension by separating the carcass somewhere in the middle.

Cutting here will effectively eliminate one kerf from each side.

Whether or not to do this is a judgment call based on the amount of force required to hold all of the kerfs closed, the thickness of the walls and the stiffness of the wood you’re using. You don’t want to crack your carcass trying to close a whole row of kerfs.

Now the carcass is in two parts, each with only one kerf to glue closed.

Remember that this separation is an optional step that isn’t required in many/most cases, especially if your box has only one or two drawers. But it’s a good tool to for 1 last update 2020/07/09 keep in mind. In the case of two drawers, locate your kerfs on opposite sides of the box, if possible.Remember that this separation is an optional step that isn’t required in many/most cases, especially if your box has only one or two drawers. But it’s a good tool to keep in mind. In the case of two drawers, locate your kerfs on opposite sides of the box, if possible.

Closing The Kerfs In Your Band Saw Box Carcass

Here are all the parts we have so far.

Now we can close the kerfs. Do not sand the kerfs! Leave them rough. Apply glue sparingly; it’s stronger than you think. Aim for full coverage with as little excess as possible. You want a small amount of glue to squeeze out – ensuring the seams are completely filled – but if it runs or drips it can cause more work later on. Glue runs can be wiped up with a damp rag. Just try not to smear it around.

Be careful not to go overboard with the glue. It can make a mess if it drips and runs.
Borrow a friend’s credit card to spread the glue around. Or use a tooth pick, business card or whatever works.
Clamp it together while the glue dries. Use just enough pressure to fully close the gap.
Set the carcass aside to dry and let’s get back to the drawers.

Back To The Band Saw Box Drawers

Here are the 4 drawer blanks.

Now to transform these slugs into drawers. Slice off the front and back of each drawer, the same way we cut the back off of the box earlier. Generally speaking, these don’t have to be quite as thick as the box’s back. An 1/8th inch should be fine in most cases.

I’m cutting off about 1/8”. Maybe a hair more. After removing the back, turn the piece around and remove the same amount from the front.
A piece of scrap is being used to push the thin offcut past the blade.

Cutting The Front And Back Off Of An Odd-Shaped Drawer.

I started this cut with the leading end resting firmly against the table.

Oddly shaped drawers may seem be tricky to slice the fronts and backs off of. Pass them through the blade in such a way that the section being cut is always supported by the table of the band saw, even if you have to prop it up with a piece of scrap wood. Otherwise, the blade can slam the workpiece down and break it. Keep your wits about you and be safe. These pictures should illustrate the point.

As I pass the curve, I gradually rock the piece backwards.
By this time, the trailing end of the piece is resting on the band saw table to finish up the cut.
Again, a push stick is used as the blade approaches the end of the cut.
The opposite takes place while cutting the back side. This time I started with the leading end flat against the table then rocked down into this position.
Every drawer should now have its front and rear removed.
Set these aside for now.

Reviving The Carcass

The two halves of the carcass. Apply glue only to the three flared ends.

After the glue has set for a while – and before the buzzards start circling the carcass – glue the halves back together. Earlier, we split the chassis to reduce the flexing tension on the weak cross-grain sections of the box. Whether that step applies to your band saw box depends on the requirements of your particular design, the wood you’re working with and your personal preference.

Band saw boxes can sometimes require creative clamping.

Cleaning Up The Squeeze-Out In The Band Saw Box Carcass

This amount of glue squeeze-out is pretty good. A little less is better. Any more may run or drip. And none at all may indicate a glue-starved connection.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for After the glue has dried, the excess can be pared off with a chisel. When I have only a tiny amount of squeeze-out, I try to resist the temptation to wipe it off when wet, for fear of smearing it around. As is, it will clean up easily.

A small chisel is used to pare away the line of dried glue.
Remove the excess glue after it’s dried.

The Biting Reality Of Band Saw Box Drawer Cavities

The drawer bodies are marked and ready to be cut. Notice how I handled the long, zig-zag double drawer. It has two distinct openings.

The next step is to create the cavities that make the drawers, drawers. Always put the drawer bodies into their respective cubbies before laying out the openings. The last thing you want is to accidentally cut a drawer upside-down. You would no longer be a happy camper; and there’s nothing your dentist can do about it.

Cutting Your Band Saw Box Drawer Cavities

For safety, a hand screw clamp can be used to hold smaller drawers while cutting them. Clamp securely, but not too tight. If you can’t get a firm grasp, try putting double stick tape on the clamp jaws. If your drawer cavities have curved inside corners, you can cut them out in one motion. But if they have squared inside corners – like some of the ones in this box – the procedure shown here will get the job done.

Start by cutting along one side.
Then cut the other side
Then cut towards one of the corners at an angle to remove a wedge of material.
Next, nibble away a slot wide enough for the blade to fit into sideways.
Now you can get in there and cut the bottom of the cavity, completely removing the waste wood.
The four drawer bodies with cavities cut.
The scrap from the drawers can often be made into even smaller band saw boxes. I’ve gone as far as using a scroll saw to make boxes from the scrap of the drawers of boxes made from drawer scraps. Like Russian nesting dolls, only cooler.

Assembling The Band Saw Box Drawers

Gently knock off any fuzzies around the glue surfaces with a fine grit sanding sponge or sandpaper.

If you want to sand the drawer cavities, now is the time to do so. But only sand the interior of the drawer body, not the edges or the front/back pieces.

When mating the fronts and backs to the drawer bodies, take care to orientate them correctly.

Use 180-220 grit sandpaper or a fine sanding sponge to knock off any fuzzies around the edges then glue the fronts and backs on. It doesn’t take much sanding (or glue) at all; don’t overdo it.

Apply glue sparingly to the edge of the drawer body and spread it thinly with your finger.
Clamp and set the drawers aside to dry.

Band Saw… Ugh, I Mean, Sand Paper Boxes

Hand sand the inside of the carcass. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just clean it up a little bit. You can use a drum sander, but if you remove too much material you may end up with droopy drawers. But I guess if you’re into β€œsagging”, go right ahead; I prefer a belt.

Did I mention that some people teasingly refer to band saw boxes as β€œsand paper boxes”? Of course I didn’t; I wouldn’t want to scare you away! There’s a good reason though; they can require a lot of sanding. So when making your cuts, keep your feed rate smooth and steady. Every little start and stop leaves a forensic trace, many of which will have to be dealt with by sanding.

Gently knock any fuzzies off of the back edges with 180 grit sandpaper or a fine sanding sponge.

Until now, the carcass has been somewhat delicate. But a lot of the strength will return once the rear panel is glued back on. But before doing so, take the chance to do some sanding on the inside of the carcass. The inside doesn’t have to be nearly as smooth as the exterior. Just knock down any random peaks and rough spots.

Give The Carcass Its Back Back

Progress report: The drawers are assembled and the back is ready to be glued in place.

Now to reattach the back of the box. You’ll notice that part or all of the carcass is now slightly shorter (or narrower, if your grain runs vertically) than the back. The missing height was lost to blade kerf. Determine which edge – top or bottom – you want to align, then glue the back in place.

Carcass got back!
I’m aligning the bottom edge, since the top is straight and will take less effort to knock down.
The height difference on top can be planed or sanded flush.
As with the drawers, only apply glue to the carcass edges, not to the back panel.
Clamp the back in place. Parallel clamps aren’t a necessity, but they sure make this job easier.

More Sanding

Using an oscillating belt sander to smooth the outside of the drawers. Sand just enough to make things smooth. The more wood you remove the looser the drawers will fit.

Are you still with me? Hey, wake up over there; we’re in the home stretch now! I know, there’s a lot of waiting around while glue the 1 last update 2020/07/09 dries. Going by the number of different shirts I’m wearing, you can see this was a multi-day build. But there’s usually another part of the project that you can be working on while things are clamped up. Right now, however, it’s off to the power sanders. Let’s sand the outsides of the drawers and carcass.Are you still with me? Hey, wake up over there; we’re in the home stretch now! I know, there’s a lot of waiting around while glue dries. Going by the number of different shirts I’m wearing, you can see this was a multi-day build. But there’s usually another part of the project that you can be working on while things are clamped up. Right now, however, it’s off to the power sanders. Let’s sand the outsides of the drawers and carcass.

A belt sander makes this process fairly painless. A palm sander will work as well. Or, if you’re a masochist, you can always sand by hand.
Sand a slight round-over on the inside and outside edges of all the drawers.
Also round over all edges on the carcass.
Here’s the sanded carcass, ready for a finish.
See how all the rounding over creates a nice, soft look?

Custom Pulls For Your Band Saw Box Drawers

I began by cutting 5/16” square rods at the table saw.

You can buy little drawer pulls if you want. But after all this work, shop made pulls – even simple ones – add a satisfying, personal touch. This is the basic pull design I use on the majority of my band saw boxes. But sometimes, shapes like hearts or butterflies might be more appropriate. Be creative.

Cut into 1-1/4” lengths.

Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for The measurements given are for reference only, alter them as needed.

Rounding over both ends.

Attaching Pulls To The Band Saw Box Drawers

These pulls are made of padauk (said β€œpuh-DUKE”), a reddish-brown wood grown in Africa and Asia.

Select the best looking face on each pull and round over its edge, leaving the bottom side with a nice, crisp edge. Finally, glue the pulls in place.

Because I wanted the pulls to be more or less vertically aligned, I started with the double drawer. Then used those pulls as reference when positioning the others. Be sure to put the drawers into their respective places – especially with oddly-shaped drawers – to make sure you get the pulls level. Parallel to the bottom of a drawer isn’t necessarily level when the drawer is in place.

I glued pulls to the double drawer first. Remember, a little glue will do. Squeeze-out at this point just makes a mess that interferes with the finish.
Once the first pulls were glued on, I put the drawers in place and positioned the rest.
Alas, the final glue-up!

Finishing Touches – The Beginning Of The End

We have now made a band saw box. From solid chunk of wood to functional item in just under 400 discrete steps! Go us! But you really didn’t think we were done so soon, did you? Functional is great, sure. But there’s a lot of hidden beauty in there. What this project needs is more steps!

The box was finished with clear spray lacquer.

Before applying a finish, remove any sanding dust by wiping lightly with a tack cloth. Use the 1 last update 2020/07/09 your finish of choice. My standard finish for band saw boxes is RUST-OLEUM clear lacquer.Before applying a finish, remove any sanding dust by wiping lightly with a tack cloth. Use your finish of choice. My standard finish for band saw boxes is RUST-OLEUM clear lacquer.

After the first thin coat or two of lacquer, give the box and drawers a very light sanding with a fine or extra fine grit sanding sponge to soften things up again. Then wipe away the dust again and spray more coats of lacquer, for a total of 5-7 coats. You should only need to sand the one time during the finishing process, not between every coat.

Use light pressure; just enough to remove the raised grain and make the surface smooth to the touch. This round of sanding takes only moments per piece.

Finally, the drawer cavities were flocked to give them a soft, velvety interior. What’s flocking? We’ve got you covered with this how to apply flocking HomeFixated article from last year.

Flocking is an easy-to-apply lining that’s perfect for band saw boxes.
The completed drawers.
To make the drawers glide smoother, rub a little paraffin wax on the bottom.

Outside Of The Box

The band saw box is done!

We hope we’ve helped you to better understand the process of making band saw boxes. And maybe even inspired you to make your own. It may seem complicated at first, but you’ll find that you can cut one out in no time. Then it’s just a matter of sanding, gluing, rinsing and repeating.

Some of the many band saw boxes I’ve made over the years.
Here’s an example of nested boxes. The middle box is made from the drawer scrap of the bottom box. The two on top were cut with a scroll saw from the drawer scrap of the middle box.

If you’d like to see the process of building the box that inspired this one, check out my video here:

Let us know in the comments if you’ve ever made a band saw box and any tips or tricks you might have come up with to make the process easier. Now get out to your shop and make something cool!

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Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don''s and much more!

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  1. Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Van Sullivan says

    Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for

    God blessed me with a father who was a true wood wizard ! He owned and ran his own custom cabinet and special millwork shop for years . He had 12-14 custom home builders that he did all of their work . From the kitchen, laundry , bath , bedroom ,and den credenzas with bookcases and mantles to scroll top exterior front door headers and fluted pilasters and transom light entries . The homes were anywhere from $300 K to well over a million dollars . He never advertised in the yellow pages as he was too busy by word of mouth . Damn , I sure loved and admired that man . I worked for him from 12 – 29 years of age . I’m now retired from the N.C. Air National Guard and the Charlotte Fire Department and find myself in my own workshop doing our thing again on a much smaller scale of course . It’s truly gratifying !

    • Marc Lyman the 1 last update 2020/07/09 sayssays

      Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Hi Van, thank you for sharing your story! Sounds like your father was quite a craftsman, and that he inspired you to carry on some of that tradition. Thanks for being a part of our community here at Home Fixated!

  2. Larry O''nofollow''comment-reply-link''#comment-128582''Reply to Larry O'Connor''''https://graph.facebook.com/v2.9/10210978641495654/picture?type=large''https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/bd113ea495c4fc86520d3eeff68fc445?s=120&d=mm&r=pg 2x''avatar avatar-60 photo''60''60''Connor says

    Bandsaw blades, not the 1 last update 2020/07/09 bandsawsBandsaw blades, not bandsaws

    • James Kirkpatrick Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for says

      Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for Those are beautiful boxes and I was REALLY excited about the projec5 until you told me I had to β€œsand” it.

      • Steve French says

        Woodworking Planshow to Woodworking Plans for I feel your pain, James. I suppose you don’t HAVE to sand it. But it you want it smooth and beautiful, it sure helps! Thank you for visiting HomeFixated. We appreciate the support.

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