2021 Christmas Gifts: Lego Display Box

Published Thursday, December 30, 2021 by Bryan

Every year at Christmas, my in-laws draw names for a gift exchange at the next year's Christmas. The rule for the exchange is that the gift must be hand-made. In true-to-form busy-people fashion, many of us squander eleven of those months, and then rush to create something in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Occasionally this leads to the textual interpretation - hand-made, for sure, but not necessarily your own hands. In the year that I started a job and moved from one coast to the other in December, I sunk so low as to interpret the hand-made as hand-selected, acquiring a variety of coffees from San Francisco's roasters on the one weekend I found free. But this year, I had both an early idea and the time to work on it.

I drew my brother-in-law's name, for the first time in 17 years if I recall correctly. Since the start of the pandemic, he has gotten into LEGO. Majorly. Whole-wall storage systems, pieces sorted into divided cases. Old sets, new sets. Hours of learning from builders publishing their methods on YouTube and elsewhere. His own builds sprawl across tables.

He is also a woodworker - in fact a professional in the industry, unlike my amatuer play. His home is a beautiful older house, with a craftsman-style interior full of oak and cherry that he has lovingly restored and improved.

So to give him a way to merge his worlds, I made him a fine red oak box, full of divisions for storing LEGO, and incorporating a plate into the lid. Whether he uses it as a mobile construction station, a display stand for his latest work, or something else, is up to him, but my hope is that it will fit the decor, and help him show off his latest artwork.

The tray and fits both the base and the lid closely enough to keep pieces in their various bins, even if the box is flipped over. The lid is attached to the base with magnets. This keeps it from falling off, while also allowing it to be separated easily and used as a building platform without losing access to the pieces in storage. The pull on the front is suede - easy to grab, and easy to push out of the way.

This build was also a lot of fun for me. I learned to resaw on my table saw! This is something I was unable to do on my old Craftsman. But that same brother-in-law hooked me up with a much nicer Harvey this past year. The much taller, more rigid fence on this saw makes resawing possible.

I also used a technique I learned for picture frames this year: splined corners. I first assembled the box gluing only the endgrain in the 45ยบ corner miters. When that had set for 12 hours, I put the box on my spline jig and cut the slots on my table saw. I don't yet own a flat-grind blade, so before gluing the splines in, I did a light bit of filing to remove the high spot in the bottom of the miter.

The rest of the box construction is similar to my project box from a couple of years ago, in that I first built the whole box as a unit, and then sliced the lid apart from the base. To highlight the splines just a touch more, I set the upper spline on the base 1/16" away from the lower spline on the lid. Centering my 1/8" table saw blade on that space made it take 1/32" off either spline, leaving them exposed when the box is open. These eight splines are also white oak, to set them off even more from the rest of the box.

The tray sides are joined with finger joints. I built my first finger joint jig to make my dresser's drawers. It's such a quick technique to make a good-looking, structural joint. This is a different width of finger than those were, but it took only a few minutes to pull the jig together. The tray sits halfway out of the base to provide alignment with the lid.

The lego plate is attached with carpet tape. After reading many forums, this seemed to be the most common choice for attaching lego plate to table tops. I'll have to check on the box in a few years, and see if it's still attached, but if the initial attachment was any indication, I have nothing to worry about. That stuff is strong! The plate is also recessed into the lid, so its edges won't get caught on and pried up by anything sliding across the box's lid.

I was almost sad when I finished this project. I had so much fun adding little details to it, and had ideas for so many more. I may need to make another for myself, just to play. Merry Christmas, Andrew!

Categories: Woodworking