I would like to start designing some boxes based on an idea that I have. But I've never worked with wood before and I have no woodworking tools so I would need to purchase whatever tools are required.

I'm trying to get a direction to aim for that would allow to me to begin building some basic boxes that are still decent quality.

What would be the joint to use? What would be the tools required to create that joint?

  • 2
    If i had an idea for a box, I know the idea would be all about joints. Can you describe the type of joint idea that you have? Then someone might comment on its relative simplicity.
    – Ast Pace
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 5:04

4 Answers 4


Butt joints are the easiest joint to make and have been used for centuries.

enter image description here

You need to account for the width of the corners that over lap when making size cuts with this joint but it isn't that hard. Screws, glue, nails all can be used to attach the joint, depending on the use the box will be used for.

The only tools you really need for this joint is a drill to pilot the holes through the face board so the ends don't split and either a screw driver to drive the screws or a hammer to drive the nails.

If you want to up things a notch you can move on to mitered joints,

enter image description here

People use dowels, splines, nails, glue, and screws to secure these joints. They will need more tools and a little more skill to perform well. Minimum these need a miter to make the cut.

One last thing. a 'Box joint' is actually a specific kind of joint. this you need a saw or a router to make even cuts on both corners that will interweave to make a nice solid corner.

enter image description here

  • 2
    I'd like to add that instead of nails one can also use dowels and glue to secure the butt joint. A dowel could even be hidden if the pilot hole is made as blind hole, which is a little harder to do. It should be noted that whatever is used to attach the joint can often also be used to align it. If in the given picture the pilot holes extend into the lower piece of wood, the nails will lock in place. Driving the nails in with a hammer and keeping the boards aligned is easier this way.
    – null
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 22:58
  • There's a good sequence of webpages on StartWoodworking that goes thru the variations of butt joint, all the way up to recognizing that a dovetailed joint is basically a fancy way to make a strong butt joint. (No affiliation except being a reader and on their mailing list.)
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 23:56
  • 1
    You could make a box joint with chisels too.
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 16:01
  • Mitre joints are actually really difficult to get perfectly accurate for a beginner, the angles and piece lengths have to be spot on, especially when building up a full frame which will join together e.g. in a rectangle with 4x mitred corners, otherwise you'll get misalignment.
    – WhatEvil
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 10:22
  • @WhatEvil yes it is difficult to make perfect miters, but it can still look a little better than some butt joints, all depending on what is being made and the purpose of the box. Also good to practice it...
    – bowlturner
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 11:44

I am a novice woodworker. I found pocket hole joints easy and sturdy.

You'll need:

  • a pocket hole jig
  • Drill
  • Driver
  • and the appropriate screws

The biggest negative to a pocket hole joint is the large pocket holes. You can will need to use a nice bit of filler to cover it or use a plug.

  • You would need a way to cut it flush but dowel and glue is an easy way to fill that hole. Also provides a nice accent.
    – Matt
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 18:23
  • I would say pocket holes are a great option for a novice who may not be interested in getting intimate with woodworking (or a lot of other uses, for that matter) They're sturdy and easy to make.
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 15:58

The corner butt joint would be the very simplest joint to use for joining the sides of a box:

Corner butt joint

This requires very little in the way of tools at the most basic, in theory you only need one saw to cut your wood to length. Then you simply fasten the pieces together — this can be done with glue alone, and without the aid of clamps if necessary. I should mention that only glued this joint is not particularly strong, however for boxes it can be strong enough.

However sawing would leave a rougher surface on the cut ends of the wood that should be smoothed and this would really then require one or more additional tools, for example a hand plane or a powered sander of some sort (manual sanding is an option but it takes a lot of effort).

Even if the sawn edges are properly smoothed this sort of joint is not considered very attractive, but that said if you use attractive wood the box will have an inherent beauty from the material used.

You also need to consider the box bottom. Again the simplest option here would be to cut a rectangle or square of wood, hardboard or plywood and just glue it to the edges of the four-sided box frame that you made previously.

But again this is considered ugly by many people (particularly where plywood is used) and most box makers hide the bottom by insetting it into grooves in the sides. However, forming the needed groove or rebate/rabbet requires further tools, and some experience to do well.

You could get away with just sawing a smaller piece of wood that is exactly sized to the hole in the four sides and simply glueing this in place. Not the strongest option but can be strong enough, particularly for smaller boxes or where the box is not intended to take heavy contents.


Although others have mentioned the butt joint as simple, I don't recommend it for beginners (unless you are using a biscuit jig), because due to its extreme simplicity alignment is very hard to get perfect. I like to start with a lap joint, which because it has an internal stop simplifies alignment to the point that all alignment can be done with one hand (if not large/heavy), and clamping is simpler. A lap joint does require a table saw, but you don't always need a dado head or to double cut. You can get a basic lap joint with just the width of your blade. Admittedly this is does not produce much of a lip, but it makes a difference.

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