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Tangram and Gift Box


My daughter loves puzzles. Her birthday was coming up and my wife found a Tangram book in a thrift store. I was then tasked with making a Tangram set to go with it.

Tangrams are puzzles. You are given an image, and a set of seven shaped tiles that you need to figure out how to arrange to make into the provided image.

Along with the seven tiles, which are pretty straightforward to create, I set about making a storage box which was large enough to hold the tiles as well as the book. (And also large enough to be useful in other ways, should my daughter ever decide that Tangrams no longer hold any interest.)

Here is the photo essay of the build.

I started with the book.

Along with that, I googled up a Tangram tile pattern online, which I scaled up to a size that I liked and printed out on some paper.

I then went to my "too good to throw out" pile of small lumber and found some 3/8" cherry pieces left over from my recent Bookshelf Bench project.
The Tangram tile patterns where cut out and glued to the paper with some spray adhesive. These were then cut out on the bandsaw and sanded to final shape.

So far, this is a 10 minute project. The tricky part is next.

I went back to my lumber stash and pulled out these boards. On the left are few quarter-sawn white oak boards which my brother gave me. On the right is a piece of (roughly) 3/8" thick spalted maple which I've been hanging onto for years. Spalted maple is just too gorgeous o throw out or burn.

My plan is to use the white oak for the body of the box, and the maple for the top. For dimensions I just placed the Tangram puzzle book down and measured so it would be a bit larger than that in both length and width, and around 3" tall.

I trimmed the pieces to size and used my Woodgears Box Joint Jig to make finger joints in the ends. I also ploughed dados along the top and bottom inside edges to receive the top and the bottom pieces.

My plan was to have a sliding top, so one end was also cut short, so that the lid could slide in over top of it. The bottom was fit into place (without glue, like a floating panel) and the finger joints were glued together.

The dado cuts had left a few tiny gaps at the ends which I plugged with some small pieces of oak. These will be practically invisible after sanding and finishing. Right now you can just see a few of the "patches" in the lower section of the joint, standing proud of the other pieces.

I used a stationary belt sander to sand the fingers flush, and to round over the corners.


A piece of the spalted maple was cut to fit as the lid. It was a touch thicker than the dados, so three of the edges were sanded smoother (back on the belt sander) which gives the entire lid a sort of raised-panel appearance.

As well, a small piece of oak was attached across the end, partly as a finger pull and partly as a fill-in trim piece. It is a cross-grain joint, so there are just a few dabs of glue in the joint, but mainly two small screws fastened in from below, to allow for wood movement.

Box and pieces sanded and ready for finish.

I applied several coats of spray lacquer (from an aerosol can) to all sides of the project. For a small project like that, "rattle-can" finish like that is quick and easy. Laquer dries incredibly fast, so you can apply several coats in a short stretch of time. Though you do need to leave the pieces after to off-gas and cure. That concludes the building part of this photo essay. What follows is a series of photos of the finished project.


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