I want to make a wooden box using box joints. The box should be cube-shaped with sides of around 10cm and one side open. This is my first time to make box joints.

I need the box to be as light as possible, so thin wood would be better - however, I can imagine that with thin wood, the joints would be smaller and thus more tedious to get right. Or would this not be such a problem?

If thin wood is not a real option, what types of light (weight-wise) wood could I consider? For example, I read here that pine wood is easy to shape and stain. Would this be an advantage?

Colour is not an issue, but cheaper wood is preferred.

3 Answers 3


Plywood is ultimately the answer. When making box joints or finger joints you need to have dimensionally uniform and preferably stable wood.

Plywood comes in many sizes and I would imagine something like 8mm would be fine. If you are OK with something larger like 16mm then you would have stronger joints as there would be more surface area.

This is dependent on what tools you have. A box joint jig on a table saw would make this a breeze.

I read here that pine wood is easy to shape and stain.

Pine is cheap. That is its main advantage. Most softwood is easy to shape by nature. Easy to stain is inaccurate as pine (and other woods) is susceptible to blotching. Blotching meaning a non-uniform stain.

Real wood will almost always certainly look better. On box joints you are going to see the plys more so you need to know if that is something you are comfortable with aesthetically.


As Matt said, plywood is likely the simplest and most stable wood material to use to make this box. Though pine tends to be lighter than plywood of the same dimensions.

Pine is easy to shape and will actually be easier for a beginner than plywood, since plywood (at least in my experience) likes to splinter easy around cuts. It has to do with the thin layers glued together.

High quality (veneered) plywood has nice face that looks good, and even can 'look' much nicer, however when using box joints the edges will be visible and you will be able to see the ply's.

Pine will likely look better on the box joints. So it's cheap, it's easy to shape, it's light, and it can look fine with just a finish coat on it. As Matt pointed out, pine does tend to be blotchy with staining, so extra work will be need there. Though a lot of veneer plywood is birch plywood, which is also a blotchy wood, so...


In the end, I went with balsa wood. I didn't like the way you can see all the plies of plywood. Also, pine apparently isn't easily available in Western Europe.

The shop employee I talked to claimed that balsa wood has little difference between spring and autumn, which makes it very uniform and easy to saw. It is also very light (of weight and colour).

Here is a picture of the joint before final polishing and varnishing:

enter image description here

I am satisfied with the result and would use the same wood next time.

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