About a year ago, I completed a small, Japanese-style, sliding-lid box. I was drawn to the simplicity and utility of the box after seeing it in Popular Woodworking in late 2015 and the build coincided with my reading of two inspirational books: George Nakashima’s The Soul of a Tree and Soetso Yanagi’s The Unknown Craftsman. I had a few scraps of red oak that I milled with my grandpa before he died and I knew this box would be a meaningful use for the wood. These boxes are the traditional Japanese carpenter’s toolboxes (大工道具箱, daiku dōgu-bako) but smaller versions like mine can be used for gifts or mementos.
My box has dovetailed corners though these boxes usually don’t (I needed the practice). The bottom and top pieces are glued on rather than nailed; since the box is small, I think glue will hold up fine over time. The stop blocks on the lid are attached with brass, round head screws through slightly enlarged pilot holes to allow for wood movement. The outside of the box is finished with several coats of Watco Danish oil and the inside is unfinished.
There are plenty of plans and photos of these boxes online from which you can make one however, it would be difficult to find a better instructor on the subject than Toshio Ōdate so read his article in the October 1995 issue of American Woodworker. If you’re interested in an American perspective on Japanese woodworking, check out “Hillbilly Daiku” and his toolbox build.