Pill Box

Here’s a nice item I made for my grandmother on 4th June 2015. It’s a little pill box; something I thought up on the spot and didn’t think through too much but I was fortunate in that the design was successful and didn’t need any tweaks further down the line.

Now, in 2018, it’s still in use, though she likes to put a piece of cardboard over the 7th open slot. My thoughts were to have a box with 7 compartments (one per day, obviously), 6 of which are covered at any one time; the idea being the open one is for today’s pills. She’s more experienced in the art of handling medication so if I was to make this again I would probably consider an 8th compartment (which is a dummy or infilled), or somehow include a lid to cover all compartments without precluding each one opening individually. In the months and years since I made this, the medication regime became more intense and not all pills fitted into each slot – it’s not that I didn’t consider this, I just wanted to keep it reasonably small.

Still, it was well received and I enjoyed making it!

Using some 8 mm thick cherry and walnut stock, I set about cutting various rebates and dados in them.  I wanted the cherry to contrast the dark walnut and I chose a piece of cherry which had asymmetrical grain; keeping the pieces in order of cut to ensure continuity.

I raised the blade of the table saw to partially cut them down to create a continuous tenon the same size as the base notches (just one passon the table saw, so 3 mm thick as per the blade kerf).

I then decided these were too fat and it would be a pain to clean up any glue overspill, so I used more walnut. I cut them so that the sides of the boxes would sit flush and centre them in the notches, in a sort of double rebate. The dividers were the same thickness now and were just held in using the snugness of the joint – no glue. I didn’t want any glue in the pill area just in case.

The box sides lined up perfectly the first time, shown here on a dry fit.

The two short ends just butt up against the long ends, glued. Perhaps I would do some fancy joinery next time, dovetails or box joints maybe, but I wanted this ready in time for her birthday. The lid pieces were the same width as the distance between the centres of two adjacent dividers. As a result, they didn’t fully close 6 compartments – you could see into the 5th one.

I didn’t want to redo everything so I used some leftover sapele from my recent boards project – I knew I had kept the thin slivers for a reason! I just cut these with scissors. These would be mounted to the insides of each lid piece such that when closed, you couldn’t see the gap into the 5th compartment and the doors closed perfectly over the centre of each divider. By the time I’d made this decision, I had completed the glue-up, mainly using elastic bands and a couple of small clamps.

I think I must have overcut the tongues on the lid as there was too much play in the direction where there should be none, so I put some of the same strips on the inside against the walnut as well and sanded this down.

Now, in whichever combination the doors were open, there was no gap into the neighbouring box. A light hand sand and it was almost ready as it was.

I’d decided to use a roundover bit on the router table to create more of a profile, using the full depth to leave a vertical reveal on the base.

After some more sanding to remove any router table marks and tear out, I used some food safe mineral oil on the box, applied using a spray.

The warm day and direct sunlight helped the wood absorb some more by opening the pores and I was able to get into the corners using a cotton bud.

By the time it was dry, the doors opened very smoothly and with a very satisfying noise, as this video will attest. I later re-sanded it (there’s always a bit of glue stuck on that you miss the first time…) and applied another fine coat of oil before giving this rather unconventional birthday present over! It’s always nice to see it on the windowsill or dining table when I go to visit.