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Build It | Hawaiian Mango Keepsake Box

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva works with a local woodworker to build a keepsake box out of mango wood.


  1. If using a slab, ensure it has been dried to 14% humidity, then run it through a wide-belt sander to make it level.
  2. Run the piece through a jointer to get a straight edge, then run it through a table saw to remove the live edge and cut the lumber into a piece about 8” wide.
  3. Cut the dimensioned lumber into pieces about 3/8” thick on the band saw. Run the piece through a wide belt sander again.
  4. Cut a dado that will hold the bottom in place on the table saw.
  5. Sand the piece that will serve as the sides with fine grit sandpaper, starting at a 220 grit and ending at 1200 grit.
  6. Apply a finish to the dado side of the board using polyurethane glue. Dab a few drops of glue, then carefully work the glue into the wood grain using a finishing rag.
  7. Wipe down the finish after application and then again every 10-15 minutes until the glue has cured.
  8. After the glue has cured, sand the piece again using 1200 grit sandpaper.
  9. Apply a paste wax for the final finish.
  10. Cut the pieces to length on a table saw, then miter the corners to 45º.
  11. Glue the four corners together using polyurethane glue. Before installing the final piece, place a thin piece of koa wood in the dado to serve as the bottom. Use strap clamps to hold the miters true while the glue sets.
  12. Use a jig to hold the box and the lid at 45º and run them separately through the table saw, creating a space for splines at the corners.
  13. Use polyurethane glue to hold Cuban mahogany scraps in the splines.
  14. Run the box and lid through the wide belt sander as the splines dry.
  15. Once the glue has dried, use a flush cut saw to make the splines flush.
  16. Glue an additional piece of mango to the sides of the lid using polyurethane glue.
  17. Drill two 5mm holes on the box and the lid to accept barrel hinges.
  18. Cut a chamfer on the bottom and top of the lid where the hinge holes are to ensure the lid opens.
  19. Sand the piece and ease the corners.
  20. Apply polyurethane glue as a finish to the outside pieces in the same manner as before. After it has dried, use paste wax again.
  21. Install the barrel hinges using super glue to hold them in place.