Little Pill Boxes archive

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Paul Stafford creates a selection of handy little pill boxes, all of which use a rubber O ring for lid retention. They are perfect for storing small items


Little boxes are useful when small items like pills, sweets, hearing aid batteries, etc. need to be protected and carried in pockets or purses. Turning threads into small boxes is very difficult and complicated. The use of a flexible O-ring will keep the lid and base firmly connected avoiding unwanted spillage. A simple twist and pull will open the box when needed.

These boxes are quick and easy to make so they could be sold at low cost or better yet - given as useful, functional gifts. I usually make a batch at one time so on average they only take about 10 minutes each with a minimal material cost.

O-rings can be found at your local hardware store at a low cost or by searching the internet. Standard sizes in metric or inch sizes are available. I used those made out of buna (synthetic rubber) with a Durometer rating of 70 that is softer than a rating of 90. A cross-section diameter of 3/32in works well.

Feel free to add decorations to the side or top of your boxes. In addition to the turning tools, you will also need two Forstner bits, a mini gouge and a depth gauge.

Tools used: Forstner bit, narrow parting tool, thin parting tool

Step 1

Start out with a dowel of wood of your choice then parallel the sides of the dowel and finish it so that it is smooth

Step 2

CRITICAL DIMENSION: Cut the opening in what will be the lid using a Forstner bit. Don't let the tip go deeper than needed. Complete the hole to a flat bottom using a parting tool or scraper

Step 3

Verify the hole depth is correct using a homemade depth gauge. Cut a slight recess just inside the lid opening for the O-ring to snap into

Step 4

Sand the hole smooth and then check that the O-ring just fits

Step 5

If you want to, this is the time to burn a decorative line into the lid of the box with a wire

Step 6

Next, you need to apply a finished coating of wax

Step 7

Part off the lid using a sharp, narrow parting tool and then round off the edge on the top of the lid. You can take care of the little nib later

Step 8

CRITICAL DIMENSION: Cut the smaller outside diameter section of the base where the lid mates - slightly less than the lid depth. Set the depth with a gauge

Step 9

Next, you need to verify a close fit using the lid you have just turned

Step 10

CRITICAL DIMENSION: Use a narrow parting tool to cut a recessed groove for the O-ring to fit into

Step 11

Place the O-ring in the groove and verify the lid fits snuggly. This step will have to be repeated until the desired fit is achieved. Remember to sneak up on it. Cut the opening in the base using a Forstner bit, but don't let the tip go deeper than needed. Complete the hole to a flat bottom using a parting tool or scraper

Step 12

Verify the hole depth is correct using a homemade depth gauge

Step 13

Part off the base using a sharp, narrow parting tool. Round off the edge on the bottom of the base, and now go back to step 2 and do another. I use fine grit sandpaper on an oscillating electric sander to remove the nibs and smooth the top lid and bottom base. Apply a finished coating of wax after sanding smooth. The little pill boxes are now complete and are ready to fulfil a variety of different uses

Tegan Foley

Tagged In:

storage , Paul Stafford , pill box , handy

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About The Author

Paul Stafford began turning in the 1980s. What started as a hobby is now his retirement activity. He is best known for his signature Zippered vessels and tends toward unique eclectic designs. Many of his turnings include extensive carving and added acrylic colour. He is a member of the Front Range Woodturners group in Colorado, USA.

Handy Hints

1. Take extra care to get the critical dimensions correct, as this will affect the final result
2. When sanding thin wood, as in the lid and base, do not let the wood overheat, as it will crack
3. Cutting the O ring recess too deep can be corrected by filling the recess with a layer of masking tape to build the diameter back up
4. Using a sharp parting tool for this project will reduce the chance of any end grain pull outs occurring
5. Rubbing the mating surfaces with a bar of hard hand soap adds lubrication to make the lid snap on easier
6. If you are going to make many of these boxes, it would be worthwhile to modify the Forstner bits by grinding away their centring tips so they make flat bottom holes

Time Taken & Cost

Time taken: 10 minutes (per box)
Cost: £13 for piece of padauk measuring 50 x 50 x 610mm (2 x 2 x 24in), which makes around 20 boxes; o ring - around 50p each

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge