Pennsylvania Spice Box Plan
Small chest is a craftsman’s showcase
Synopsis: Steve Latta designed this spice box to commemorate his 10th wedding anniversary. Fitted with banks of small drawers and a two hidden compartments, it features a dovetailed case with an inlaid frame-and-panel door that can be personalized, as Latta did, to mark a special occasion. The box is small enough to fit comfortably atop a dresser or sideboard, but don’t let the small size fool you. This piece contains a wealth of craftsmanship.
When I decided to build a piece for my wife and I, to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, I had two important goals. I wanted it to be on an intimate scale— something smaller than a sideboard or dining table—and I wanted a piece that could be personalized.
This spice box seemed a perfect fit. It’s compact enough to sit on a dresser or in an alcove, and it’s great for storing jewelry and small treasures of all kinds. And, as on many original spice boxes, the inlaid decoration allowed me to personalize the box and commemorate the occasion.
Because Elizabeth and I are Quakers living in Chester County, Pa., I was drawn to the history of the spice-box form. This design is typical of those popular among Pennsylvania Quakers throughout the 18th century. Fitted with banks of small drawers and often hidden compartments, they were displayed as symbols of prosperity. The cases typically were made of walnut, the doors or central drawers veneered or inlaid with combinations of maple, boxwood, holly, cherry, walnut burl, locust, and red cedar (see Master Class, pp. 96-100). A finished spice box is small, but it contains a wealth of craftsmanship.
Start with the case joinery
The case is dovetailed, and the various rabbets and notches for the door and the back complicate the joinery a…
Get the Full-Size Plan
CAD-drawn plans and a cutlist for this project are available in the Fine Woodworking store.