Instructions: Divided Insert Tray for a Box

It was a classic example of needing organization. I'd been using a variety of colors of embroidery thread to quilt my next project and the skeins were all over the floor. In the studio, I'd just assembled one of my box models completely. Look right, look left, look right again. I could make a box for my threads. But I had a box. It needed compartments. I built a little divided insert that could slide out. It is slightly lower than the box; a small pair of scissors fits on top of it when the box is closed. I could have built two shallow trays that would stack. Here is the basic idea. You can build a box first, or build a tray to fit a box you already have.

We have a case of Fogust here, as summers in the Bay Area tend to go, so we didn't even have shadows while other people were screaming at the eclipse. I watched a little on TV (but how is that different from other TV?), then finished up this model for you.

Materials: a box, book board, book cloth and/or covering paper
Tools: pencil; bone folder; knife and cutting mat and/or scissors; PVA, brush for gluing, old magazines or waxed paper for waste paper

Measure and cut a board to fit inside the smaller tray or bottom of the box.
It will be approximately the same size as the bottom minus 3-4 board thicknesses.

Cut side boards all the same depth, lower than the sides of your box.
Cut two boards the same length as the base of the tray.
Cut two boards the same width as the tray minus two board thicknesses.
Cut your dividers the same size as the latter boards.

Showing two board thicknesses.
You will need room to glue the side boards to each other.

Glue the side boards on top of the base board.
Note how the shorter board is sandwiched between the two longer boards.
Let dry.

Tear a strip of scrap paper and use it to measure from a little under the tray, up the outer wall, and 

down inside the tray, overlapping a little on the bottom.
Trim the scrap paper to this height.
That's how high the book cloth or covering paper will be.

There's the scrap paper on the right.
The length of the book cloth or covering paper is a little past the tray, then roll the tray along the cloth until you have enough to cover all the sides.

Apply glue to the back of the covering paper or cloth, start a little bit from the edge, and begin rolling up.

Make sure you glue down that little flap at the end, wrapping it around the corner.

Trim the very end so it is exactly at the corner of the tray and does not overlap,

making an almost invisible seam.

Underneath the tray, cut triangles at all four corners: snip to the corner, then snip again.

Apply glue to the flaps and wrap over the bottom edges.

Like covering boards for a book. The corners a somewhat mitred.

Measure and cut another piece of covering paper or cloth for the outside base of the tray. It will be almost the size of the base with about a 1/8" margin.
Apply glue and center in place to cover the turn ins.

Lay the tray on its side. On the inside of the tray, and on the shorter sides that will not have the dividers attached to them, draw lines from just inside the corners to the edges of the covering paper or cloth.

Cut along these lines. Don't worry about that extra piece at the overlapped corner.

Create the dividers by cutting pieces of the covering paper or cloth so that they are double the depth plus about a 1/4" margin all the way around. Glue down the boards.

Apply glue to the remaining covering paper, fold over the board, and press into place.

At the top fold, snip from the edges in to the board.

Trim diagonals at the bottom corners leaving about 1-2 board thicknesses between the corner of the board and the cloth you cut off. Make as many dividers as you like. For this, I've made two. Bend open all the flaps.

Measure and mark, top and bottom on the top edges of the tray, where the inserts will align.

Apply glue to the flaps and press the inserts into place, making sure all the flaps are touching the walls and base. Repeat for other divider(s).

Make tiny cuts at the top corners to alleviate stress when you turn them in.

Without gluing yet, fold down the side flaps and crease the covering paper. Pull it back out and make little angled cuts and trims so it will lie flat once it is glued down. Start with that little overlap strip and glue it down in the inside corner. Then continue.

Apply glue to these two flaps and smooth into place by first making sure the top edge is smooth, then bring it down the walls. You may need to bend the flaps as you bring them into the tray so they do not get glue on the other walls.

Draw lines, then make cuts across from the dividers to make extra flaps.

Apply glue and press into place.

Cut covering paper or cloth to fit almost exactly in the compartments. Using the same color for all of these sections gives it a tidy and uniform look and tends to cover anything that might look like a mistake such as an extra cut or fold.

When dry, slip it into the pre-made box.

Originally, this clamshell box wouldn't close. The pieces did not have enough of a gap between them. I cut them apart and re-glued them, this time with three board thickness between the boards and used the red cloth to connect them, like you might make a portfolio or half cloth book (see Making Handmade Books). If you measure just right and have everything centered, the top and bottom edges of the cloth will be parallel and align with each other.

And now it is afternoon, and of course the sun is finally out.


Aine Scannell said…


I have just been having a 90 minute perusal through this blog of yours and I have hardly read that much really - there's heaps more.........I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the effort you put into this and all the fun / discoveries / experiments/ developments and techniques that you share with us. Thank you so much

Aine (based in Scotland UK)

Alisa said…
Thanks, Aine! Very good to hear!