A New Donation Box

So, one person stands at the desk and says - “this beat up donation jar is ugly”. Another person says “I have a plain acrylic box thing that could replace it.” I hear them saying this and say “What if I make something in on the Glowforge that is neither ugly nor plain?”

A month, 23 design iterations, and a bit of cursing later, this is the new donation box. The top is hard maple with scored decorations and engraved letting. The lettering was filled with an epoxy/copper powder inlay.

Here it is with the inner tray, just before being installed on the desk (donations fall into the tray, before being removed)

It was a big project, making heavy use of the passthrough slot on the makerspace’s Glowforge - the top measures 10 by 24 inches. The box sides are oak, and the engraved door on the top was the original entrance to our building, from more than 125 years ago. I found an old engraving plate of it, and was able to get that digitized and turned into an engrave with the machine.

Learnt a lot of lessons along the way… if this box gets broken, I have a small list of things I’d change, when making the next version. There’s a couple of blemishes in the finish that I wish I’d done a better job getting out, but I was worried about losing detail on the scored part (the scoring isn’t that deep, unfortunately).

But, I like to think it is a lot better looking than the beat-up old mason jar, or the little acrylic box.


This is beautiful. Great job!

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That’s beautiful, and I love that it falls into an inaccessible tray, as opposed to being a box on top :smiley:

You can definitely score deeper but keep in mind (for future iterations) that the deeper you get, the closer you get to cutting through, and therefore the weaker the piece of wood is (ask me how I know :stuck_out_tongue: )


Looks beautiful. And I like the choice of hardwood v plywood

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Yeah. I went pretty conservative on the score settings, because I was concerned about the structural integrity. I’d originally wanted to have most of the box top be cut away, with just the ornamental pieces flowing into and supporting the lettering (there’s some significant studies about people being more likely to donate if they can see others have already donated, and the thought was it would allow people to see into the tray, without leaving spaces that were large enough for fingers to fit through). Iterations 1 through 10 were based on that idea, and they worked fine when I manufactured them at small scale (ie 1/6th to 1/10th size).

When I did a test run at full size with some scrap plywood though, I quickly realized that there was nowhere near enough integrity left, over the two foot span, if I did that. Iteration 11-13 was trying to figure out supports that wouldn’t a)be ugly or b) interfere with the tray idea (spectacular failures!), so I scrapped the idea of it being mostly cut away by iteration 14. The failures left me very concerned about the structural integrity over that long of a distance, which was why I went very gentle on the engrave and scoring depths.

I will say that going so gentle with the engraves/scoring could have backfired spectacularly if I’d needed to get aggressive with sanding down the top - it would have been easy to lose all detail. But the maple was ‘project ready’ scroll saw wood from Ocooch Hardwoods (Proofgrade was out of stock), and it was a joy to work with - I never touched it with anything harsher than 400 grit sand paper, even when cleaning up the copper/epoxy fill, because it honestly needed anything more aggressive than that.


Yeah. We used varying grades of plywood for a lot of the classes we did in the library’s makerspace, pre-Covid, and it worked well because it was a relatively cheap way of getting folks a chance to actually make something they could take home that night.

But, unless we used Proofgrade or something of similiar quality with a veneer covering, things that were made never really looked great (though some patrons have brought back pictures of how they’d painted things at home, and made even cheap wood look good.) For something like this, I went hunting for a supplier for slabs of 1/4" hardwoods (any thicker, of course, wouldn’t fit in the passthrough slot). Got a couple different pieces (Hard Maple, Beech, and Aspen) and was very pleased with everything I was shipped (you can see the beech being used for the bottom of the interior tray there).

The oak planks that form the box sides were stuff we had hanging out from previous programs, but it never takes engraving or scoring well - I find the grain on oak is too variable for the laser, and getting consistent scores and engraves to be impossible. Cutting it works just fine though.

It’s beautiful, and I love the copper infill. Gives it such an elegant look.