I started out by asking for opinions from the DM's Block fellas and I got quite a lot of useful feedback. Based on that input and my own personal specs I started drafting the prototype. That draft took the better part of 3 days to complete but I'm pretty sure I saved a lot more time for having a detailed, accurate draft to start with. The actual construction seems to have taken about 4-5 days but a lot of that was because it was a prototype.
The original draft called for a compartment within the lid that gave enough space for two rows of upright index cards and a few books, notebooks, loose papers, etc. Since I was expecting the box to have to carry the weight of 1 or 2 source books I used 1/4" fiberboard for the structural parts. Once I saw how tall it would make the box I wound up removing the lid compartment and I'm still pretty content with that. It also means that I could/should have made this prototype out of 1/8" fiberboard and wound up with something a lot lighter.
Some other things I learned from the prototype:
- Wood screws aren't that much better than nails for fiberboard at these dimensions, and nails will sit flatter
- Kote is a fine "paint" for small bits of wood, but tends to look uneven over larger areas
- Something I already knew but was reminded of: any "craft" wood is almost certainly 1/8" shorter on every dimension than it's labeled
- Plywood as a material is lighter and a little easier to work with/paint. Fiberboard is cheaper but just as structurally sound. It won't easily take a staple though.
- Dovetail joints are great but have a fairly low tolerance. If engineered properly and cut to within 1mm of that design, the assembly holds itself together sans any glue or fasteners. Do that then glue it anyway.
- Wood glue seems to work a fair bit better than leather cement but only if the item doesn't need to be flexible
- Presetting rivet posts under a lining is possible and useful, but putting a little tape over them might keep them from sliding back and forth.
- Lock clasps are best secured with a medium post and a tiny cap. Pound flat.
- With enough prudent measuring and engineering, the lock clasps work great but they should've been on the front of the box rather than the top (they tend to be in the way)
- Goatskin is a great exterior lining material.
- I apparently don't need to be that worried about the lid sliding around on the base.
- The old trick of treating paper with tea to weather it works great, but find a clean tray the paper can lay flat in.
- Consider using craft foam instead of suede to cut down on all the fuzz
- Mixing 2 gold:1 burgundy makes a pretty nice copper
- The curled bit of foam makes great, adjustable padding for minis.