Believe it or not, I made my friend this box from Home Depot wood! If you're picky, you can find some pretty nice wood there. Presumably this piece got passed over by others 'cause of the knot - if only they knew!
The box is finished with a coat of Danish oil, followed by a few coats of high gloss polyurethane. The Danish oil really brings out the beautiful grain, and the polyurethane makes it glossy and protects the wood from dings or spills.
The construction is pretty straightforward, with a little bit of trickery to hide the groove that holds the bottom in. Because wood expands and contracts with humidity, a bottom that is fixed (glued or nailed) can cause problems as it moves - it might crack or warp, or cause other parts to break. Usually, this is avoided by having the bottom held in place loosely by grooves, which allow small amounts of movement. With dovetails, however, the grooves in the side pieces would show on the outside (how unsightly!). So, the sides of this box are actually mitered at the bottom, and dovetailed on the top, as shown by the drawing below.
The top is attached with simple hinges. There are small recesses (mortices) on the back in which the hinges sit.
[ Thanks to Abby for her help taking the fancy-schmancy photos - I think they look great! ]