Making Wooden Boxes

I started out making furniture like many woodworkers - bookcases, entertainment centers, desks - the sort of thing that gets used in everyday life. Somewhere along the line I also developed an interest in more decorative items such as boxes. While somewhat utilitarian, they also have a bit more opportunity to experiment with the design. Besides, they are small, relatively simple to build (depending on how much you want to do with the design, of course), and make wonderful gifts. This is probably why most of the boxes I have made are now "elsewhere." In fact, that's how I got started - making a box for Erica, my son's fiancée as a graduation present. That story has its own page here.

To avoid excessive scrolling as more and more boxes are completed, I am now trying to do just one box per page. The first box I made was just for practice, but turned out to be one of the better ones, partly due to really nice materials.

Tree of Life Box

TreeOfLifeBox.JPG (201765 bytes)

Hand painted tile by Elizabeth Morton, based on a design created for my wedding to Mary Gillespie in 1997.

Wood: Curly maple

Finish: Lemon Shellac, wax. Three coats of shellac, sanded to take care of the grain-raising effects, three more coats, let dry for a week, wet sand with mineral oil and 600 grit wet/dry paper, repeat with 1000 grit paper, rub out with mineral oil and rottenstone. Wax lightly.

Oldtools used: saws and planes, mainly. Miter trimmer for the joints.

Lessons learned: This is the first attempt at box making, so there was a lot to learn. It was also my first try at doing a better job of rubbing out a finish with rottenstone. My technique was based on information from Jeff Jewitt's homepage and it worked so well that all the flaws in my smoothing became more obvious. That guy knows his stuff, folks. Curly maple is one of the hardest woods to do correctly and one of the prettiest when done right. Also, it is important to remember why you are doing something. I made this box to practice keyed miter joints. See any keys? I did such a great job they are practically invisible! In truth, after the third coat of shellac went on I noticed that I had forgotten to do that step, and I wasn't going back. Thus there is a second practice box to accomplish the goals that were not met in the first box. I think this is pretty, though.

Remarks: As a graduation present for Dan's girlfriend (now wife) Erica, I decided to make her a jewelry box. Knowing nothing about box making, I went out and bought David Freedman's book on the subject and figured out what I wanted to make. But I decided that I needed to make a practice box first so I could refine the technique a bit before making one that was a gift. This is the simplest box in the book, and we had a hand-painted tile that we never quite found a home for. Thus, I built the box to use the tile as a lid. The tile itself is about 4.25 inches square, to give you an idea of scale. This box belongs to my wife Mary now, and a second practice box is mine. The third one will be for Erica.