Project-Shipwrecked Pen Box

My friend William’s 50th was coming up, and he was also celebrating his graduation. Huh, graduate at 50? Yup. He has several degrees and among them masters. Now he can add a law degree to that list.

So, as we all do I “Binged” the net for inspiration. I looked for boxes and a judges hammer and Gavel. I wish I had of taken photos of the hammer, next time when I go around I’ll take it and post it on Instagram. Anyway, I stumbled upon none other than the wood whisperer’s jewellery box. He took this design from someone else while he was still learning the craft. I thought this is great and settled on that. I didn’t make too many changes as I was pretty happy with it.

I have plenty of scrap lying around as I’ve recently become a hoarder of wood due to increasing costs. I used Silky Oak for the lid and base and American Black Walnut for the sides. This Walnut hasn’t been Kiln dried properly and is the biggest SOB to work with. But since I have it and paid through my backside for it, I might as well use it despite all the difficulties of working with it.

The box measures 9 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. The lid’s thickness ranges from 3/4” to 1″ and this is dependant on whether you want a curved lid or flat. The sides of the box are mortised and the inside of the base routed or in this case chopped out.

Mark used machinery to make his box while I, as always, will only use hand tools. I had to make only one slight adjustment to make up for any hand inaccuracies. Mark would use a table saw to cut a large dado where the item would rest and he would then clean up the bottom with a straight bit router. This meant that the floor of the dado would be flush with the tenon. So, what I did after sawing the sides and chopping out the bulk of the waste was to stop short about 1/16 above the tenon to create a small shoulder with my router plane. As long as the shoulders are crisp and square this would eliminate any unsightly gaps that would have been sticking out like a saw thumb had I followed Mark’s machine methods.

Mark used barrel hinges I had none and used in its stead brass 1/8″ rods I have plenty of and inserted them both in either side.

I finished the box off with Antique Oil, I’ve become very fond of this oil recently.   All in all I enjoyed the project thoroughly and am currently making more. One for my mum, my little one, then my niece, my brother in law, friends and so forth.

So in the few past days I’ve taken an interest in box making. You don’t need a lot of materials on hand to work with, which means it’s not cost prohibitive. You work with various exotic pieces learning and understanding the temperament of each species. You also don’t need a lot of tools nor shop space to make boxes. You most definitely don’t need machinery to make them either.  However, besides all those materialistic things, for me the biggest draw I have towards them is the challenge. You may look at a box and say wow that looks beautiful and simple to make, but looks are deceiving. The challenge is, there is high levels of accuracy involved, one mistake and that’s basically it, it’s over, you’ve ruined your box.  The pieces are small, so some clamping can be challenging. Your tools must be super sharp as it should be with any project, but in this case you need to keep them super sharp, so there is no mishaps when working with your joinery.

I think making boxes is a teacher and a test of skill. Without a doubt you will learn to hone them to much higher levels. Imagine taking those newly honed skills on every project irrespective of what the project size is. Imagine this new high level of accuracy and insane cleanliness you have developed in your work becomes second nature and all this gained just from making boxes.  I think I will explore this some more. This may be the training I have been looking for.

 

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4 thoughts on “Project-Shipwrecked Pen Box

  1. Nicely done on the box. Regarding the walnut – at least the pieces are small, so if they move at all, it won’t be much. Regarding the silky oak – we have a tree that’s called “silk oak” across the fence in our back yard. I had learned that it was an import from Australia, so it’s probably the same thing. The wood looks nice in your box. But the trees are a major pain in the arse. In Springtime, the flowers (which are quite attractive) start dropping this orange honey-consistency crap that sticks to everything and turns everything orange. I’ve read that the wood is good for furniture – maybe I’ll try to get some when they eventually cut them down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Matt. The project was fun and am making a few in different species. Silky oak isn’t my favourite timber at all. I only picked it because it was rotten and it was the look I was after. Silky oak has a silky feel to it which I personally find distasteful. However it is a prized timber for fine furniture and yields a high price. I made some saw horses out of them once which raised eye brows. Lol

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  2. Beautifully made!
    Another thing that boxmaking teaches is that the size of the project doesn’t matter. A little box takes just as much time (sometimes more) than a big box … and sometimes as much work as a regular piece of furniture.
    Enjoy!

    Like

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