little boxes, little boxes, all filled with ticky-tacky

small oak boxes
small oak boxes

In preparation for the upcoming class I have at Country Workshops, I have made two new oak boxes. Small boxes like this are quite rare from the seventeenth century, I have only seen a few this size (these are about 5”-6″ high, 12-14” wide). I based these on a period example I saw this summer in a private collection. These are white oak with pine tops & bottoms; the original was all oak.

You can see that the pattern I used for these is the same on both box fronts, just re-arranged one from the other. This one follows the original; and the next I adapted by re-arranging the S-scrolls.

small box, oak & pine
small box, oak & pine

This second one I also added some paint; iron oxide & bone black mixed in linseed oil & turpentine.

small box, oak & pine, w painted & carved decoration
small box, oak & pine, w painted & carved decoration

9 thoughts on “little boxes, little boxes, all filled with ticky-tacky

  1. Peter: These are nifty small boxes. I love the idea of reversing the pattern to see what happens. Is this the Denis type relief carving we discussd on the phone the other day? One point. The pine really looks naked against the oak. Could you suggest a simple finish. I would’t attempt to make the pine look like oak. But I would like something to cut the glaring difference.

  2. Jennie
    yes, these are based on the work of Thomas Dennis, of Ipswich, Massachusetts…

    re: the pine. I do suggest something – patience. I have a box here that is about 6 years old, and the color of the oak & pine are about the same…nothing will blend the texture/grain pattern, but the color evens out. I plan on a blog posting on this subject, just haven’t done the supporting photos yet.

  3. Peter, great boxes. I just wish I could have been able to attend your class. The box that I made with you at Plimouth (I guess it is 10 years ago now) has a pine top and as you say the color evens out and it looks great with just a boiled linseed oil finish.

  4. Peter, I have a question or two for you. You work with green oak for the most part, so you carve these panels green. Granted the panels on these boxes are small, but some of the panels you deal with are much larger – 12″ or more wide. How do you deal with warping when it is drying? Do you nail the box (or whatever) together while it’s wet and just.. hope for the best? Are the panel blanks quarter-sawed? If so, doesn’t the ray-fleck interfere with the visuals of the carving?


  5. Mike
    the stock for the boxes and for all the joined work I do is riven from green hardwoods; usually oak. The whole notion revolves around the best, straight-grained wood I can find. There is no distortion upon drying in more than 99% of the cases.

    Take a look at this earlier entry, and see if that helps.

    So not quarter-sawn, but radially split, better than quartersawn stuff. Ray-fleck is not a problem. I will touch on this more in the future…

  6. Jennie-

    You are missing the issue. The issue is not “crushing” and “mushing” of the oak, the issue is ray plane tearing out. The carving is done on the ray plane, so the same issue that apply to planing, therefore apply to carving. The carver needs to wait and let the wood dry to a workable moisture content. Peter does not use a moisture reader so he allow the wood to set for a couple of weeks. You allow the posts for your chairs to set for a day or two before you did the final surface on the post. The panels for carving are going to have to set longer because the carver is going to be chopping deeper into the wood surface. If the carver lets the wood dry to much, the carver has to just put more effort into carving.


  7. I’ve been reading your posts for some time and I really am delighted with your work. We get a lot of 18th and 19th century English chests and coffers with detailed carvings and it’s a pleasure to see how folks back then might have done it.

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