I found some quartersawn Alaska yellow cedar for sale on the web last month, and decided to make a special box from it. The carved lid is a dust-magnet; but I couldn’t leave that much blank space in that beautiful wood.
H: 7″ W: 22″ D: 11 3/4″ $1,400 includes shipping in US.
It’s a higher price than usual, but it’s not my everyday box. I had only carved a lid on a box like this once or twice before. Some time ago, Paul Fitzsimmons of Marhamchurch Antiques sent me a photo of a box from Exeter, England that used strapwork designs all over like this. I didn’t copy that box, but copied the idea.
As expected, there’s a till inside, this time with red cedar for the bottom & side, ash for the lid.
I tend to mostly use a wooden cleat/hinge arrangement for the lid. For this reason I made the back of the box from red oak – its strength is lent to the extended pin that engages the cleat, which is also oak.
I just finished it today and shot a series of photos once the lid was attached.
The rabbet joints are glued and pegged. I scrounged an off-cut from the lid to make these yellow cedar pegs for the front.
It was 1976. I was eighteen years old. My father had died the year before, and among his effects that came to me by default (I still lived at home) was a tablesaw & jointer, drill press, router, lathe, hand-held “power” tools and an assortment of handtools. I was an art student, aspiring to be a painter. I learned from a neighbor how to use the tablesaw and began to make picture frames for my paintings. Somehow made a bookcase, surfaced with a belt sander.
That summer I accompanied my mother on a trip to Doylestown, PA to visit her childhood friend. We did the tourism routine there, including the Mercer Museum – so I saw rooms full of antique woodworking tools, but have no recollection of it. I have a vague memory that we visited Nakashima’s showroom – but I might have imagined that. But one thing I know for certain – on that trip someone showed me an early issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. And I subscribed when I got home. Back then, information trickled out, unlike today’s barrage. I used to read every word in each issue, several times in many cases. I still have many of those old copies. And I know many people who tell a similar story. It was through Fine Woodworking that I got onto John Alexander and Drew Langsner.
The other day, Dave Fisher wrote to me to congratulate me on being on the cover of the new issue. I hadn’t seen the email from FWW and although I knew my box article was in the works, I had no idea it was going to be the cover. I remember when Pete Galbert wrote his version of this blog post – and now it’s my turn. Thanks to everybody at the magazine for making it happen, I appreciate it.
Barry Dima came up here in the beginning of this year to shoot the article about making the carved box. Because the whole world flipped upside down shortly after that, I forgot about it. Every now & then it would come up again and I’d be surprised. Recently I was sorting photographs and saw that box & couldn’t place it. Then I remembered I had sent the box down to them to photograph – now they’re done with it, so it’s available for sale.
Approx dimensions are H: 8 1/2” W: 24” D: 12 5/8”
Red oak box, pine lid and bottom. Till inside. SOLD $900 includes shipping in US. Leave a comment or send an email if you’d like it. Check or paypal ($927 through paypal.) Or when the magazine comes out, you can make your own.
2012. That’s when the Joint Stool book appeared with Lost Art Press. I forget, but I think it was one of their first “outside” books, i.e. authors other than Chris/or reprints. It is a book that is near & dear to me, representing 20-plus years of my collaboration with Jennie Alexander – I learned so much in that period it’s always fun to look back on the whole ride.
Chris wrote to me recently, saying it’s time for the 2nd printing, and would I write something about JA for it. So I added a new short intro – that’s all that’s changed for content. Chris made some changes in paper choice, and we switched it to a board cover. The aim was to lower the price of it from here on out.
In my back & forth with Chris, I mentioned that I had wanted to add a shaved baluster instead of a turned one. But never had the time. So I said maybe we could do it as a blog post – then I searched & realized we had already done it! I knew it was a good idea.
I plodded my way through another video edit to go along with the Carving Drawings – this one the lunette above. I can’t match Daniel for speed, and this one had two good camera angles, but the sound levels dip when I switch to the canon camera view. But all the steps are there, some in detail. And it doesn’t cost you anything, so it’s worth it.
I photographed the two boxes I’ve worked on lately. These are made from quartersawn red oak, with white pine bottoms. There’s a couple things about my boxes that are different from most seventeenth-century boxes. I’ve seen a few period boxes with pegged corners instead of nailed. Mine are almost always glued & pegged. The bottoms are nailed on with handmade nails. Similarly, a few period boxes are carved on the ends, but most have plain ends and carved fronts. Mine almost always are carved on the ends too. I tend to use a wooden hinge on most of mine, another feature sometimes seen on seventeenth-century boxes. I sometimes use iron hinges, which is more typical of period work.
November box #1 – SOLD H: 8 5/8″ W: 23 1/4″ D: 13 7/8″ $1,000 includes shipping in US.
Nov. box #2 SOLD H: 7 5/8″ W: 23 1/2″ D: 14 3/4″ $1,000 includes shipping in US.
The second box actually came first. The carvings on these boxes are based on work from Devon, England and Ipswich, Massachusetts. This one has a zig-zag design with what I guess are tulip shapes.
The paint is iron oxide (red) and lampblack mixed in linseed oil.
If you’d like either of these boxes, leave a comment or send an email. Payment by check or paypal – if paypal the invoice will be $1.030. Shipping in US included.
I take orders as well, so if there’s a box (or other joiner’s work) you see here & miss, send a note. I’ll be home all winter making stuff…
Today I’ll finish this box by adding cleats under the lid; they’ll form part of the hinges too. As I’ve worked on it, I’ve thought about my first carved box. Between 1989 & 1994, I was a chairmaker/basketmaker learning joinery in my spare time. Now it’s flipped around just the other way. My first joinery projects were carved chests and then joined stools and a wainscot chair. I didn’t make a box until I got the job at Plimoth Plantation in 1994. They had an original box and one of my first projects was to study it & make a copy to use there. Flatsawn white oak, Mark Atchison made the hinges and nails. I hadn’t yet made a background punch, so I textured the background by repeatedly striking a nail into the recessed ground.
I kept looking for a scheme to the layout of the design. I tried striking segments of arcs here & there, combining them this way & that. It wasn’t until I carved this design a few times that I realized it’s just freehanded. It was Victor Chinnery who told me that this box belonged to the overall group of carved works from Devon England – the material that New England works done in Ipswich, Massachusetts by Thomas Dennis and William Searle stems from.
Jump ahead quite a few years and enter Paul Fitzsimmons and Marhamchurch Antiques. He specializes in oak furniture in general, and the Exeter/Devon works specifically. https://www.marhamchurchantiques.com/
He’s been great about posting photos of his finds and I don’t miss a post from him. Over the years he’s handled a number of related boxes to this one – and nearly every one of them is different, but clearly the same general elements/composition.
The box I made the past few days is one of my versions of these designs. I had a photo of one from Paul’s site and switched things around here and there to come up with a “new” design.
The variations depend on the scale of the board I have, and what I plan to improvise in the middle – the old ones always had locks there, and a big part of the upper middle of the design got covered. On my first take above I hadn’t yet removed the lock plate on the old box, so didn’t know what design was under there.
Here’s a later version I did of that first box. I have no idea when this was – photo stamp says 2008. Pine lid this time, that means the museum was selling it – I kept the oak lids for use in the recreated period houses.
This one was earlier this year. I’ve carved it a few times since Paul first posted his photo of the original.
When Pret & I built the shop, we scabbed framing in to mount the windows. I didn’t want to look at that framing all the time, so I dug out a box of carved samples and nailed them up all over the shop. From time to time, I paint them – mostly to use up extra paint I’ve mixed. Here’s some box fronts mounted now vertically.
This box is from 2013 back when I was still at the museum. Might be the last one I made there. It was for an EAIA raffle, I think. Or auction.
It’s funny, I never drew any carving designs when I was learning them. I always worked from photos (still do mostly). But several years ago I started drawing them. These pages show a couple of these designs; the top one done as a 1/2 box front full-scale and the full box front half-scale. If that makes sense…
This will be one of my rare non-woodworking, non-birding posts. Last night my Instagram feed’s statistics dropped from 49.2k followers to 49k. I had posted the front page of the New York Times with the caption from me “All the news that’s fit to print.” I said nothing else. The caption has long been the moniker of the NY Times. The post had over 100 comments when I woke up, some positive, some negative. They quickly descended into rants and insults (in 2 directions) that I stopped reading.
I didn’t write anything about Trump, or how I feel about him and his supporters in the government. But by my post, it was clear I was happy with the election result. The main reason I’m glad is because there’s hope for some of us that there will be a return to decency, honesty and civil behavior from our leaders now. I’m not terribly political, but when Trump ran for office who could help but have an opinion? Lying, demeaning, cheating, bragging – these are things I don’t want my two young children to learn. For me, it’s that simple. Beyond that, it’s details.
This blog, and my Instagram feed (which gets copied to FB) are mine – I rarely step beyond woodworking and bird-watching there. Whenever I do, people get upset. I wish they wouldn’t, but I can’t control that. When I used to teach in-person woodworking classes in this Trump-era, I made an announcement up front that we wouldn’t discuss politics. This was because I know there’s differing opinions which could quickly derail any cohesion in the group. The woodworking is/was something that we could come together around – I could enjoy the company of a Trump supporter because we were connecting on a different level. And, I think, they could enjoy my company likewise.
Plus – in that setting – they are my paying customers. But here, it’s a bit different. In one sense, this blog (and my social media feeds) is something of a journal for me. No one has to pay to read my stuff here on this blog, since 2008. 1,295 posts. For free. There’s often stuff for sale; but there’s plenty of free content to help people who might be wanting to learn something about the sort of woodworking I do. What people do with their screen-reading time is their business. My hope is that if there’s something you dislike, you can either pass it by, and read the bits you do like, or drop it & move on. I don’t see the need for name-calling and insults. I’ve stopped following people on IG/blogs/FB before, but I’ve not written mean and insulting notes to them as I did it. I just left quietly.
It’s taken awhile to get to this new video. Daniel’s dance card is getting full, school work & his own projects like animation (I thought that meant Looney Tunes, but apparently it means something else) – so I delved into editing video. That’s part of what took so long.
I’ve broken it into two videos, this being part 1. (Thomas Lie-Nielsen once asked me if I could do a video shorter than Ben-Hur. I’m not sure I can…)
I’ve featured this design a number of times, but never done it on video before. It’s in the book Joiner’s Work and I wrote an article once for Popular Woodworking about carving it. This is an example I carved years ago, another variation. I’ve probably never done it the same way twice.