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This style of box has been around for ages. The ends are rabbeted into the front and back. The joints are reinforced with pins. A liner keeps the lid in place. Honestly, I have no fondness for the design. But I was curious to see what I could do with these design details. Here is how I went about giving this well-traveled box design my own spin.
I started by picking the lumber. I have some quartersawn sycamore—well, it’s really riftsawn, but it’s nice—and decided to use it for the body. I like the hint of warm, earthy brown underlying the overall lightness of the wood. Cherry might have worked for the pins, lid, and bottom, but it’s a very rich color, especially after oxidizing for a year or so. And it would eventually be too strong for the sycamore. So, no cherry. Instead, I went back to me favorite: apple. I had some shop sawn apple veneer that I knew would work for the top and bottom, and I just happened to have some apple pins sitting around, too. The apple’s color is muted enough to complement rather than contrast with the sycamore. And the apple’s variated color is a good match for the multitude of hues in the sycamore. I sorted through the apple veneer and settle on this particular piece because of the small inclusion in the upper left corner and the three little knots in the lower right-hand corner. These imperfections add interest to an otherwise calm piece of apple. And that’s important because both the sycamore and the apple are subdued otherwise.
After picking the woods to use, I next thought about whether or not to use any milk paint. Just kidding. Of course, I was going to use milk paint. The actual questions: What color and where? My home-cooked green is a great match for apple and I thought it would go nicely with the sycamore, too. On the outside, I wanted the apple lid and subtle shimmer of the sycamore to predominate, so I only painted the edges of the top and bottom. This is in keeping with my belief that you should only use three woods/colors on a piece: the inside of the box is a different story altogether. I like a nice pop of color when you open a box or cabinet. So, I painted the inside faces of the top and bottom and the liner. The darkness of the green stands out nicely against the sycamore body. The only thing I would have differently is to have not painted the inside face of the bottom. Instead, I would have glued a nice piece of fabric down. I have some great light-green fabric with lovely little flowers (I am not ashamed that I think of things like this, and I like flowers) on it that would have been awesome in this box. Alas, I remembered too late. The bottom was already glued in place.
I also thought a bit about the box’s size. I wanted to make something bigger than the ones I’ve been making. I like the proportions. It’s about 7 1/2 in. long and 3 1/2 in. wide. I think the sides are 3 in. tall, and the top and bottom are about 1/8 in. proud. Proportions are always important.
Now, for a word from our sponsor, the good folks at Random Thoughts, Inc.
One. The pins are 3/16 in. diameter. That’s perhaps a bit too large. Smaller pins, say 1/8 in. diameter, would have given the box a better overall gentleness. A colleague at work said that this is a feminine box, and that it’s her favorite so far. I doubt she reads this blog, but if she does, thank you. I’m pleased that the box has a strong identity.
Two. I’ve had this sycamore for quite a while, but never used it because I wasn’t crazy about the grain. But I now see the board’s strength. It’s the color and chatoyance. However, I think in larger pieces it would work better as a secondary wood. It’s a bit too precious and unsettled to be a primary wood.
Three. There’s a good reason why the ends are rabbeted into the front and back. This allowed me to cut through rabbets for the top and bottom in all four sides. The rabbet for the ends is as deep as the rabbet for the top and bottom, so when you assemble the box, you don’t see the top/bottom rabbets on the box’s ends.
Four. On the off-chance that my colleague is reading: What’s taters, precious?