Box 32 – 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
By Matt Kenney
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I suppose I should address the elephant on the wall first. Some might contest that this week I’ve not made a box. To this objection, I say, “tis but a silly word, box. It means nothing to me.” Perhaps that’s not sufficient. Here’s what I really think on the matter. I set the rules for this challenge, and I decide what counts as a box. That too sounds a bit pissy, but so it goes. This is a wall mounted box designed to hold, keep safe, and display a sake set that belonged to my maternal grandparents.
I can remember it in their house for as long as I can remember going to their house. My grandfather died first about three years ago, and then my grandmother died a little more than a year later. I went to their house after her funeral and was allowed to take this as a memento. I always liked it. I still do. If you look closely, you can see that a few of the cups were broken through the years and glued back together. I like that. The set meant something to my grandmother—enough that she kept gluing cups together—and so it means all the more to me. Well, that’s the story of the sake set, or at least as much as I’d like to tell in a public forum.
I began thinking of how to display the carafe (I have no idea what the proper word is) and five small cups and went through a lot of ideas for the overall design before I settled on using a small box for each piece. I was drawn to individual boxes because it would allow me to arrange them in a nice geometric pattern (I do love me some geometric patterns) and to present each piece as something significant in itself. It then took several pages in the sketchbook to find the arrangement that I liked best. It’s the one you see here. This left me with a bit of a problem: Why the hell do I need that other long box at the bottom? I don’t know, but it balances the pattern well, so I stuck with it. I originally planned to put a drawer inside it. But the proportions aren’t right for a drawer (the box isn’t deep enough for one thing). Then, in a moment of opportunistic genius, I realized that I could put a box in there! Two birds meet one stone. At the risk of spoiling the surprise, even more, this smaller box that goes inside the box at the bottom will be box 32.
My thought next turned to how to make the boxes and the finer details. I wanted simplicity. The boxes are not what’s on display here. A simple mitered box would fade into the background but provide an elegant frame around each piece. The back of the box, I knew, needed to be painted a light color to provide some luminescence inside the box, and so that the sake set pieces would stand out against the back. Green can go nicely with brown, so I set about mixing up a custom green milk paint. This one is mixed from marigold yellow, Federal blue, and buttercream. The wood species fell into place after that. Douglas fir looks great with green and brown. Vertical grain Douglas fir looks awesome on miter boxes. The grain on the fir I used here is so tight and fine. It’s the perfect amount of subtle for the task at hand. If you’re curious, the unit of measure for subtlety is snurtles and this fir comes in at exactly eight snurtles. (Also, the fir came from a piece of roughsawn 8/4 vertical grain fir that I bought from a former FWW editor. I actually bought two pieces from him. Always buy good lumber when you come across it. Eventually, you’ll find a use for it, even if it’s after your wife leaves you because the entire garage is filled to the ceiling with glorious lumber, and the spare bedroom holds all the shorts.)
I don’t know if there’s anything else to say. I suspect I’ll have more next week when I reveal the little box that fits inside the bigger box at the bottom of this arrangement. Until then, feast (or starve, depending upon your opinion of my eccentrities) yourselves on a few random thoughts.
1. You might notice a few darkish (greenish, really) stains here and there on the boxes. They’re created when dust from steel wool mixes with the water in glue. (I finish the insides of my boxes before gluing them together.) I thought of removing these in Photoshop but decided not to do it. Everyone makes mistakes and I tend not to hide mine. A mistake, Mike once told me, is just a milestone of your skill when you made a piece. Don’t feel bad if you make mistakes. And for the love of Rosy Cotton, please stop pointing them out to everyone.
2. I used French cleats to hang these boxes. I inset the backs so that the cleats would be hidden, but still a bit proud of the box. I wanted the boxes to appear to be floating just off the wall. Creates a nice shadow line and looks cool, too.
3. Does anyone know what it says on the carafe?
4. To head off the question, here’s the recipe for the green. First mix equal amounts of the yellow and blue powder, then mix three parts of the resulting green with one part buttercream. If you do happen to use this color, make sure that when anyone mentions it upon seeing your piece you say, “Thankee kindly, good sir (or madam), but surely I cannot take credit for its lovely shade. Please send $50 to Matt Kenney to show due gratitude.” Then give them my address. And watch them until they’ve put cash into an envelope and mailed it to me.