Box 37 – 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
By Matt Kenney
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This is box 37, which I made at the same time I was making box 36. The have the same dimensions and were made with the same construction techniques, but they clearly are not the same box. I like each of them individually, but I think they’re better off as a pair. The underlying familial connection makes their individual beauty shine even brighter.
When I first got the notion of making 52 boxes in 52 weeks, I envisioned making individual boxes, but I’ve grown fond of building a pair of boxes around a few basic design ideas (proportions, use of color, etc.), taking each box in a different direction while letting their bones tie them together quietly. I wonder how many boxes I could do this with. I think three would work nicely. More than that, and perhaps the magic is gone.
So, this box. It’s cherry, with kingwood pulls. It’s a great pairing. Kingwood is in the same genus (dalbergia) as cocobolo rosewood, and African blackwood, so it’s no surprise that it compliments cherry so well. The pulls are mortised into the lid. I cut a matching mortise in the box for each pull. When the lid is on the box, the pulls register in the box’s mortises and hold the lid in place. It’s simple and clean. I like it.
Because this box is so small (1 3/4 in. tall by 2 in. wide by 4 in. long), it was critical that I pick the right piece of cherry for the sides. It needed to be riftsawn with straight, tight grain. The grain on the piece I used is proportioned perfectly for the box’s size. I think that matching the grain’s proportion to the box’s is something that many woodworkers do not think about, which is a shame. Let’s say you make this box from curly maple—and I think it would look good in curly maple—the curl would need to be very tight, so that you get a lot of little ripples across the sides. This makes the little box look like it was made from curly maple. Big, rolling curls just wouldn’t have the same pop. The box might look splotchy or vaguely figured as a result—and it really look like it was made from curly maple.
The same goes for the fabric I chose. Cherry goes well with blue, so I pulled out my blue fabrics. But the visible area of the bottom and lid are quite small. A fabric with a large pattern would look odd, so I went for one that has a small flower (in blue) all over it. It gives the sense that the fabric was made for a box just this size. A big pattern would suggest that I used a fabric meant for something big, like a quilt, and crammed it into this little box. Perhaps I’m odd for thinking about the fabric I use in this way, but I really do believe it’s important that all the details of a box be appropriately proportioned to harmonize with the box’s proportions (this, I believe, is also true of all furniture—no matter the size). And my attention to this particular detail is only an example of the level of attention one must pay to the details when designing. Everything must be considered.
OK, let’s get random.
1. I really like this box and it’s fraternal twin, box 36. In fact, they might be at the top of my list now. It’s an ever evolving list, so things might change, but for now I’m quite fond of them.
2. We have a very small Christmas tree at work, which sits on a counter that everyone who walks by can see. These boxes, along with boxes 22-24 have been sitting around it like presents. Goofy? Yes, but not as goofy as the ornaments on the tree. All the ornaments are little circles (a two dimension version of the ornaments we all hang on our trees), and each one has a small picture of my face on it. The tree is called the Matty Christmas tree and it gets brought out every year. I did not make this tree. Nor did I make the ornaments.
3. The top and bottom on this box aren’t as proud of the sides as those on box 36. I’m not sure which version I like better.
4. I cut the mortises for the pulls by hand. I laid them out in pencil, cut them in with a marking knife and cutting gauge and then used chisels to carefully pare away the waste. I then fit the pulls to the mortises.