Box 43 – 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks

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This week brings another sugar bowl (box 41 was the first). It’s turned, giving it a more elegant look. I took inspiration from a variety of Japanese pottery I’ve seen. In particular, the shape of the bottom was informed by some small tea cups I own. It’s a beautiful shape. Fortunately, the bold lines running through the wood do not struggle against it. 

The wood is marblewood, which I’ve not used before. It’s a tropical wood from South America (the northeast region, I believe), and this is heartwood. It’s quite striking. It works fairly well, about the same as cocobolo. Because this box is meant to hold sugar (or salt), I painted the interior with marigold yellow milk paint, a non-toxic finish. I also happen to like the contrast between the wood on the exterior and the paint on the interior.

It was the painted interior that led to the lid’s design. It sits down in the bottom so that about 1/16 in. of the side is visible above it. I thought that the yellow would create a delightful separation between the bottom and the lid. I like this idea, and I’m pretty sure I’ll return to it before I’ve completed all 52 boxes. Picking the wood for the lid wasn’t too hard. The brown lines running through the marblewood immediately suggested walnut. Those lines tie the chocolate brown lid to the lighter, almost almond, brown of the bottom. This is a good example of using woods that complement rather than contrast with one another. To determine the lid’s arc, I quickly sketched out the body on some paper and then tried out several different arcs for the top. A low, relaxed arc seemed to work best. One last note about the lid. The underside is hollowed out a bit. I thought this would be more delicate and elegant than leaving it flat.

I didn’t decide on the pull until after I had turned the lid. I typically use a third wood for my pulls (cocobolo being a favorite, along with apple). When the lid (or drawer front) is a dark wood like walnut, I use lighter wood for the pull. However, if I used a wood like apple and left it natural, I’d be introducing a fourth color into the box. Instead, I painted the pull to match the yellow interior. It’s a preview of the surprise awaiting you when you take the lid off. As for the shape, it’s reminiscent of every pull I’ve ever turned. I think it goes nicely with the curves of the box body and lid.

Of course, there must be random thoughts.

1. The box you see before you was a headache to make. I turned a body, and it was beautiful, but alas, there was an odd knot in it (not visible in the square blank I began with), and as I was turning the knot shot out of the box, leaving behind an ugly hole. The hole seemed almost to have been created by a worm or other bug, but it wasn’t. That body is sitting beneath my lathe. Perhaps I’ll put it on my desk at work.

2. It also took two tries to get the lid right. The first one looked great on the outside, but I had no idea how to do the underside. I attempted to hollow it with my parting tool as I parted the lid from the turning blank. Dumb. For the second lid, I made a jamb chuck. The top of the lid was put against the jamb chuck, and I could hollow the underside with a gouge and get rid of the tenon I had used to hold the lid in a scroll chuck when I was shaping the top. Let me say this: Jamb chucks rock.

3. So, I’ve made two sugar boxes. I don’t drink coffee. I don’t drink tea. I don’t need a sugar box, much less two.

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