Box 46 – 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
By Matt Kenney
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This is the first of two boxes that I made using the same dimensions for the box itself (that is, not including feet, lids, pulls, etc.). I even made both boxes from the same piece of cherry. Why? I wanted to see how different I could make them. Next week I’ll post the second box.
Both boxes were designed to hold tea packets. I started from the known dimensions of a tea packet (and it’s a common size) and worked it out from there. There are three slots for tea. These are created by a liner that is dry fit in the box. After adding up all of the involved dimensions (side thickness, liner thickness, top/bottom thickness, width and height of a tea packet, etc.), I knew the width, length, and height of the box. From there, it was a matter of figuring out how to give each box its own unique soul.
The first two decisions I made about this box are that it would sit atop some type of foot structure and that I would not cut the sides apart to make a lid (as I did on box 30, for example). I tackled the lid first. I went with an old friend: The lid that sits down in a rabbet cut into the inside face of the sides. A lid this big would need a substantial pull. Last week, I used some cool thread wrap pulls on a large tea cabinet. I decided to adapt that pull style to this box. This pull is much larger (the horizontal bar is 4 1/2 in. long), which gave me enough meat to work with so that I could bevel the ends of the pull and the ends of the feet. The bar and feet are made from basswood, which is a brown embroidery thread (thicker is better for this purpose). I applied shellac to the basswood before wrapping the thread. I think the pull turned out quite well, and it’s a style of pull that I’ll continue to explore and develop.
For the sake of stability, I made the lid from plywood, gluing shop-sawn veneers to the top and bottom faces. The veneers were cut from the same board as the sides. The plywood top also allowed me to glue the pull to the lid without any concern that wood movement might eventually pop the pull off. The edges of the lid are painted with a custom green milk paint. I don’t know if I’ve ever explained why I occasionally paint the edge of the lid. Here it creates separation between the lid and the sides. Without this bit of color, the lid and sides would simply melt into one another because they’re made from the same piece of wood. The color and grain match is perfect, and without the green, you’d just have a big, indistinct blah. This little strip of color creates a border between the two, which allows the beautiful warmth of the cherry’s color and its calm, but elegant grain really pop. The box is subtle and unassuming but still possesses a striking beauty. This approach appeals to me far more than slapping a wildly figured or super-contrasty wood on the box as a lid. (As I see it, the dependence on figured and contrasting wood is lazy design.)
After I figured out the lid and pull, it was easy to work out what the box would be sitting on. The feet are just a modified version of the pull. There are two long horizontal pieces, and the feet are much longer, too. This design creates a balance between what’s above and below the box. The bottom is plywood, which is important because the best (and most stable) way to attach the feet is to glue them on. However, if they had been glued to a solid wood bottom, the bottom’s movement definitely would have either pulled the feet apart or caused the bottom to split. So, plywood it is. There’s a shop-sawn veneer on the bottom face of the plywood. And like the feet themselves, the veneer is cut from the same piece of cherry as the box and lid. By the way, the top surface of the bottom is covered in a very nice fabric. Sure, you’ll never see it because of tea packets. But it’s there for the occasional glimpse, to show that every detail has been carefully considered.
Well, I think that’s enough. Here are the random thoughts which I enjoy writing even if no one enjoys reading them.
1. The interior dividers are made from basswood. The more I use it, the more I like it. It’s very soft, but the grain is nearly invisible, so it becomes just color, making it a wonderful tool. Grain too often fights against the shape, proportions, or color of a piece, at least when you’re making small things.
2. I really like this pull. For me, it’s the latest stage of an ongoing evolution that started with box 4 (still one of my favorites) and appeared in boxes 38, 39, and 45. Also, I took inspiration from this piece on Instagram. Design, like comic book heroes and villains, always has an origin story.
3. I don’t know whether I like this box, but it is growing on me. I like the base and the lid. It’s the box between that I’m not sure about. Overall, it presents a very strong visual graphic, which I like, so I’m sure I’ll eventually love it like all of my other children.
4. There are some awesome pitch pockets and grain irregularities on the box sides. I probably mention these too much, but oh well. I like them.