Box 47 – 52 Boxes in 52 Weeks
By Matt Kenney
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Here’s the second of two boxes that I made using the same dimensions for the box body and the same species of wood (actually, both boxes were made from the same board). The first box was posted last week. I wanted to see how different, how unique, I could make two boxes that had these similarities, that were the same box at their core. There was an easy way to make them different.
I could have given one of them eight legs and a head, making it a spider box. Or some other whimsical nonsense. I wanted more of a challenge, so I limited myself to variations in the lid, pull, and base. What’s funny is that although I did make two boxes with unique souls, I also ended up with two boxes that are clearly from the hand of the same maker. I suppose that’s really not surprising, but when I first put them next two one another, I was struck by it. Actually, it makes me happy. I think it shows an admirable level of design maturity (I’m sure I’m flattering myself in thinking this). I took a narrow set of design parameters and created two distinct boxes that are clearly expressions of my aesthetic. I didn’t have to resort to outlandish and absurd differences to get the job done. A few subtle changes are all it took. I believe this means that I’ve grown as a designer and developed a better understanding of how to apply my aesthetic. This also means, I believe, that my aesthetic is flexible, and this makes me happy, too (a point further illustrated by box 45).
Well, that’s enough philosophic ruminating. Let’s get to the box at hand. I think that as I talk about what I was thinking as I designed this box, I won’t be able to avoid talking about the first box, but that should be instructive. I’ll start with the pulls. On this box, the pull is cocobolo banding that wraps around all four sides of the box. I made it just as I did the pull/lid keeper on box 36. It’s less than 1/16 in. proud of the sides, but this is more than enough for your fingers to get hold of and pull the lid off. This is a very different style of pull than the one I used on the first box. But, notice that this pull is cocobolo and that I wrapped the pull for the first box in brown thread. Brown is a nice complimentary color for the cherry box and green milk paint. It makes a great third color to introduce. Using it in the pull means that there will be less of it than both the warm, earthy reddish brown of the cherry and the lovely green milk paint. I’ll admit that I chose cocobolo without thinking of the connection to the brown thread, but I certainly chose it for the same reasons that I went with brown thread. It’s a strong wood that works well as a tertiary color. (As a primary or secondary wood, cocobolo becomes is overbearing, I think.) At any rate, the pull turned out to be something that both distinguished the second box from the first but also connected the two.
On to the base. I’ve used this style before (boxes 41, 42, and 44), and I’m starting to really like it. It’s plywood with a shop-sawn veneer on the bottom face and fabric on the top face. The edges are painted with the same custom green milk paint as the edges of the top. The bottom’s edge is thicker than what you see of the top’s edge, so the bottom has more weight and can anchor the box. I made this bottom a bit different than I did when I used it previously. The plywood portion of the bottom fits into a rabbet in the box. This means that there is a fairly deep rabbet around the top edge of the bottom, which results in a dark, distinct shadow line. The box seems to float above the bottom. I like it.
As for the top, I made it by gluing a panel into a rabbet and then cutting the box body in two. It’s quite similar to, but still quite different from, the top I used for the first box (a panel that fits into a rabbet). The liner does not keep the lid in place. The pull does. As I did with the first box, I painted the edge of the panel to create separation between the box sides and the lid panel, and I did it for the same reason. It allows the panel to pop as if it were a second species or a highly figured piece of cherry, even though it’s cut from the exact same board as the sides. The green creates a visual border around the panel.
Random thoughts time let it be.
1. Had I written the sentence above in ancient Greek (which I love) or any other inflected language it could have been perfectly correct (grammatically speaking) while allowing me to emphasize the importance of the randomness.
2. Look at that lovely little knot on the front of the box. This is how you use an imperfection. Don’t put it smack dab in the middle, and don’t try to emphasize more than one or a small cluster of them. Have the imperfection located off to one side, either up or down from the center. This is a design choice that gets made when you’re milling lumber. You’ve got to think that far out. Hell, you’ve got to be thinking all the time. As I’ve said before, there are no happy accidents. Good design is deliberate.
3. The liner sits 1/16 in. below the sides of the box. This is enough to look deliberate but not so much as to be horsey. What does that mean? Fuck if I know. (My apologies to the high school teacher for using fuck, but hey, they already know that word, and it’s perhaps the most wonderfully expressive word in our language.)
4. Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Bill Callahan. Damien Jurado.
5. And for fuck’s sake, be excellent to each other.