The First and Last Boxes I made

MEK Woodworks - The First and Last Box I Made

By Matt Kenney

Subscribe to Matt Kenney’s Substack

Where you start doesn’t matter. The journey you take does.

It’s been 24 years since I made my first box. It was a somewhat large garden box with a hinged lid for my (now ex) wife, a Christmas gift. However, the first little box I made came a few months later. I bought some red oak boards at a home center and made a box with angled sides. It’s ugly, but I’ve kept it. My daughter uses it. I thought about it today because I recently finished a box that holds my chopsticks, and the two boxes are significantly different.

When I made the first one, I had no idea that in 24 years, I’d have made hundreds of boxes and written two books about making boxes. Some of the boxes I’ve made are lovely, at least to my eye. Looking back at that first box, I find it hard to believe that I made it because it lacks all the hallmarks of my work. Then I remind myself that it’s a good thing that first box doesn’t look like I made it. That means I’ve grown, and growth is good. Take a look at that first box.

MEK Woodworks First Box Made
MEK Woodworks First Box Made

I am not going to speak ill of the box. As poorly made and ugly as it is, it did feed the flame of my nascent passion for woodworking, and that’s important. It got me to make another box, and then another, and another, and before I knew it, I was working at Fine Woodworking and making 52 boxes in 52 weeks.

Here are some photos of the chopstick box.

MEK Woodworks Last Box Made
MEK Woodworks Last Box Made

I did not design the red oak box. I found it in a book that I bought. I did design the chopstick box. I suppose I learned a great deal in the last 24 years. Maybe in another 24 years, I’ll look at this chopstick box with the same disbelief, and that will make me happy, because it would mean that I continued to evolve and grow as a designer.

The workmanship of both boxes is dramatically different. Perhaps even more so than their aesthetics. I was not even remotely good when I made the red oak box. I am no master now, but I have gotten better.

Anyway, what I take from the two boxes is not that I am now some super awesome fantastic box maker, but that I worked hard for a long time and improved. I am proud of the journey I’ve taken. I’m also proud of the things I make, but I know that there are many folks that don’t like what I make. That’s fine. What’s not a matter of opinion and taste is that I began a journey that has taken me far from my beginnings and allowed me to learn, grow, and share my passion for the craft. That, I think, is indisputably good.

I also believe that my journey has helped me grow as a human being, as well. If you give yourself to the craft, if you invest yourself in the things you make, and give thought to the beauty and harmony of well-made furniture (and boxes), then you’ll grow, too. You’ll be more thoughtful about life and have more empathy and a greater appreciation for others because you’ll learn to see the beauty in them as well.

I don’t know where you are on your journey, but I do know that where you started doesn’t really matter. If you take the first step, and then the second, and continue to walk the path, you will end up somewhere wonderful. Along the way, you’ll grow as a maker and, hopefully, as a person, too.

Thanks for reading. Please share your thoughts and questions below. Click the heart if you like the post, and thank you for subscribing.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *