Here is my first completed interpretation of our jewelry box project. I decided to start with a refined rustic aesthetic (one of my favorites). The best part – it didn’t cost a dime…everything here came from the firewood pile!
By refined rustic, I am referring to a design movement at home in more than just log cabins. It incorporates live-edge and/or log as an accent. The amount of “rustic” can vary from a subtle surprise to an overt theme. I am currently enamored with live-edge materials, especially when there is a contrast between the heartwood and sapwood. Done well, a live edge imparts a wildness that appears tentatively restrained and contrasts nicely with more refined planes. The “ghost lines” of the sapwood further accentuate the form and lighten the visual weight of the project. There is a fine line, however, between pleasing and garish. Masters of this milieu, like John Gallis, effortlessly balance this contrast into pieces at home in the most elegant of settings.
This blog series is entitled “interpreting design”, so let’s look at some of my choices. The proportions are very true to the original. The box is 8”x 5” like the original, and the feet are approximately the same size. The box is slightly deeper because of the live-edged stock, and I chose to reverse the taper. The lid has a similar 25 degree bevel, but I chose to thin the edge profile to lighten the piece. The handle is an obvious departure from the original but hopefully pays homage to the form. These minor changes have created a project that is truly unique.
More photos are available here.
I mentioned that I got all of this wood from the firewood pile. I take special precautions when working with this material. Left in the round (typical log or rustic construction), moisture content is often an afterthought. If, however, I am resawing the log or limb for a project like this, I like to measure the moisture of my pieces. It is often quite high even in well-seasoned firewood. Some of you may be alarmed by my process, but I routinely bake my blanks in the oven. I set the oven at about 250 F. Every half-hour or hour, I swab all surfaces with water. My understanding is that this helps relieve case hardening by allowing water deep within the blank to move to the surface more freely and ultimately equilibrating at a consistent moisture content. Baking my blanks also has the added benefit of removing pests such as powder post beetle eggs and larvae. Nothing is more discouraging than seeing a small pile of frass underneath a completed project (voice of experience).
Rustic construction is not for the faint of heart. So much of woodworking relies on flat/ square reference surfaces, which are often lacking in rustic projects. It takes a fair bit of inventiveness to navigate some of these obstacles. I encountered a couple in this project.
First, I decided to make the feet from quartered and tapered log sections. Easy enough to do, I split the limb into rough quarters on the bandsaw, dried it in the oven, rough tapered the pieces on the bandsaw and then trued the shape on the belt sander.
The trouble arose when deciding how to attach the feet. By setting the inside edge of the tapered leg vertically, I inadvertently added to my woes. The original has a rabbet along the inside of the foot that then glues to the outside of the box. The taper was formed after the rabbet. The change in relationship between taper and rabbet forced me to taper first, which meant I needed to form a stopped rabbet along the inside corner of a 2” taped piece. Safety limits my options. I opted to stand the piece under my hollow chisel mortiser with part of the chisel buried in a sacrificial fence. A little cleanup with a hand chisel and problem solved.
The second major complication was with the lid for the box. I needed to form a rabbet on the underside and a bevel on the top side. With two live-edges, this was no easy task. I settled on a solution of double-faced taping a piece of plywood to the lid blank. Now, with known square reference surfaces, I could rabbet at the router table and bevel at the table saw.
This was a fun project. I don’t profess to know much about design, but by observing what works in other people’s projects, I am gradually improving my design vocabulary. Just letting go enough to think outside the box is a rewarding creative process.
As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I hope many of you will rise to the challenge and design your own version of our example subject. Please do! Please post your results!