Interpreting Design #3: Asian Jewelry Box

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Blog entry by DocT posted 05-19-2009 07:54 AM 4313 reads 4 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Jewelry Box- Rustic Part 3 of Interpreting Design series no next part

Here is my second completed interpretation of our jewelry box project. To restate the challenge, I am trying to stay somewhat true to the original subject while exploring various design aesthetics. I was brainstorming some genres of design, and “Asian” came to mind. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Asian design. Maybe that is for the best. My interpretation is purely off the cuff. I immediately got an image of a pagoda and couldn’t shake it. I was intrigued by the challenge of incorporating the shape of the pagoda roof structure into a lid. Secondly, I tried to keep the ornamentation to a minimum. The lid, handle and feet speak for themselves. The box is Birdseye maple with ebonized oak accents. It is finished with sprayed lacquer.

When I see true “Asian” pieces, I can appreciate how they influenced Arts & Crafts designers. I am much more versed in the language of Craftsman design and may well have mixed aesthetics especially in the handle.

IB Asian

This project was a whirlwind because I made it as a Mother’s Day gift for my Mother-in-law and started it the day before her visit! Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t have time to research Asian design. I’m certain that with more time and research there are elements of Asian design, which provide the aesthetic without the obvious overture to a pagoda structure (it wouldn’t be French just because it is shaped like the Eiffel Tower). Maybe that makes my interpretation trite.

With any project, I think we can identify focal points. What is the eye drawn to? Our subject box has limited options: the handle, the lid, the box or the feet. Regardless of the limited options, our palette is limitless. How these parts are designed dictates the overall aesthetic. I chose to play with three of the four.

PhotobucketIB Rustic- Medium

PhotobucketIB Rustic- Medium

More pics are available here.

After settling on my focal design elements, I spent a great deal of time playing with dimension. I ran a Phi scale on the box dimensions (8 divided by 1.618 = 5 = 3 = 1 7/8 = 1 1/8 = ¾ = 7/16 = ¼…) and applied it to many of the elements. For instance, the feet are 1 7/8” square at their base and 7/16” wide at their top and stand ¼” proud of the box. The handle has a 13” radius curve… While the golden mean can be a great starting point for dimensions and can supposedly bring a dimensional harmony to a design, there is a certain trial and error to its application. Given more time (or a second attempt) there are some elements I would refine. For example, I feel that the feet are too strong at their top. I would have thinned the ¼” dimension or, perhaps, added a cove profile to their top. I am not 100% happy with the handle either. I feel that it dominates the lid a bit.

Let’s talk a bit about the lid and feet. (Sorry there are no process pics this time, but the scheduled deadline was too ominous.) I carved the lid with carving tools, power and hand sanding. It was a fun process, but difficult to visualize at times. The feet were roughly band sawn from a rabbeted blank and shaped with a drum sander. I ebonized the oak parts with steel wool dissolved in white vinegar.

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!


6 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3776 days

#1 posted 05-19-2009 05:58 PM

Good prospective on design . Including ratios is a differant aproach then I’ve tried

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 3656 days

#2 posted 05-20-2009 03:37 AM

again i love this one , to me it does say asian . i don’t think i will be able to start mine till next week, now i’m thinking that may good because you seem to be setting the bar pretty high. i’m having a hard time designing the legs and being able to execute them with my skill level , but that what it’s all about.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View DocT's profile


109 posts in 3637 days

#3 posted 05-20-2009 07:22 AM

Whitedog- I can’t wait to see what you come up with! I wish more LJs were participating!


View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3249 days

#4 posted 01-19-2011 04:45 AM

Great blog, beautiful boxes. Thanks for sharing work and techniques.

View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3488 days

#5 posted 01-19-2011 04:47 AM

very nice boxes.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View indianscarves's profile


1 post in 2674 days

#6 posted 08-17-2011 07:03 AM

beautiful boxes…

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