Natural Grain Box

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Project by drobertson posted 05-24-2015 02:30 AM 894 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I seem to be exploring boxes lately. Each time I finish one I start digging through my pile of wood. I am lucky to have a wide variety of extremely interesting wood to work with but sometimes it is hard to figure out the best way to express what the wood wants to say. I know that may sound strange, but that is what the process feels like to me. It can actually get very frustrated if I don’t find the box form that fits my piece of wood. (Yes, I have the appointment scheduled with the shrink and should get some meds to take care of the issue.)

This wood was a piece of mystery wood donated from a friend’s storage shed. Regrettably the pictures don’t do it justice at all. To me it looks like a piece of Oak that aged for about 100 years in the dark of a barn. It has a strong, open grain with a golden oak look that jumped out as soon as I put the Tung Oil on it. The interesting thing about this wood was it’s deep aged look, like the look of an old desk after 100 years of resting your elbows on it. I was surprised that it went fairly deep into the wood and wasn’t just a surface effect. The wood just has an strong, wizened presence that I didn’t want to lose.

My goal was to have the grain of this wood be as natural and unbroken as possible. It should look like one big block of wood. I took a very wide section of the board and cut it into three pieces with the blade at 45 deg. The tip of the blade just barely scored the top of the wood as it went underneath. I flipped the boards around and finished off the other side of the miter cuts. By having the blade height set just right I was able to make the front, top and back of the box while barely creating any kerf on the surface as I cut the board.

Since there was no way I could have the grain of the ends also fit perfectly I did those with some Sapele that I had around. It is also a very nice wood, but it is plain enough that it didn’t distract from the focus of the piece. The bottom of the box was some thin Sapele that I use for almost all my boxes.

Once it was glued together I needed to cut off the top. If I used my table saw the kerf would have ruined the flow of the grain. Instead I used my little Zona saw which has a tiny kerf. It was a complete pain cutting the top off with that little saw, but I liked the results.

I added the hinges (which I am not happy with) and finished it with a few coats of pure Tung Oil. It is somewhere between a Matte and Satin finish that suits the wood well. There were some mistakes, but I like the way it came out. It has a very old feel to it, like something you would find in grandpa’s barn.

Note – the main project picture is from after I cut the top off with the Zona saw. If you look close you can just barely make out the line from the kerf of the blade.

I am still working to develop my skills and would love to hear any thoughts or criticisms you have.

Thanks for taking a look.

5 comments so far

View Sodabowski's profile


2308 posts in 2254 days

#1 posted 05-24-2015 10:12 AM

Jeez, it looks a lot like the one my wife did last summer (she’ll be posting it today I guess). For me you scored on the “block of wood” look and continuity of the grain. You’re not alone on the matter of doing the stuff justice, so we must be a bunch in need of therapy :D

Now for some critique since you ask for it: how on Earth could you put crappy hinges on such a nice piece?! ;)
Seriously, the only thing that I feel a miss for in your box is a little contrasting button to lift the lid (and why not Sapele?).

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View helluvawreck's profile


22682 posts in 2288 days

#2 posted 05-24-2015 01:26 PM

This turned out nicely.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View drobertson's profile


56 posts in 2537 days

#3 posted 05-24-2015 01:53 PM

@Sodabowski I agree on the hinges. I was going to add some hand made wooden ones, but I cracked them as I was making them. At that point I was a bit rushed because I was sending this to a friend who sells that at the farmers market.

I think I like making them more than keeping them and when he sells a few it helps me pay for new tools. :-)

The down side is that it just doesn’t make sense to put a $35 hinge on a box you will sell for $50.

I was considering adding a lift or button, but I wanted to keep the outside as clean as possible. I really like the idea, but in this case it was going against the idea of the box.

Thanks for the comments.

View Sodabowski's profile


2308 posts in 2254 days

#4 posted 05-24-2015 07:07 PM

I get it, there’s no sense in losing money. Nice to have another box maker around!

My first attempt at a wooden hinge was also a disaster, the second one though is a success.

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View drobertson's profile


56 posts in 2537 days

#5 posted 05-24-2015 07:25 PM

I have had some homemade hinges come out nice and others just blow up on me. I do love the look when it works. Lately I have been playing around with a new concept for making them. They are purely experimental right now, but as soon as I get them working I will share it with everyone.

I am also trying to work on making these a bit faster. They are selling well at the markets, but I can’t make enough to have a solid stream of income. All I really want is to make enough money to pay for some tools and have a good excuse to work in the shop. :-)

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