Small Carved Mahogany Box

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Project by oldwolf posted 07-01-2011 06:21 AM 2619 views 8 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It was a wonderful day in the shop. No electric motors spinning high speed steel at who knows how many revolutions per minute, and that meant no ear plugs, no dust collector running, and no dust mask. It was me, some hand tools, a sizable cut off of mahogany, a stocked MP3 player, and an idle day between larger projects.

I needed a box to hold my auger bits, I know mahogany is a bit high brow for such a project but the lumber wasn’t doing any good to anyone sitting there in the off cut pile. So I sized the stock, cut some dovetails and grooves for the bottom. The whole thing was going together quite well right into the glue up.

A hour later, as I was cleaning up the joints and squeeze out I got to thinking about how I had heard somewhere that Mahogany carves like butter. Lately I’ve been practicing some 17th century carving techniques that i learned from Peter Follansbee’s DVD. I know that traditionally 17th century boxes that are carved in this fashion are not dovetailed, but I won’t tell Mr. Follansbee if you don’t.

As it turns out mahogany is a real pleasure to carve, and the work goes very fast. following a couple pictures I was able finish all the carving on this box in a day. When I was finished I had this really neat little carved box that would be destined to hold a bunch of auger bits. It may seem like over kill for a simple shop storage solution, some may say the overkill started with the dovetail joints, but I disagree.

Every piece you build gains a life of its own as it rises from the simple board, it the piece will lead to what it wants to be. Sometimes you listen and a piece turns out as good or sometimes better than your expectations, sometimes things get in the way of your hearing, and a piece becomes a chunk of firewood. In the end I have no issue letting this box carry out it’s humble destiny. To surround yourself, in your shop, with inspiring things, will only benefit you in your creativity as you toil away on other projects.

There are many more pictures of the build process and the carving stages on my blog, you can see them by going to

Thanks for looking.
Ratione et Passionis

-- Oldwolf -

10 comments so far

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3746 days

#1 posted 07-01-2011 07:46 AM

It’s not overkill, it shows pride in your tools. I’m sure Mr. Studley, of the tool box fame and piano maker was similarly proud of his tools. Use it and enjoy it, it’s a nice piece of work.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View TheGravedigger's profile


963 posts in 4050 days

#2 posted 07-01-2011 01:22 PM

Derek, you’re really getting a handle on this carving style! You’re going to convince me to give it a try myself. Maybe they didn’t use dovetails, but this isn’t the 17th century. Do it your way and create your own style. That’s one reason we do this.

-- Robert - Visit my woodworking blog:

View bigike's profile


4052 posts in 3315 days

#3 posted 07-01-2011 03:21 PM

That’s a cool looking box, very nice freehand carving.

I noticed you didn’t have a pattern for the carving great job!

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View Rob W's profile

Rob W

434 posts in 3563 days

#4 posted 07-01-2011 06:16 PM


-- Rob — I've cut it off twice and it's still too short!,

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3313 days

#5 posted 07-01-2011 06:24 PM

Great looking box. Mahogany is not too high brow for shop stuff! I use it when I’m low on Bubinga and Purple Heart.

Sometimes I spend more time on my shop projects than I do anything else.

Thanks for sharing


View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18290 posts in 3702 days

#6 posted 07-02-2011 12:31 AM

Awesome little project ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2681 days

#7 posted 07-02-2011 10:43 PM

your projects always make me smile.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View FlairWoodworks's profile


71 posts in 2565 days

#8 posted 07-03-2011 03:17 AM

Great little box. It’s amazing how much carving can transform an otherwise very plain box. Not only is a box for your auger bits good practice, but it’s also a way to visualize proportions and design. I know you will use what you learned from this project in your future work.

-- Chris Wong -- --

View itsmic's profile


1419 posts in 3145 days

#9 posted 07-04-2011 01:59 AM

Sharp looking box, nice carving work, great to have a purpose for a box, and Your philosophy is spot on, inspiration is a key factor in quality work and getting at it and getting it done, thanks for sharing

-- It's Mic Keep working and sharing

View Silviu's profile


49 posts in 2591 days

#10 posted 09-05-2011 09:18 PM

Excellent work, excellent story…

-- Silviu, Romania,

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