Free maple and giving back to a neighbor

  • Advertise with us
Project by Brad posted 01-20-2013 03:35 PM 2362 views 8 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Tim and Dianne are the kind of neighbors you love to have. Always ready to lend a hand and very handy at everything from blowing out your sprinklers for the winter to throwing an awesome block party.

So at the July 4th picnic, Tim mentioned that the decrepit red maple in their front yard had died and that they were going to have it removed. That prompted, “Say, you wouldn’t mind setting aside a piece of the trunk for your woodworking neighbor, would you Tim?” “No problem,” says he.

A week later I came home to find a piece of the promised log in our front yard. After dragging the heavy sucker—think of the opening scene from the movie Les Misérables where the con picked up the massive mast section with the French flag attached to it; that’s how heavy it felt—I set it in the back yard. Over the next few days, I processed the log into 4/4 boards and stickered them to dry out. And if by “processed”, you take that to mean I lost 7 lbs in blood, sweat and tears using hand tools that left blisters on my hand, you’d be right. The 8/12 is the month and year I processed the wood.

So when Christmas rolled around four months later, I decided to use the maple in a gift box for our fine neighbors. Yes, it’s still pretty green, and it was tough breaking it down to 3/8” thick boards for the sides and lid. But that’s nothing a L O T of sweat, a Disston D7 and a circular saw gone wild can’t handle.

I resawed one board to make a book-matched lid. However, the cut was so rough that the book-matching effect was reduced after planing it smooth.

I butt-joined the mahogany sides to the maple and pinned them with 1/8” brass rods.

I’ve experimented with the creation of finger holes to lift box lids as the lid edge sits flush to the front. On my first attempt, I used a half-round file to make the recess and this worked ok. On the second try, I used a sanding drum chucking in my drill press and that worked out badly because the box drifted as I held it at a 45 degree angle to the drum.

Then I read in David Freedman’s Box-Making Basics, that the author uses cove bits at the router table to create finger holes. Even better. Here’s a shot of the finger hold I made using a ¼” cove bit.

The Reveal

Tim and Dianne have three kids. That means they never have any time to themselves. So in keeping with the tradition of putting something into the gift box for good luck, we included a gift card to an upscale Chinese food chain. I’ve always said that date night tastes better over a glass of white wine and sweet and sour pork.

The belated Christmas card included many thanks for their help over the last year and well wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.

May they look upon their box and remember the red maple in the front yard that gave them such joy over the years. And if it calls to mind the gratitude of happy neighbors, all the better.


-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

11 comments so far

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3273 days

#1 posted 01-20-2013 03:44 PM

Very nice!

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Ken90712's profile


17570 posts in 3310 days

#2 posted 01-20-2013 04:16 PM

This is a great story and project of paying it forward. So nice to make items for people & return good gestures to those that helps us. I’m in the process if that very thing. I have 2 special friends that continually surprise me with gifts or help with never wanting things in return. The box is great, which I’m sure it will be even more special for them knowing that this was once the tree in their front yard.

Great Job!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Brit's profile


7455 posts in 2964 days

#3 posted 01-20-2013 04:17 PM

Great story Brad and a lovely box. The world is a better place with people like you in it. Well done.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Budmon's profile


27 posts in 2153 days

#4 posted 01-20-2013 04:47 PM

I applaud your work and your giving spirit.

-- Bud, North Carolina

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3456 days

#5 posted 01-20-2013 04:55 PM

Wonderful box and a great story Brad. It’s always nice to hear when folks are appreciative of other’s help and lets them know it. I’m sure they were extra pleased to get some of their tree back.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View a1Jim's profile


117204 posts in 3699 days

#6 posted 01-20-2013 04:59 PM

hey Brad nice looking box and a cool story your neighbor had to love it.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View EmeraldDragon's profile


146 posts in 2291 days

#7 posted 01-20-2013 10:21 PM

Good looking box and I love the cove bit tip. Thanks!

-- There are countless woodworking plans but have you checked out God's plan? Jeremiah 29:11

View Don W's profile

Don W

18946 posts in 2689 days

#8 posted 01-20-2013 10:46 PM

Nothing like a great box full of sweet and sour pork!

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2811 days

#9 posted 01-21-2013 02:16 AM

Great box and a great write up. I hope they appreciate the effort you put into this little box! And I thought I did things the hard way! My hat is off to you.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2961 days

#10 posted 01-21-2013 03:12 AM

You do well on you posts. Nice story and wonderful project.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2861 days

#11 posted 01-22-2013 11:58 PM

Thanks everyone.

Ken, 90712 I agree. By using stock that used to shade their front yard, they have something as special as the friendship they’ve shared with us.

Don, sweet & sour pork always makes a box better. And you can pair it with a pilsner or a glass of Riesling so beer and wine lovers alike can share a meal together in harmony.

Andy, right back at you buddy. Between your dry wit, your impeccably researched posts and spot-on woodworking content that educates, my world is certainly better with you in it. I don’t care what your wife says on the matter ;)

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics