Catherine's Pennsylvania Spice Box

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Project by BenR posted 573 days ago 2947 views 30 times favorited 51 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Greetings LJs,

This is a present for my one and only daughter, Catherine. As I type, it is on it’s way to New Mexico. This is the first thing I have made for her as I wanted to wait until I had the skills to make her something really beautiful (and for her to be old enough to appreciate it). This was my big project for 2012 (finished a couple of weeks ago). The Pennsylvania spice box modeled on those from Chester county. I have seen similar patterns of line and berry inlay in pics of antique spice boxes or a chester drawers (is that why it is called that?). The box is approx. 22 wide x 18 deep x 24 tall. I made it in walnut, walnut crotch wood, poplar as a secondary wood, holly and eastern red cedar for the inlay, and holly and walnut for the banding. The finish is Danish oil and wipe on poly (I cringed when I put it on, but I did want maximum protection). I tried to stop just before it takes on that plastic look. I think it turned out ok.
Even though it is small, there were so many skills required. I went through everything I know, and then some (interior casework, line and berry inlay, banding, miters, finishing, mouldings, secret drawer and compartment, mortising a lock and hindges, fitting a door, and dovetails. There were 192 dovetails in all, and all were cut by hand (half blind in the front, and thru dovetails for the back). Now that is dovetail practice!
I am trying to learn to plane properly, so I planned everything possible. This went so-so, as at times I just made work for myself (tear out). I did progress some in my skills, although planning end grain still escapes me. I just ended up sanding the end grain and the crotch walnut (after destroying several pieces). I also had problems with the door. When I started on the box, I did the case, interior, door, and mouldings. Then I made all of the drawers. While I was doing that, the door developed a cup. I had it in the house with very little temp change. I guess because there are no breadboard ends, the door was still subject to moisture changes. Note to self, “wrap in plastic wrap until ready to finish”. I planned out some if it, and adjusted the hindges to hide it.
All in all, I am very proud, and I hope Catherine loves it.

51 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


112010 posts in 2202 days

#1 posted 573 days ago

Beautiful work and outstanding piece.

-- Custom furniture

View deon's profile


2171 posts in 1651 days

#2 posted 573 days ago

Exelent good work!

-- Dreaming patterns

View majuvla's profile


3305 posts in 1492 days

#3 posted 573 days ago

Incredible box!Outstanding details!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

3861 posts in 1005 days

#4 posted 573 days ago

Wow, beautiful.

-- |Statistics show that 100% of people bitten by a snake were close to it.|

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4109 posts in 1481 days

#5 posted 573 days ago

Exceptional piece of work, so nice in so many ways
That is an incredible project I’m sure she will treasure it

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View stefang's profile


12869 posts in 1959 days

#6 posted 573 days ago

You may have had some small problems with this piece, but it is definitely master class work and not just well made, but very beautiful as well. I am sure your daughter will be thrilled with it, and I bet future generations who inherit it will feel the same as her.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View DouginVa's profile


486 posts in 898 days

#7 posted 573 days ago

An exceptional job, very professional. I bet if it weren’t spoken for by your daughter you could get a pretty price for it at auction.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View DouginVa's profile


486 posts in 898 days

#8 posted 573 days ago

I forgot to ask, did you put in any secret compartments?

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

547 posts in 937 days

#9 posted 573 days ago

Beautiful piece of work that will surely be much appreciated.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View RogerBean's profile


1120 posts in 1578 days

#10 posted 573 days ago

Lovely work indeed. Keep ‘em coming.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View rdwile's profile


138 posts in 737 days

#11 posted 573 days ago


This is an awesome piece, definitely on my must build list someday, i just hope I can execute it as well as you have!!

-- Richard D. Wile,

View HillbillyShooter's profile


4482 posts in 917 days

#12 posted 573 days ago

This is definitely fine woodworking! Heirloom quality through and through. “Excellent, outstanding, beautiful” are only a few of the adjectives one can start with to describe this project. Thanks for sharing.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Oldtool's profile


1775 posts in 816 days

#13 posted 573 days ago

Absolutely magnificent, can’t give enough praise to really do this justice. Well, maybe one: there is no way to improve on this build. You should be proud of this, and it will definitely be a family heirloom.
Thanks for showing, and the inspiration to us all.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View michelletwo's profile


2222 posts in 1641 days

#14 posted 573 days ago

you have reason to be proud and how could she not love is splendid

-- We call the destruction of replaceable human made items vandalism, while the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources is called development.

View SPalm's profile


4783 posts in 2507 days

#15 posted 573 days ago

Wow. That is a real beauty.
Good job, and I can appreciate all the work that went into that.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

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