Dovetail tallow holder alla Roy

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Project by jjw5858 posted 10-17-2013 09:09 PM 2433 views 7 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hello friends. Just recently I was lucky enough to do some wood working with a small branch of Walnut. I love the color of the grains as it ages, making those great chocolate colored shavings that somehow seem to fit best with the incoming autumn season. With the small pieces of wood that I split out from my branch, I thought this was a good opportunity to get into the wood shop and have a go at my version of Roy Underhill’s Dovetailed Grease Pot!

I realize this project is not a Roy original, but it is who and where I saw it first and I used his guidance to try my hand at it.

Now many of you may be thinking…..what in the heck is a Dovetailed Grease Pot? It is a little tricked out double lidded wooden box held by a unique slip and click action dovetail key that reveals a holding area for tallow grease. The tallow grease is one of the best ways for any traditional woodworker to keep his saws, hand planes, or chisels working and flowing smooth as silk when cutting wood on any project. Just add a little of the tallow grease to the edge of your preferred instrument and you will have a much easier wood working session.

I found many new things to practice on this project. I had to mortice out dovetail shapes on the end grain, plane down small tablets of wood for creating the box, and somehow…cut out that Maple dovetail key…lol. The process almost felt as if I was a musical instrument maker with the small and fragile pieces. All of the parts needed to be planed and worked with hand tools to set up the box and lids. I enjoyed the required patience and light handed work, knowing every step this wood was teaching me lessons on the touch and instincts of how to handle each component. This was all new to me and so I knew I had to ditch any over expectations in trade for the joy of learning how to put the entire puzzle together. With that said I am very pleased with this first effort.

It felt really good to work with this project, as each evening my wood shop sessions seemed relaxed and in focus. Of course sharp tools help

Now the only thing I need to get is….the tallow. I will wait for Christmas time as I know I have a few jars of that on my list!

Thank you all for looking and supporting traditional hand tool woodworking. Take care and keep creating!


-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

15 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4167 posts in 2462 days

#1 posted 10-17-2013 09:44 PM

Joe that is a nice tallow box
and I’m sure that it will be around a long time
I also made one to join the “Grease Box Owners Club”
I used Tambooti a South African Timber
So welcome to the GBOC


-- 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 Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

17965 posts in 2711 days

#2 posted 10-17-2013 10:01 PM

Really cool!!............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View jjw5858's profile


1133 posts in 2208 days

#3 posted 10-17-2013 10:53 PM

Hey thanks guys! Haaa, glad to be apart of the club Jamie.

-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View mafe's profile


11377 posts in 2694 days

#4 posted 10-17-2013 11:06 PM

What a fine grease box Joe.
Beautiful wood.
Yes welcome to the GBOC, we are many all over the world. ;-)
I made a blog about the boxes and what to put in them and many came with wonderful input:
Best thoughts buddy,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

23938 posts in 1943 days

#5 posted 10-18-2013 12:48 AM

That’s really nice. I like the idea of it.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View JJohnston's profile


1614 posts in 2897 days

#6 posted 10-18-2013 01:10 AM

If you don’t want to render your own, you can get mutton tallow from Dixie Gun Works. They use it for greasing the patches on muzzleloaders.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Rick's profile


8287 posts in 2638 days

#7 posted 10-18-2013 04:16 AM

Very Nice Work/Project Indeed!! Thanks For Posting!

-- Hope Everyone Is Doing Well! .... Best Regards: Rick

View 7Footer's profile


2548 posts in 1554 days

#8 posted 10-18-2013 05:58 AM

Nice job Joe, looks really good! It’s so strange, just today I read a comment from bhog referencing a grease box and had to look it up because I didn’t know what they were, then after searching I found Mafe’s blog series (as he mentions above) about it, read up on those, asked him a question or two and then watched a couple youtube videos, now I’m wanting to make one too!

I was even thinking this might be a neat little idea for the next tool swap….


View jaykaypur's profile


4016 posts in 2013 days

#9 posted 10-18-2013 12:38 PM

Ditto what everyone else has said.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View Don W's profile

Don W

18252 posts in 2173 days

#10 posted 10-18-2013 12:53 PM

What a beautiful grease box Joe

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

View exit116's profile


140 posts in 1397 days

#11 posted 10-18-2013 03:19 PM

wanted to make one of these so bad when I saw it, made the smallest one I could but not as good as yours and put two sticks of lip gloss or whatever girls use that looks like cap-stick, for my nieces birthday as she prides herself as a owner odd things, but everygirl who has see it, wanted it so in case you to make a few more.

-- Money: if you do not have fun earning it, have fun spending it, I do not enjoy spending it so I have fun earning it.

View RPhillips's profile


1110 posts in 1441 days

#12 posted 10-18-2013 06:16 PM

Nice work. I’ve never heard of or seen one of these before, thanks for sharing.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View AnthonyReed's profile


9037 posts in 2046 days

#13 posted 10-18-2013 08:54 PM

Beautiful job.

-- ~Tony

View Dave's profile


11420 posts in 2445 days

#14 posted 10-22-2013 12:15 PM

I love this project. It is a classic build and fun to make. Nice job.

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

View Mauricio's profile


7117 posts in 2757 days

#15 posted 10-27-2013 03:21 PM

God job on this.

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

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