|Project by Brice1||posted 12-02-2013 12:00 PM||3749 views||53 times favorited||43 comments|
This box was inspired by the work of George W. Betjemann and Sons who were prominent case makers in London in the mid-19th century. I want to mention also Daniel Lucian, proprietor of Daniel Lucian Antique Boxes in London, who was kind enough to share valuable insights and information about the Betjemann design and cantilever mechanism. Daniel restores and sells phenomenal one-of-a-kind cases. He is exceptionally knowledgeable and passionate about high-end antique jewelry boxes, their construction, and the master craftsmen who designed and created them. Visit his sites if you have time, they are a visual treat and quite educational. http://www.daniellucian.com and www.antiquebox.org.
The box is automated in that when you raise the lid, the front lowers automatically and two opposing interior drawers simultaneously rotate outward to expose the center tray. There is a spring-loaded center drawer, which opens by way of brass button on top of the rear wall. When the lid is closed the side drawers swing in and the front automatically rises up and latches. I have not figured out how to get the center drawer itself to retract mechanically as the lid is lowered – I am still working on that one… If you have any ideas on how to do this – I would really like to hear from you.
The box is 13.5” wide, 8” high, and 10.5” deep.
Materials and Sources: Core: Baltic Birch ply and MDF – local vendor
Veneer: Burled Laurel – http://www.veneersupplies.com (Joe always has great stuff and service)
Metals: Brass & Aluminum – http://www.onlinemetals.com (great vendor, super service)
Velvet: Emerald Green – http://www.nyfashioncenterfabrics.com/ (good selection and prices)
Lock: Neat Lock – http://hawthornecrafts.com/box-hardware/ (a clean, nifty little lock)
Shellac: Platina Flakes – http://www.fernandezmusic.com/ (Ron Fernandez is a very knowledgeable and friendly guy. He offers a wide selection of shellac flakes.
Mirror: Beveled Mirror – Hooker Glass and Mirror Co. – http://www.miror.com/ (Very slow service, ‘nuff said)
Mechanicals and Hardware:
Aside from the engineering issues – making the mechanicals was the most challenging aspect of the build. I made the hardware and mechanical movements with the exception of the lock, which I purchased from Ian Hawthorne. In all, the box required 81 pieces of fabricated hardware not counting the brass edging pieces. Since I do not own a mini-mill, the parts were cut on the bandsaw and refined with a jeweler’s saw and needle files. The brass pulls on the mirror’s frame were turned on a Shopsmith by using needle files. Tedious work, but it eventually gets the job done.
Getting the drop front, top, and side drawers all operating in correct sequence required constant adjustments to the linkages, gear pitch, and quadrant arcs. So I elected to build the box so it could be disassembled after construction should further tweaking be required (which it was). That led to assembly and veneer sequencing issues and occasional chin scratching laced with colorful language. After several failed attempts and some wasted materials, the mechanisms operate smoothly and the box can be disassembled.
The three-way mitered corners on the brass edging were difficult and are not as tight as I wanted… more practice is needed. The depth of the mechanism and therefore the placement and arc of the quadrants that raise and lower things required the thicker sidewalls. They look dimensionally out of place to me. What I was trying to achieve is to make the walls appear too thin to house any type of mechanism. I have since figured out how to redesign the mechanism to reduce the wall to as thin as 5/8” and still hide the mechanicals. So, I will try that on the next one.
My intent was to hand-engrave all of the interior hardware with a rococo pattern. Roger Bean, http://lumberjocks.com/RogerBean/projects , was kind enough to loan me a very helpful collection of videos on engraving to get me started. If you think accuracy counts in woodworking, you should try metalwork and engraving. Folks, we’re talking hundreds, or in some instances, even a few thousands of an inch making a significant difference. I now understand why the old masters typically sent-out their metalwork to master engravers. Yes, it’s learnable – but as I’ve come to realize, I likely will not live long enough to master this unique art form, but I can get better with practice. Roger was right – “metalwork is a deep well”.
Finish and Interior:
The burled laurel was given three coats of boiled linseed oil as a base treatment to give a richness that I could not manage to get with the Platina Flakes alone. The Platina shellac flakes were mixed at both a one and one and a half lb. cut with twenty two sessions over six weeks, and one spiriting-off session followed by buffing with Novus #2.
I wanted to ruch the velvet in the lid, but quickly discovered that that skill also is above my current pay-grade. My best efforts looked like the badly wrinkled shirts I used to wear in the 60’s, and occasionally still do. (If you claim to remember the 60’s – you probably weren’t there… think about it) I opted instead for the removable beveled mirror. Ruching was a technique widely used in the 19th century in Europe to hold decorative pins and brooches in a jewel box or dressing case. Nice look but tough to do.
This was a very gratifying build and in general, I am happy with the results. I learned a lot through the process and enjoyed the challenge of doing something new. Now that it’s finished – I see many things I would do differently, but I think that’s half the fun – isn’t that one of the reasons that we do what we do – looking for a new challenge and a finding better way of doing something?
Photography is not my long suit, and so I will apologize for the focus, lighting, composition, backdrop, and twelve other things…. I tried quite a few times to make a video that shows the box opening and closing – but that frustrated me even more than taking the stills. I am working on enlisting the aid of fellow LJ friend Randy, http://lumberjocks.com/Randy63 who knows these mystical secrets and has offered to help produce some better pics and a short clip. More on this later.
Thanks for taking the time to look and, as always, I look forward to your critiques, comments, and suggestions.
-- Brice, Philadelphia