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An Automated Box

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Project by Brice1 posted 271 days ago 1920 views 20 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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 http://www.antiquebox.org.

Function:
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.

Glues: Various CA mixtures – http://www.stewmac.com , PVA – Tight Bond III, Veneer Glue – Better Bond Cold Press – http://www.veneersupplies.com

Mirror: Beveled Mirror – Hooker Glass and Mirror Co. – http://www.miror.com/ (very slow service – ‘nuf 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.


In Closing:
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

-- Brice, Philadelphia





17 comments so far

View Phil277's profile

Phil277

146 posts in 958 days


#1 posted 271 days ago

WOW!!

View rustynails's profile

rustynails

460 posts in 1163 days


#2 posted 271 days ago

Not only does the wood working and finish of the box look great but the mechanicals are a work of art in themselves.

Great job Brice.

View 489tad's profile (online now)

489tad

2297 posts in 1646 days


#3 posted 271 days ago

“all the parts were cut on the bandsaw and refined with a jewelers saw and needle files”. My hero. What a beautiful box and an awesome creation. Very well done Sir, very well done.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View Bluepine38's profile

Bluepine38

2876 posts in 1720 days


#4 posted 271 days ago

You have just made patience a wonderful virtue. This box shows a great level of craftsmanship, skill and
long hours spent doing something that you really enjoy. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 75 yr young apprentice carpenter

View PeteMoss's profile

PeteMoss

206 posts in 2105 days


#5 posted 271 days ago

Holy cow! That thing is awesome in so many ways.

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss

View kenn's profile

kenn

787 posts in 2354 days


#6 posted 271 days ago

Beyond impressive, if we had a “Yearly Top Three”, I predict this project would take the prize. As it is, you’ll have to be satisfied with the compliments that are and will be coming your way. Superb project, well done!

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View jcwalleye's profile

jcwalleye

290 posts in 1707 days


#7 posted 270 days ago

Stunning. Simply beautiful in so many ways. Well done.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View Ian Hawthorne's profile

Ian Hawthorne

291 posts in 1283 days


#8 posted 270 days ago

Well thought out!

Well engineered!

Well made!

And most of all well done Brice!!! I tip my hat to you sir.

-- Coming soon the new improved Neat hinge! http://hawthornecrafts.com/our-blog/

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

757 posts in 569 days


#9 posted 270 days ago

You obviously put a ton of time and effort into that. Kudos on your persistence and I hope I have that sort of will to finish something beautiful someday. WELL DONE!!!

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View lightweightladylefty's profile

lightweightladylefty

2639 posts in 2347 days


#10 posted 270 days ago

Brice,

As we have come back to admire your box again today, we are wondering how it is opened. We don’t see a keyhole or any knob. What’s the secret? (Or is it just that our old-age eyesight isn’t working!?)

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View steve54uk's profile

steve54uk

11 posts in 443 days


#11 posted 270 days ago

Just stunning Brice!! I can only dream.

-- Steve, Aylesbury UK

View dclark1943's profile

dclark1943

156 posts in 822 days


#12 posted 268 days ago

Brice, Nice job posting. I like your detailed explanation. AND a nice job on building this challenging box! Thanks for the links, I really enjoyed looking at all the eye candy! Will take me a couple lifetimes to reach this level of creativity! Keep up your great work, you are an inspiration to those of us trying to elevate our games ! Have a great Christmas; and I look forward to seeing more of your great work next year and beyond

-- Dave, Kansas City

View OakwoodVeneer's profile

OakwoodVeneer

6 posts in 193 days


#13 posted 173 days ago

That is an engineering feat! And the Laurel Burl Veneer just makes it. Nice job!

-- Oakwood Veneer, Metro Detroit www.oakwoodveneer.com

View mat0302's profile

mat0302

24 posts in 144 days


#14 posted 138 days ago

This is awesome. One thing tho, how come u have the knuckle of the hinge at the back protruding so far?
Matt

View mat0302's profile

mat0302

24 posts in 144 days


#15 posted 138 days ago

Also a diagram of the mechanism would be amazing :D

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

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