I’ve been building boxes for just about as long as I’ve been woodworking. The public library had a section on woodworking which I frequented in the time that I was trying to absorb information on the craft from every source I could find. It was there that I found a book on box making, which inspired me to make my first three boxes. The first was a called a potpourri box, meant to hold random nicely scented objects. It featured a lid with a nice pattern on it, although I, unfortunately, made that out of plywood, which I thought was suitable at the time. I filled it with some poplar and walnut shavings from the first time I used a hand plane. The second is a pen box that is supposed to look like a solid piece of walnut, except when the lid is lifted it scoops a pen out of a trough hidden inside. It was a neat little mechanical design. The third was built with the purpose of trying dovetails for the first time. They were big and clunky and gappy, but since dovetails are the quintessential woodworking joint I was pleased to just get them to fit together. The three boxes sit on my dresser at home as a reminder of where I started.
The reason that I keep coming back to boxes time and time again is that they offer so much possibility. Depending on my ambition, I can spend just a few days up to a few weeks working on one, which offers a nice break from full-scale furniture projects that take might take me months. The design opportunities for boxes are limitless, and they don’t take up much space or material compared to the amount of woodworking skill is put into practice in the course of making one. The conscious reason for making a box is usually to test out a design idea I have or to make a gift for someone important to me, but the ever-present underlying benefit is that I get to practice my woodworking skills in a very engaging and productive way. Occasionally, I read an article in a magazine about the importance of taking the time with some scrap wood to practice such skills as sawing a plumb line or paring to a mark or planing a face flat. This is, of course, true, but it is also rather boring and feels like a waste of material. Boxes are so small and so packed with details that require those skills that the practice happens naturally in the course of making the box.
The effectiveness of boxes as a tool for practice and design is evident based on the progress I have made in the years since I made those first three boxes. I frequently decide to build a box just because a design idea pops into my head and I want to try it out. I have also made boxes as gifts, both as general “thank-yous” and with a specific purpose in mind. I plan to continue making boxes frequently in the future.
The pictures of boxes are in the order they were made, from late 2012 through January of 2017.