Box design, with a little help from my friends
I made a little box not too long ago that I really like. I needed to make another to use as a prop for a question I answered in the magazine. I made the box sides from riftsawn maple and the top from madrone. That presented a small design challenge, because the mandrone has a dramatic and beautiful dark strip running down the middle (it marks the transition between heart and sap wood). I knew that putting a handle on top of the top (like I did with the previous box) would be a big mistake, but I didn’t know what to do. So, I sat down in the shop and thought. That’s when a brilliant idea came to me. I work with some fanastic furniture designers and makers, so why not ask for some help? I did just that. I came across John Tetrault and Anissa Kapasales first and asked them what they thought. Some good ideas were tossed about and then John said, “Why not put a tiny lift on the front edge of the lid and cut a notch in the side to recieve it?” That sounded great, so back into the shop I went. When I was done, I showed it to John and he said, “That looks great, but it’s not what I had in mind at all.” Obviously, I completely misunderstood what he was talking about, but it turned out well nonetheless. Thanks for the inspiration, John.
Here are a few notes on how I made it. The notches were cut on the tablesaw with a standard-kerf blade. I used a sled to push the box over the blade. Of course, you don’t want to push too far or else the blade will cut into the back of the box (thankfully I didn’t make that mistake). The little lifts were made from an offcut I saved after ripping the front to width. I never get rid of offcuts until after I’ve applied a finish. You just don’t know when you’ll need to make a patch or a handle! The lift just barely pokes out from the box front, but it’s enough to get a finger on and pull the lid up.
Finally, I have to admit that one of the best things about working at Fine Woodworking is that I get to spend my days around some of the best woodworkers in the world, and that’s true regardless of whether I’m in the office with the rest of the staff or on the road working with our authors.
Same design, different box. This one is cherry and some insanely figured quartersawn beech.
A different look. I flipped the top on the small side so that the ripples in the top run away from the divider.
Don't cover that top! It would have been criminal to slap a lift on top of this madrone top, so I had to come up with another way to open the box. Can you see the lifts I made?
Don't forget the inside. This is becoming one of my signiture design features. I like the cushioned pads covered in fabric much more than flocking or suede.
Here's the notch. It was quick and easy to make at the tablesaw. I cleaned up the bottom with a chisel.
And here's the handle. It looks big here, but when the top is in place, it all but dissappears. It's made from an offcut saved after ripping the box front to width.