Fine Woodworking reader makes flag box to honor WWII soldier
When honor and respect are due, the very best woodworking is required. Doug Rachac knew this. That’s why he hired Fine Woodworking reader Tom Smith– to make a presentation box to preserve a Japanese flag, and to honor the family of a fallen WWII soldier.
This box was built for a very specific purpose: To travel thousands of miles to return its contents to its rightful owners. The flag was taken from a fallen Japanese soldier during the heat of battle. Doug inherited it from his grandfather when he was young, and always got the feeling that his grandfather wished he could return it to that soldier’s family.
Here’s the video about his journey to do just that.
Tom based the box on a design by Doug Stowe that was in FWW #201, so he was starting with a great design, then he added hand-carved handles to give it an Asian look, and to ease handling. After that, the decision to use crotch walnut and bird’s-eye maple just put it over the top.
I asked Tom what the hardest thing about making the box was, and he told me:
“The handles were a challenge because the figured walnut tended to chip out. I made several pairs, and after some hand work, I had a nice set that held together. The extra effort was worth it– they give the box an exceptional feel.”
After construction Tom finished the box with several layers of hand-rubbed lacquer.
The flag and box have now returned to Japan, and were presented to the family of the fallen Japanese soldier. The presentation of the flag was received with much emotion and gratitude, and this special box is now preserving two family legacies.
Doug and Tom with the finished product.
Figured crotch walnut top.
The box complete with its special contents.
Hand-carved handles from figured walnut.
The flag, returned to its original owner's family.
Woodworker Tom Smith