The Curse of the Mother in Law Jewelry Box

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Project by NoLongerHere posted 08-08-2014 05:18 PM 3274 views 2 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
The Curse of the Mother in Law Jewelry Box
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Christmas 2004,

My best friend Stuart and I decided to make several walnut jewelry boxes for Christmas presents.

We both made five boxes each of two different sizes,

four large 10×14 boxes .... one for each of our wives and one for the Mother in laws,

And six 8×10 boxes .... He made one for their daughter, Ally – our God daughter, their son, Jacob and him.

I made one for my “adopted daughter”, Holli, one for my son, Jason and one for me too.

Stuart has been a great friend.

He went to high school with my wife, Lynn so we’ve known each other a long time.



One year, they decided to remodel the basement to include a bedroom for their other teenage daughter.
I, of course, had lots of advice to offer for free and next thing I know, I’m gutting and redoing the whole thing for free. It was the only solution! the original floor plan was terrible! The wife didn’t want to spend that much so I said, I’ll help. turned out really nice… of course.

Stuart then turned around and helped me build my dining room addition … all summer, for free.

I thought that was pretty cool of him…. Hey, what are friends for?

It wasn’t an easy job either. We had huge truss beams with locking joinery and a vaulted ceiling.


We made the boxes out of walnut I salvaged from a church that I remodeled years before.

It had beautiful old grains and colors …. perfect for making jewelry boxes.

They weren’t too fancy, time was limited …. they had 1/4” dovetails and felt for the bottom.

The bigger boxes had a removable tray on top with a center spooned out finger grip.


This is the box I built for my Mother in Law.


The top was made from a piece of salvaged mahogany that I was saving for a special project.

The dovetailed box sides are made of walnut.


These boxes were a lot of fun to make.

We always enjoyed working together. He was truly interested in our projects …. we just were in sync.


But, one time we were in the shop and the plug broke on my Milwaukee skill saw so, .... He decided to fix it.

I came over to see how he was doing and discovered, ..... He replaced the wrong plug!

... a perfectly good plug on my Brand New Bosch Planer sitting next to it! ....... AGHHHHHH!!!!

He was so embarrassed! He apologized for a year after that! .... Ha! .... too funny!


But, little did I know, the Mother in law box I made would turn into:


I’ll never forget ….

We drove down to South Carolina at Christmas time to stay with them for a week on vacation.

I couldn’t wait until Christmas morning to give it to her. We finished breakfast and grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the living room to gather around the Christmas tree to open presents.

My father in law, Jim put on some Bing Crosby Christmas music and began passing out the gifts. When my mother in law opened her gift from me, I watched her eyes to see her reaction.

.... she says smugly: ”I already have a jewelry box, ..... I don’t need another one.”

I don’t think she realized I made it. I don’t know why she said that,

but it sure made me feel like shit …..... whatever.

My wife noticed my look of disappointment and patted me on the leg and whispered: Thank you, honey.

I looked over at Jim and he winked at me ….. good enough.

A year later, they came up to Chicago on vacation to spend a week at Christmas at our house. We gathered around the Christmas tree with coffee in hand to open presents, just like we do at their house.

I even bought a Bing Crosby CD to make sure the Christmas spirit was just right. We passed out the gifts and had a great time reminiscing about the good times we’ve had together.

My wife for some reason, asked my mother in law if she liked the Jewelry box I made for her the year before.

She says: ”I don’t know …... can’t use it, ..... the lid warped.”

I kindly said right away she should’ve brought it with her and I could’ve replaced it, I have lots of wood.

”No, .... it’s fine.”

”But, mom …it’s not a big deal and I can make a new lid in no time and I’d really like to fix it you can mail …”

”I said NO …..... NOW LEAVE IT ALONE!”

Geeeeez….... what a bitch.

Every Christmas after that, she brought it up.

Nice bread board, it going to warp too? ..... LIKE THAT JEWELRY BOX?

Well. the ol’ bat finally died …..Mark! sorry

Unfortunately, my dear mother in law passed away several years later and we had to go down for the funeral to say our farewells. It was a very sad occasion. We really did have a lot of good times together as a family.

Then, we had to go through her things and clean out the closets.

and Low and Behold … there it was …

The Mother in law box from Hell, stuck up on a shelf under some linens.

Only, the lid wasn’t that bad. It had warped an 1/8th of an inch on one corner. No reason she couldn’t use it.

But, when we opened the box ….. it was full of her jewelry…. and I mean, full.

Diamond bracelets and thick gold chains, diamond earrings and diamond necklaces and lots of diamond and gem filled rings, gold coins, silver coins, Pirate gold, and 18 KT gold watches and, and, gold charm bracelets!

........ We found the Mother in law Load! .... HOLY … COW!!!

My wife was happy about the booty,

I was just happy to GET THAT DAMN BOX BACK … SO I CAN FIX IT.

But, I hate to admit, I was so busy with other projects, I had no time to start another one so it ended up stored in the closet, again. I figured I’d get to it some day but at that time, I really didn’t have anyone to give it to.

Five years later, I found someone.

Linda was a client and a good friend who hired me to completely remodel their house, inside and out. It was during the economic downturn so it really meant a lot to me that they would keep us busy for so long.

Her husband, Steve was a great guy too. In fact, they were one of the best clients I’ve ever had.

This is Perfect!

I didn’t want to just replace the lid with another solid piece of walnut …. It needed something special.

I thought about the two of them together, no kids like us, and the two leaves on a branch came to mind.

am I the broken twig? .... now that’s just being a little goofy.

She loved the new big picture window in front of the kitchen sink so I thought about a view
from her window with a grid. ..... seemed like a good idea.

I used birds eye maple for the center panel and planned on inlaying the design but instead, I went with this three dimensional intarsia design …. much better.

The sad news is they decided it was time to retire and bought a house in Borneo Texas.

They hired me again to help them get the house ready for sale by repainting the master bedroom, replacing some towel bars and door knobs and misc. odds and ends.

We also had remodeled his race car garage.

He even let me help him put the rebuilt 350 V8 motor back in his race car! ... Wow, that was fun!

Only problem was, the house was up for inspection soon and he found a bunch of mold in the attic, behind the insulation someone installed against the garage roof sheathing between the rafters – that’s a big no no.

He asked me about it and I knew what this could lead to. If the inspector got wind of it, we could end up with all kinds of problems and have to hire a HAZMAT company to come out with space suits and rope the place off to remove and dispose of it like it was the plague … ”Here’s your bill…. no checks, no kidneys, cash only.”

I really didn’t want to do this …... shit. OK, time for a little payback.

I said, ”I can remove it for you. I just have to find some help.” He says, ”Well, .... I can help you.”

So we bought some Tyvek paint suits and dust masks and lots of big plastic bags, put up plastic dust partitions from the attic stairs to the door with a big fan sucking the air out. It was the day before the inspection.

I’ll be damned! .... We got up there and busted some ass and carefully pulled out all the bad insulation and bagged it …. had it done in two hours. I threw it in the van and took it to the dump.

Turns out the mold wasn’t that bad – nothing on the framing so we caught it in time.


Look at these crazy guys!

The inspector didn’t say a thing. ..... done and done.


It was actually kinda sad working on this box, knowing it was going to someone special as a goodbye gift.

I thought about all the time we spent together, designing the kitchen and bathrooms, shopping for tile and picking out walls colors.

Steve always liked to take me to his favorite hot dog joint for lunch in his V8 powered modified sports car.


We were a good team ….. Turns out, we’re good friends too.


I gave it to her a few days before they left …. she absolutely loved it ….. I knew She would appreciate it.

I’m going to miss them.

So, in the end,

the box was repaired and I have been released from the curse of the dreaded Mother in law box.

Does this lid look warped to you? ........ whatever.

The bejeweled wife is happy, I’m happy, and Linda and Steve are now retired in Texas and are very happy,

and that, my friends, ...... is the end of this story.


Thanks for reading along.


BTW – Tyler was a big help too!

19 comments so far

View Mr M's Woodshop's profile

Mr M's Woodshop

426 posts in 3920 days

#1 posted 08-08-2014 05:32 PM

This epic tale is worth the price of admission, that’s for sure. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on lifting the curse.

-- Henry Mowry, Santa Clarita, CA,

View mahdee's profile


4291 posts in 2620 days

#2 posted 08-08-2014 07:42 PM

Great story as always.


View Tomoose's profile


422 posts in 4226 days

#3 posted 08-08-2014 10:35 PM

Oh man – that took some work for you to write up. Very nice read; enjoyed it from top to bottom.


-- “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

View mmh's profile


3680 posts in 4575 days

#4 posted 08-08-2014 10:41 PM

Everything must have worked out OK, as the Dog is smiling!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View bobasaurus's profile


3652 posts in 4037 days

#5 posted 08-08-2014 10:45 PM

Dang, some people just don’t appreciate craftsmanship. Good work on the box, I think it’s a great present.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View mggraphix's profile


24 posts in 3225 days

#6 posted 08-08-2014 10:58 PM

Beautiful box and fantastic story!
Thank You!

View Mark E.'s profile

Mark E.

387 posts in 4595 days

#7 posted 08-08-2014 11:22 PM

Well done. A very interesting read, top to bottom. Lot’s of fun.

-- Mark

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30566 posts in 3191 days

#8 posted 08-09-2014 03:12 AM

Great box, great story. I enjoyed both parts.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 3529 days

#9 posted 08-09-2014 12:13 PM

Hey guys, thanks.

I’m glad you liked it.

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 2482 days

#10 posted 08-09-2014 03:21 PM

Great story !!! You should have told her it was a cremation urn. Bet she didn’t have one of those. :)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 3529 days

#11 posted 08-09-2014 03:52 PM

Great story !!! You should have told her it was a cremation urn. Bet she didn t have one of those. :)

- johnhutchinson

..... lol my wife will punch me if I don’t behave. sorry mom! Ha!

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

823 posts in 4686 days

#12 posted 08-09-2014 04:07 PM

This is a great story. MIL was a piece of work but….... At least that beautiful box is appreciated!!

You should send this story into Readers Digest.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View oldnovice's profile


7658 posts in 4221 days

#13 posted 08-09-2014 05:49 PM

I will say what everyone else has said ”Great story”!
I like the title of the forum because that caught my eye but then the story, and the boxes, are worthwhile,
Nice work on the boxes and you have a good writing knack!

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View bluekingfisher's profile


1333 posts in 3832 days

#14 posted 08-11-2014 12:01 PM

Mate, I would have built the box a bit bigger, 6 foot by 2 foot, but not for her jewellery.

I have a MIL just like you did, unfortunately mine still draws breath. lol

BTW – a great finished item and the new owner will appreciate the time and effort spent by her friend.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View Richard's profile


1940 posts in 3543 days

#15 posted 08-11-2014 08:53 PM

You know some people just can’t help but complain about everything. But the fact that she did use it for the intended use says that she really did like it even if she could not find it in herself to says so. But now it has a new owner that really will love it and have no problem telling you so.

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