Cherry and Tiger Maple Painting Box

  • Advertise with us
Project by SwedishIron posted 12-19-2008 03:09 AM 4714 views 10 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Project Specification: A good friend of mine that just so happen to be my painting teacher in college approached with a request to build him a custom painting box. There were many available on the market but they all seemed to lack some feature or were unattractive. I agreed to take on this project not knowing what I was about to get myself into. My friend wrote up a detailed specification for features such as it must attach to a tripod, it must have a shoulder strap for carrying it, it must have a top that is adjustable to allow for different angles depending on the conditions, it must have a storage bin for a 9”x12” water color table, it must be able to store paint brushes and tubes of water colors, it must be able to store a large palette surface for color mixing and last but not least the inside top of the painting box needed to be designed in such a way that it could securely hold water color paper from larger 9”x12” to smaller sized post card 3”x5”s material.

Painting Box Painting Box

The Basic Design and Materials: I’m cursed with the inability to so anything simple and I’m a perfectionist to my detriment. So if I was smart I would have chosen a nice veneered Plywood and moved on. But no, I decided to go with solid cherry and curly hard maple. In my head the box design that I jotted down on paper seemed fairly simple: dadoed sides to hold the BB plywood dividers and raised panels for the top and bottom, mitered corners, curly hard maple splines to strengthen the corner joints and an inlaid lignum vitae block in the bottom raised panel to help strengthen the 1/4”-20 T-nut for attaching the box to the tripod. Being foolish I started to build the box before a solution to hold the water color paper was decided upon.

Painting Box Painting Box

The Glue Up: This is the one area where I really need to learn a lot. I’ve been so impressed to read through all the completed project posts by fellow woodworker’s. They seems like their glues ups always go flawless. Following advice gleaned from several posts of others I made sure that I dry fit the box several times before the glue up was started. During my test runs it appeared like it would take a mere 5 minutes so for some reason I had it in my head that the box would be stronger if I used an 8 minute epoxy. Things didn’t go as smooth I initially intended, before the last side was glued the epoxy started to set up. In a panic I grabbed the tube of yellow glue to wrap up the last side quickly. This little mishap during the glue up left the top raised panel crooked and two of the side miter joints were off by a 1/16”. The crooked raised panel provided a design opportunity which allowed me to include curly maple inlaid in the top. Using a straight edge guide and a dado bit on my router I smoothed out a channel around the edge of the crooked panel. The gaps between the miter joints were easily filled with some yellow glue and cherry sawdust.

Painting Box Painting Box

The Finish: The box was finished using 3 coats of BLO using 300 grit wet/dry sand paper and 0000 steel wool between coats. The dry Colorado climate allowed each coat of BLO to set up and totally dry in about a week. Afterwards 3 coats of wipe on semi-satin poly were applied. During the dry time between finish coats the box was set in the sun to speed up the darkening of the cherry to a deep dark natural red color.

Painting Box Painting Box

My Biggest Mistake: I’ve never really put much thought into the hardware aspect of this project since it was my first time installing hinges or pretty much using hardware. This is one area that I never should have under estimated the time and skilled required to do a good job. Aligning the lid took four attempts, it took me three times of filling the screw holes and waiting a day for the glue set up it before I began to appreciate what so many woodworkers do so effortlessly. Again, at this stage of the project I still didn’t have a clue as to how I would hold down the water color paper.

Thinking of a way to securely hold the drawer closed in front was something that I had solved long ago. I ordered one of those toolbox pin locking sets from LV. I guess I should read the instructions before I made the box. The rail between my lid and drawer front was way under the minimal width to handle the springs and miscellaneous hardware. So this was another place where the project slowed down and I decided to just use a pair of custom made brass pins that would go through the rail and into the drawer front to keep it closed. I nearly blew out the fronts when I was hammering in the brass insets but luckily the cracks stopped after a few millimeters.

Painting Box Painting Box

My father was out for the holidays and since he was involved with designing high end kitchens and being a great draftsman I laid the burden of designing the paper hold down solution on his shoulders before he left for home. The funny thing was the fact that after I showed him the box and told him my problem he just through out the idea after 10 seconds, “Why not use magnets somehow and try veneering some sheet metal or similar material that you could install inside the lid”. Wow, something that I had been milling over for 3 years before I was able to pick up a piece of wood was answered in a matter of seconds. Anyways, in one of the above photos you can see the back of the galvanized sheet metal that was veneered with cherry. This was my first veneering project so trying to think about the purpose of the box and the durability required since water will be running down the surface I used gorilla glue as the adhesive and just made sure that the surface of the steel was clean and scuffed up to help bond the two surfaces. I clamped the veneer and sheet metal between a few pieces of plywood and let it cure overnight. Amazingly there were no air pockets and the veneer cleaned up great. I finished it the same as the box and left it in the sun for three days to get it match the patina of the box. I installed it using some industrial strength double sticky tape and never did apply any DAP around the edge as initially intended to keep water from wicking behind the steel sheet and strips of tape. That solution seems very practical and reversible if for some reason I needed to replace it or do a repair.

The feet are birdseye maple that I turned, and countersunk with 5 mil rubber pads inserted over the screw heads to provide a non-skid work surface when my painting teach needs to use it off the tripod.

Painting Box

Painting Box

Here are a few action pictures of the painting box in the hands of its new owner, doing as it was intended. Getting covered in paint and capturing the bucolic Maine country side.

-- Scott, Colorado

11 comments so far

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 4799 days

#1 posted 12-19-2008 03:47 AM

Scott, that is really cool…Beautiful job!

Thanks for the pictures and explanation.

-- Martin, Kansas

View jim1953's profile


2744 posts in 4917 days

#2 posted 12-19-2008 04:30 AM

nice box he will cherish for a long time great work

-- Jim, Kentucky

View lew's profile


13353 posts in 4831 days

#3 posted 12-19-2008 05:54 AM

Gorgeous Work!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4950 days

#4 posted 12-19-2008 12:47 PM

A beautiful, functional project. Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed write-up.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5294 days

#5 posted 12-19-2008 03:45 PM

Very nice job. Thanks for all the details, too!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4842 days

#6 posted 12-19-2008 04:01 PM

Cool piece, thanks for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View mmh's profile


3684 posts in 4798 days

#7 posted 12-19-2008 04:59 PM

Beautifully done! Any painter would love this. You could make them to sell. Or maybe barter with, as most devoted painters may be on a tight budget (ie: “Starving Artist”). You could get some really nice art for a trade. Just make sure you like the artist’s work. I managed to get some original artwork posing in my younger days.

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

View dustygirl's profile


862 posts in 4804 days

#8 posted 12-19-2008 05:09 PM

What a great job you did on that box Scott.He will treasure it for years to come.

-- Dustygirl..Hastings,Ontario.. How much wood can 1 gal chuck if 1 gal can't cut wood?

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4961 days

#9 posted 12-19-2008 05:38 PM

WOW...nice work you should be proud.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4881 days

#10 posted 12-20-2008 05:04 PM

Great job. The lid with the maple inlay looks really good. Functional and good looking in the one item – couldn’t be better.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3942 days

#11 posted 07-22-2018 03:55 PM

This is a wonderful artist box and is beautifully done. Congratulations!

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics