Good Neighbor Tom's Valet box. Now with big ole finishing screed!

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Project by Douglas Bordner posted 06-07-2007 09:59 AM 3870 views 4 times favorited 33 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I made this box for my neighbor Tom as a reward for the “too-many-to-count” times he has saved my bacon. The backstory is this. Tom has a background in engineering, with an immense technical knowledge. He is about my age (50-ish). Since moving into our neighborhood he and his wife Jeannie (who I suspect is somewhat younger than Tom) have had 3 girls (now about ages 11-3). He went back to law school and became a Patent Attorney. Rather than move out west to the ritsy newer suburbs, he and his family have added geothermal heating and are planning an addition to their Craftsman-style 2-story bungalow. He has even ordered salvaged stained glass windows from a dismantled Victorian somewhere off eBay, and is fixin’ to case and hang them in the new addition. I respect this man immensely.

In addition, when I couldn’t figure out how to: change my chopsaw blade without a spanner, pull my car battery when it was deeply corroded to the cabling, fix my sputtering chain saw, rehabilitate the mower that I destroyed while attempting to mow iron gardening implements left in the grass… I called on my good neighbor. He has alway rolled up his sleeves and saved the day for me.


So here it is. I found this incredible piece of Sapele with figure I have never seen before in this species. It’s almost a birdseye figure, but there are no true knots in the middle of the eyes. It’s not quilted exactly and there is the difference of color around the eyes. I had planed it to close to finished thickness +.125” and left it to acclimatize to the shop. Two days later it was a cupped nightmare. I shaved off a veneer piece and glued the thicker piece to a backer board of spanish cedar to try and tame the cupping. The sapele won. End result: exotic cupped plywood. Next I left the sapele thicker than original specified, split it on the long axis, flipped one piece end-over-end and glued up a slip-match, then created a 3/16 thick 3/8 wide tenon and made breadboard ends from a bit of leftover Lyptus® (Weyerhauser Eucalytus Plantation-Grown in Brazil). Suitably flat, the project continued.


Tray is spanish cedar with dividers and lining plus ring holders which are new to this project. Lining ideas courtesy of Emily Palm of Blue Heron Woodworks via FWW#185. Tray is finished with MS/BLO/Pratt & Lambert #38 Alykd varnish (homebrew danish oil with a high resin titration).

Box materials: Sapele (straight and wavy), Walnut, Lyptus® and a dash of fiddleback maple veneer edgebanding on the lid. Box has a “cloud drop” cutaway for finger access below the lid. Lid is simply hinged on pins through the “carcase” into the lid, with the back, underneath edge of the lid radiused to allow “staying” action at 90°. The outer box is finished with a de-waxed shellac sealcoat, Oxford Ultima Spray Acrylic Lacquer (waterborn), rubbed out to P4000 grit with Mirka Abralon pads and a RO sander.


-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

33 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4523 days

#1 posted 06-07-2007 10:55 AM

what a beautiful gift for another angel on earth!

my favourite feature (other than the beautiful wood) is the little lip for opening the lid. Nice.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View CharlieM1958's profile


16282 posts in 4581 days

#2 posted 06-07-2007 02:57 PM

Beautigul box, Douglas!

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

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 4431 days

#3 posted 06-07-2007 03:03 PM

Beautiful box and thanks for the detailed writeup. Hearing the details adds a lot.

View dbkmd's profile


35 posts in 4440 days

#4 posted 06-07-2007 03:44 PM

Beautiful! Lots of work but well worth it. A real treasure.


-- David

View mot's profile


4926 posts in 4399 days

#5 posted 06-07-2007 03:48 PM

That’s a very detailed and stylish box. Really nice work!

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Paul's profile


660 posts in 4455 days

#6 posted 06-07-2007 03:59 PM

It may be a familiar term to the folks on this forum for “something really pleasurable to look at”, but it was new to me when I first saw it used about a year ago.

“Eye Candy” Your box is “eye candy.”

Very nice! And I also appreciate the write up of the process.

-- Paul, Kentucky

View woodspar's profile


710 posts in 4462 days

#7 posted 06-07-2007 04:42 PM

Nice work! I am going to school on you man! This is what I would like to building at some point! Beautiful wood. Good story. Thanks for posting.

-- John

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4609 days

#8 posted 06-07-2007 05:04 PM

This very nice woodworking, a lesson for us all. Beautifully made and a great story sounds like a great friend. jockmike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4414 days

#9 posted 06-07-2007 06:07 PM

Nice work. I am sure he will love it.Good neighbor are a true blessing.

-- Hope Never fails

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4449 days

#10 posted 06-07-2007 07:34 PM

Extraordinary…...beautiful work…..I need to make my neighbor something…..he hosts the monthly poker game and brews wonderful beer….HHmmm…maybe a nice cigar humidor!

-- Bob

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4043 posts in 4426 days

#11 posted 06-07-2007 08:04 PM

Thanks everyone for the kind comments! I especially am pleased by Paul’s eye candy comment.

I have a tiny corollary response. My buddy Jeff (a LJ) works at the Mom and Pop woodworking store here in town where I got my start in woodworking as an adult. I always bring my show-and-tell items out to them as I buy most of my stock and machines through them. I handed it over and Jeff spent about a minute rubbing the box with his hands (now I’m going to date and type myself here with a quote from a Frank Zappa song- he was doing ”the circular motion rub-it”).
That made me very happy with the level of finish, ‘cause it really is as smooth as a baby’s butt and it does beg to be touched. Not bad for not dragging out the pumice and rottenstone, paraffin oil, felt block etc. These Abralon pads borrowed from the automotive finishing industry are just too easy. Hand Candy!

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View RonR's profile


71 posts in 4371 days

#12 posted 06-08-2007 02:01 AM

Wonderful craftsmanship! The wood is real awesome, the finish looks great! Thanks for sharing the story, too.

-- RonR, Massachusetts

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4674 days

#13 posted 06-08-2007 04:47 AM

The wood types you used are spectacular and the gift is just as spectacular. Sounds like you’ve got a great neighbor and now, a happy one, too.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4460 days

#14 posted 06-08-2007 05:29 AM

Great box. Thanks for sharing.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 4429 days

#15 posted 06-08-2007 08:32 AM

Douglas, sounds like your Good Neighbor also has a Good Neighbor. Very beautiful and thoughtful gift you made for him. Thank you for sharing the craftsmanship and the story.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

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