Boxguy's Purple Heart

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Project by Boxguy posted 12-04-2016 10:12 AM 2280 views 5 times favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thanks for looking. For me, Lumber Jocks is all about sharing. How lucky we are to live in an age when I can live in a very small town in the hills of Indiana and connect with fellow woodworkers across the country and around the world. The most fun part of posting projects is when someone takes time to comment or ask questions about a project or posting. A special thanks to all of you who take the time to write comments. I write replies to all comments, so check back for feedback.

Pictured is a keepsake box (12 1/2×6 1/2×4 1/2) with a Purpleheart top and Purpleheart corner splines. The sides are Black Cherry. It features a three part indented finger lift, a continuous mortised and sized piano hinge, and a cloth liner. For tips on how to build this six-sided box click here.

Finish: Like all my other boxes, this one is finished with one coat of Minwax Tung Oil, two coats of Minwax Wipe-on Polyurethane, and one coat of Johnson’s Paste Wax. The finish is applied with a one inch foam brush that I bought at Hobby Lobby. You can’t get much more low-tech than that.

For the complete sanding and finishing process click here.

Focus: The marketplace forces you to make compromises.

Once all your family and friends start to roll their eyes when you give them yet another box, it is time to find a market for your work. For me, a gallery is the best outlet. I would make more profit selling at art fairs, but that involves a good deal of work lugging stuff around and setting up the tent…then it rains. It is worth it to me to have someone else doing the sales while I am having fun making boxes in the shop.

If you are selling boxes, you are forced to make compromises that you would not make if you were giving boxes as presents to family and friends. For example, it would be great to put expensive hinges on my boxes, however, I am making boxes to sell and have sold hundreds of them in the past few years. Experience has taught me that the top of the local market is about $200. If I go beyond that I am making a dust collector for the gallery and no money for me.

Let’s check out the numbers.

A cut-down piano hinge and chain costs me about $4 per box plus my time, and I am set up to do that well. So, if I want to have money to buy tools with, I can’t afford to put $50 or more into hinges for each box and another $15 to $20 into a manufactured chain. I just can’t sell a box in my market for $300. If I put a $300 box with nice hinges next to a $200 box with piano hinges and a chain, my customers are not willing to pay for the difference in quality. I have tried it.

I guess the bottom line is I would rather make money and give it to the tool companies than the hinge companies. I am doing all I can to use my skills, techniques, and efficiency to make the best and most attractive boxes I can, but I am not in charge of the price of Brasso hinges and Rockler chains. Sure, I can use better hardware, I just can’t sell it.

So, I just do the best I can on the parts that I am in charge of, and work at making the best boxes I can. There are economic realities that exist in the market place that don’t exist if money is not involved. There is a reason I drive a Toyota pickup, not a Rolls-Royce, or a Tesla.

If my only goal was to make great boxes I would gladly use better hardware. But, I am selling in a Toyota marketplace. So, the cut-down piano hinges and chains fit my market and are perfectly serviceable and sturdy.

Here’s the deal. I really enjoy making boxes. I also enjoy having nice tools. So selling boxes to support my tool habit seems to be the perfect combination. I think of my tools in terms of how many boxes it took to buy that tool. For example, a good 60 gallon air compressor is about a six-box-tool. An 18 inch helix planer may take 25 boxes. You get the idea. I am really having fun improving the tools in my shop and building boxes.

I know many of you out there in Lumber Land know exactly what I am talking about. It is nice to have a site like this to share ideas and projects with other like-minded souls across the country and around the world

Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

38 comments so far

View jim65's profile


1020 posts in 2713 days

#1 posted 12-04-2016 10:55 AM

Another beautiful box, how true the economics are, I would have difficulty finding buyers for a 200 dollar box here. Compliments on the workmanship!

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View Tichomir Toth's profile

Tichomir Toth

88 posts in 1822 days

#2 posted 12-04-2016 11:08 AM

Awesome! Congrats!

-- Tichomir Toth, Slovakia,

View MrLaughingbrook's profile


214 posts in 2747 days

#3 posted 12-04-2016 11:33 AM

Thanks so much for the information. I’ve been thinking of making boxes for sale when I retire. I wonder a lot on where to sell them, price targets, and profit margin. Not that I think I could get rich, but paying for my hobby tools and materials will suffice. It is great to hear some business model detail from that someone is having success selling handcrafted boxes.

-- MrLaughingbrook

View robscastle's profile


7203 posts in 2984 days

#4 posted 12-04-2016 11:46 AM

Hello Al,
You certainly present an interesting topic and upon reading the associated links it all makes a very informative post.

I cannot speak for all the LJs but I hear what you are putting down regarding the level of expertise required to sell a project, and the complement of tools required to complete the same in a economic manner.

I personally do not build projects to sell for supporting my endeavors as a primary reason to do woodworking, its simply a activity I chose to entertain myself with and as you related to an added bonus of being able to showcase them and enjoy the responses from other like minded woodworkers.

Well done on the Purple Heart box.

-- Regards Rob

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

7535 posts in 4133 days

#5 posted 12-04-2016 11:49 AM

Your presentations are just as interesting as your projects. Reading about your projects is like opening up a Fine Woodworking magazine to see and lean about something that catches your eye! There’s much common sense to what you say here. I like the way you acquire better tool’s. I have used that method for long long time!
Nicely done! Great work as always!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Nick424's profile


132 posts in 1420 days

#6 posted 12-04-2016 12:32 PM

Beautiful box Al. What are you using for feet, or are there any feet on your boxes? Nick

View jeffswildwood's profile


4452 posts in 2757 days

#7 posted 12-04-2016 12:51 PM

Very nice box Al and again very informative text! Most of what I do is for fun, my hobby, but I do sell quite a few of my projects. Most of the time it’s a “hey Jeff, can you make a….” type of sell. I too cut costs as much as I can but still try to deliver a quality project. I use cut piano hinges (I learned this from you) or a pair I buy from a local farm supply company. I want whoever gets my project to be happy but I sure don’t want to “just break even” either. It is a careful balance. I too love this site for the learning and the moral boost I get from other wood workers responses to my projects, But I really love the look on someones face when they see the finished project I bring to them. That speaks volumes. Thanks for all you do and again a beautiful box!

-- We all make mistakes, the trick is to fix it in a way that says "I meant to do that".

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3584 days

#8 posted 12-04-2016 01:30 PM

Luv your projects and posts Al.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 3123 days

#9 posted 12-04-2016 03:34 PM

looks great

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3647 days

#10 posted 12-04-2016 03:49 PM

Al, I love this outstanding box. You are a fine craftsman and this is one of my favorites.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View splintergroup's profile


3804 posts in 2002 days

#11 posted 12-04-2016 04:10 PM

Al, You are in the same boat with me 8^)

I also try to sell most of my items and the crafts fairs are just too much work. My wife has a booth at a local gallery/gift shop and I augment her stuff (fused glass) with wood parts and stands. I place some of my all-wood stuff in with hers and the pricing has to be “affordable” to sell. The Brusso hinges are perfect to finish off a well executed box, but the retail prices would eat up almost half the selling price of the box. Take away booth fees, commissions, materials, and the labor would essentially end up being free.

I buy my limit when Brusso has there 1/2 off specials which makes their use bearable, but otherwise I try to avoid hardware when possible (wood dowel pivot hinges) or use “nice” but cheap hinges from clearance sales, etc.

Your purple heart looks fantastic! Do you do anything to age the wood, like leaving it out in the sun or other things to get/keep the color?

View ralbuck's profile


6547 posts in 3046 days

#12 posted 12-04-2016 04:36 PM

Always great boxes.

The economics are a true determiner of many things; for sale wooden article pricing included.

I have raiding privileges at a fencing company dumpster. It has a lot of nice shorter/damaged cedar. Fantastic for small projects. This cedar also usually sadns out to a very pretty grain.

As my woodworking is a hobby and any income is a bonus; I really do understand the economics. I seem to give away at least as much or more than I sell. It also fells good to give some away!

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View wood2art's profile


34 posts in 3627 days

#13 posted 12-04-2016 04:36 PM

Hi Al, I know how you feel about selling at Art Fairs. I have been doing that for over 25 years, and it is getting old. I still do a couple of local fairs that I enjoy, but at 70, I need to slow down. The same goes for the price of my boxes. The days are gone, when I would sell as many boxes as I could make in a year. My $300 and $400 boxes, that I do sell, I can count on one hand. (luckily, I still have all my fingers, knock wood) I just ordered a 3 box jointer. Keep up the good work, I love your boxes. I have to try some splined joints one of these days. Thanks for sharing your techniques.

-- Jim, Minnesota

View DocSavage45's profile


8982 posts in 3623 days

#14 posted 12-04-2016 05:38 PM


It’s good that you have a gallery that people go to. One opened in this town and closed 3 months later. The environment too is part of the process? Have you tried the butt hinges from Ace Hardware? I bought some to give it a try. Also just purchased some Jewelry box hinges from China. Could be crap but we’ll see? Just finished the shed and my saved doors were too big and not designed to be cut down. Went to Re Use store Nothing cheap and narrow. Looks like I’ll be making the doors too. Nice box sir!

Good to see you in action again.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2833 posts in 1843 days

#15 posted 12-04-2016 06:37 PM

A stunning box, and a good read, Al.

-- Mark

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