"Sahara" a sculpted cocobolo box

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Project by Andy posted 03-29-2010 07:25 AM 12314 views 65 times favorited 88 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This box has the wildest shaping so far, blending the top with the sides and each side with the next. At least to some degree, yet still trying to maintain a free form feel. A set design laid out in exact increments would still be difficult, but easier. My goal was to shape the top into a mountain range but not be too obvious about it, but it didn’t work for me, so I kept shaping and the layers of cocobolo led me to this design. It just kept looking like desert hills, sand dunes, so I went with that. Obviously, its very similar to Dunes, but more extreme.
Below are some pictures to show the oops and the fix. A simple jig screwed to the bench, the box also screwed to the bench and a template set on the level jig allowing me to route out the old mortise and cut a pocket for the new handle. I temporarily attached the new blank to the body with a little CA and then set about shaping it to mate up with the already shaped lid. After the new handle blended in pretty well, I tapped it loose so I could ease the edges of both the handle and the lid…there was no way they were ever going to join up together perfectly, so accenting their mating edges with a small radius looks nicer. Then I applied a heavier bead of gel CA and sprayed the activator for a final glue up. It should hold up fine unless it gets a hard direct hit.

The handle started out quite different, but I got carried away and ground too much wood away and ruined it. So I mulled that over for a day or two, trying to come up with a viable fix. The body and lid were pretty much done with shaping so I didnt have a flat, level surface to work from. Also the bottom of the handle was shaped and the recessed opening in the body was shaped the same to recieve it, they nestled together nicely.

The tray is something new for me. I played with several designs and some will show up on future boxes but they just didnt fit this box. This is a piece of spalted big leaf maple that I cut to fit the interior exactly. I then drew out the “trays” and cut them out on the bandsaw, then glued the saw kerfs shut. I used a dremel for sanding out the inside edges until it burned up, then went to using small sanding sleeves on the drill press, then lots of hand sanding.
I like how it contrasts with the dark exterior, yet I feel it ties in because of the shaping, and the spalting has such a naturalness about it.
But…I do have mixed feelings about it.

Wenge box, Cocobolo lid with Wenge edge grain as a border, and Bloodwood accent stripes and handle, various woods both solid and laminated were used for splines. I like how the shaping changes their design from something pretty formal into something new and abstract. Very cool!

Finish is…..guess! Thats right, Deft spray lacquer in satin sheen. It doesnt darken the bloodwood like oils, thats one reason I use it for many, but not all of my boxes, etc…

Thanks for looking,

-- If I can do it, so can you.

88 comments so far

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 4357 days

#1 posted 03-29-2010 07:31 AM


-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View JuniorJoiner's profile


497 posts in 4493 days

#2 posted 03-29-2010 07:32 AM

this is a amazing piece. I would think the wenge would be trouble for this kind of shaping.
masterful execution

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View Andy's profile


1713 posts in 4961 days

#3 posted 03-29-2010 07:33 AM

Here are a few more pictures.
This photo shows what looks like possibly dovetails, but are actually just the exposed sections of the floating tenon. I am glad this happened because I didnt really like that handle and I learned something new too.

This photo shows the simple jig for recutting for the new handle. I screwed the lid directly to the benchtop, then butted a piece of wood on each side of the box and screwed them to anothe board at the back of the box and also toe nailed down into the tabletop. These boards were just a little taller than the box, on which I set the jig. The jig is a flat 3/4 board with a notch the same width as the handle and about half its depth. I cut the old handle off on the bandsaw so this jig is just for cutting the new pocket. A top bearing pattern bit was set deep enough to remove the shaped recess for the old handle.

This shows the new blank glued in place prior to shaping. The back corners of the blank were shaped on a stationary sander, very carefully, so they would fit into the radius formed by the pattern bit.

This picture shows the new handle after the edges of both it and the lid have been eased at the joining edges, just before the glue was applied.

Top view

The back.

Another view of the interior.

-- If I can do it, so can you.

View EduWood's profile


57 posts in 4681 days

#4 posted 03-29-2010 07:33 AM

Just one word…. beautiful!

-- David, O.C., California

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 4644 days

#5 posted 03-29-2010 07:40 AM


-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 4158 days

#6 posted 03-29-2010 07:40 AM

Where is the box?? i see a sculpture with a small storage area!! Very nice. Maybe after I read your tutorial a few more times, I will be ready to start down this road. Definitely not something I would make to sell at a craftshow! This would have to go to somebody special.

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View Hallmark's profile


432 posts in 4159 days

#7 posted 03-29-2010 07:41 AM

The top view is wonderful. Great job on the detail from every angle.

-- Style is simple, but not my execution of it.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20631 posts in 4729 days

#8 posted 03-29-2010 07:55 AM

Looks good from what I can see. Could you use a little lighter background?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4071 days

#9 posted 03-29-2010 08:08 AM


That says it all!


-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View blockhead's profile


1475 posts in 4362 days

#10 posted 03-29-2010 08:22 AM

Wow, now that is cool! This looks like an alien version of your art boxes. I like the way you went completely opposite of your other boxes with the extreme shaping. The woods are beautiful and as always, so is the finish. For some reason, it reminds me of Batman and Gotham City. I love the tray as well and using the spalted maple is a great accent to the box. The photography is awesome as well. Yet another outstanding piece Andy!

-- Brad, Oregon- The things that come to those who wait, may be the things left by those who got there first.

View bobasaurus's profile


3713 posts in 4237 days

#11 posted 03-29-2010 08:22 AM

Looks amazing, Andy. Puts mine to shame. I need to get some cocobolo someday… looks like a beautiful wood.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View TJ65's profile


1408 posts in 4103 days

#12 posted 03-29-2010 08:51 AM

looks good enought to eat!!!!!!!

-- Theresa,

View Paul's profile


46 posts in 4656 days

#13 posted 03-29-2010 09:38 AM

Looks likes some wild wood colors with some wild texture work. Looks great, really seems to catch the light and shadows in the photo’s.

-- Paul Allen

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 4744 days

#14 posted 03-29-2010 10:04 AM

Andy i must say your taking box making to a different level this is by far your best in style and looks simply stunning

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View littlecope's profile


3119 posts in 4555 days

#15 posted 03-29-2010 10:37 AM

Beautiful Work, Andy!! Again!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

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