Roy Underhill Grease Box

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Project by HokieKen posted 12-07-2017 06:48 PM 3226 views 6 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Fellow Lumberjock KelleyCrafts (Dave) just turned 40. Everyone reading this should send him a PM telling him how old he is…

Well, as a surprise for his birthday, his wife reached out and asked me to send a video wishing Dave a happy 40th. I did so and decided to make him a couple of tools that he and I had discussed in the past and that I was sure he didn’t already have.

The main gift was a dovetail grease box in the style of Roy Underhill. I was introduced to this neat little box with a clever locking mechanism via LJ Mafe's blog series on grease boxes. I have had it on my list for quite some time but never got around to making one. I started one for myself in parallel with Dave’s but ran out of patience and time so I finished Dave’s and I’ll come back to mine someday and finish it up :-)

The box I sent Dave is made from a piece of walnut with the dovetail key made from some Gummy Cherry that I got over the summer from Jeffswildwood. I put a thin coat of BLO and a coat of paste wax on the box. The intention is that over time, through normal use, the box will take on a finish of whatever wax/grease/tallow is stored in it. I engraved my maker’s mark as well as Dave’s on the lid using my laser engraver.

I filled the box with a Paraffin wax paste that I made. I knew Dave didn’t have a birdcage awl either and I think everyone should have one of those. So, I ground one out of a HSS drill rod that I had and handled it using some Blue Gum Eucalyptus that Dave had sent me earlier.

Thanks for looking. I’m glad I got the opportunity to send Dave a little token to mark the occasion. Happy Birthday brother!

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

21 comments so far

View bobasaurus's profile


3747 posts in 4645 days

#1 posted 12-07-2017 07:01 PM

That’s a nice set of gifts. I’ll have to make a grease box someday. What goes into your paste wax recipe?

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 2108 days

#2 posted 12-07-2017 07:03 PM

Great little box and awl … he’ll love them both! You are very thoughtful, Kenny.

View HokieKen's profile


21728 posts in 2600 days

#3 posted 12-07-2017 07:07 PM

Thanks Allen. The grease box was a fun little build. More challenging than I expected to get tight fits and get it to lock solidly but still open easily.

For my wax, I just melt some paste wax and then pour in some mineral spirits. Then I just let it solidify and add more MS if needed to get the consistency I want. I’d say the ratio is about 1:1 but never really measured it. NOTE that you should use a double boiler to melt paraffin (petroleum based). However, I always just heat it in a glass jar with a torch with the awareness that it may flame up on me. Never had it do so though…

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View picofarads's profile


44 posts in 1649 days

#4 posted 12-07-2017 07:21 PM

I like the little grease box. What is a birdcage awl used for?
Also, I’m having a hard time figuring out how the box closes. Would it be possible to see a picture of that?
Sorry for my ignorance.


-- An open mind is apt to let anything in....or out!

View HokieKen's profile


21728 posts in 2600 days

#5 posted 12-07-2017 07:36 PM

Thanks Ron!

picofarads (awesome name :-)): I can’t show you how it closes since I already mailed it off to Dave. But, you swing the top lid out. That leaves the bottom lid free to slide back off the dovetail and then swing out. The bottom lid piece has a slot instead of just a hole. If you go to Mafe’s blog I linked in the OP, he does a great job of showing it. There’s also an episode of the Woodwright's Shop where Roy shows how it works and how to make it.

A birdcage awl has a 4-faceted face rather than a round point. The facets make it able to sever wood fibers instead of just seperating them like a scratch awl. They are used to mark hole locations or start pilot holes. LJ Bondogaposis did a great blog series on making one from tool steel.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Woodknack's profile


13594 posts in 3841 days

#6 posted 12-07-2017 08:02 PM

Fine looking grease box. Wouldn’t surprise me if it isn’t one of Roy’s most popular projects.

-- Rick M,

View PoohBaah's profile


523 posts in 3002 days

#7 posted 12-07-2017 08:06 PM

Kenny great looking build. I have never built one myself but I had the crazy idea of maybe a larger scale one for the Box Swap. Yet it seems like there may be some fitting issues that you speak of that when you enlarge it may just compound into something that cannot function correctly.

-- Neil, Indiana - Instagram: neilsalomon

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

10291 posts in 2043 days

#8 posted 12-07-2017 08:14 PM

Nicely done, Kenny! Hard to believe Dave’s 40.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View duckmilk's profile


5168 posts in 2786 days

#9 posted 12-07-2017 11:26 PM

Nice job on the grease box Kenny!
Happy BD Dave!

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View KelleyCrafts's profile


5320 posts in 2200 days

#10 posted 12-08-2017 12:56 AM

I can say, this little grease box is the bomb. It’s already a little dirty in the front, I had to wipe it down. It’s well built and I imagine it’ll get pretty waxy nasty over the years. I love it, fits in the apron too. The awl is awesome as well. I’ve been wanting to try one of Kenny’s birdcage awls for a long time. He sent some other stuff as well but these were the home made bits, love them both!

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View GR8HUNTER's profile


9623 posts in 2173 days

#11 posted 12-08-2017 01:04 AM

great job Kenny on both gifts ….I have never heard of a wax box before …very cool video by Roy ….also HAPPY BIRTHDAY Dave :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN :<))

View KelleyCrafts's profile


5320 posts in 2200 days

#12 posted 12-08-2017 01:10 AM

Thanks Tony! It’s a handy little box. This one is well built too. Lines are perfect when all closed up. Everything on it is tight and right with the sliding dovetail pin too.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View swirt's profile


7686 posts in 4433 days

#13 posted 12-08-2017 03:18 AM

Nice gifts HokieKen. And kudos for recommending and providing links to other LumberJocks work in your answers to questions. That is awesome.

-- Galootish log blog,

View HokieKen's profile


21728 posts in 2600 days

#14 posted 12-08-2017 03:18 AM

Thanks everyone!

Pooh: Actually, I think if scaled up, it would be considerably less difficult. The biggest pain is fitting the really thin pieces together and getting/keeping them flat.

Dave, use ‘em long and in good health buddy!

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Just_Iain's profile


331 posts in 1877 days

#15 posted 12-08-2017 12:24 PM

Very nicely done and the birdcage awl is especially nice!!!

-- For those about to die, remember your bicycle helmet!

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