Pinwheel Box

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Project by Mary Anne posted 07-31-2010 09:41 PM 3649 views 2 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch


The pinwheel box represents the flow and give in nature—a pinwheel flutters, bends, and spins in the breeze just as grasses, trees, and even water and stone give way in harmony with Mother Nature’s breath.

But the fluidity in this project is more; it is the story of fluidity in design. Or maybe it is just a series of failures that eventually becomes a success. I started out with a plan to build a cutting board with a tartan pattern, and at the end of the road, I ended up with this pinwheel box. Don’t laugh, it is true! Bear in mind that I am a relative newbie to woodworking. I have only been at it seriously for a few months.

So, here is the story:
I thought a tartan (or plaid) pattern would make a cool cutting board. I spent some time making drawings, cutting pieces of paper, and even endeavoring to learn a wee bit of SketchUp. I made some careful calculations and proceeded to cut some strips of padauk and maple and laminated them together into wider strips. Then I cut them up into a few squares. Oh no, disaster!! So much for my careful calculations; although the pieces fit together, there was no way this was going to make anything remotely resembling what I had in mind.

Can’t quit. Can’t give up. Gotta make something. So it was back to the drawing board, and I came up with this neat design for a pinwheel cutting board in my head. I took my remaining laminations and cut them into triangles. I was really excited about the pinwheels. Oops, cutting triangles out of a straight strip does not create matching triangles. I got two sets of opposites, and there were not enough of any one pattern to make my pinwheel cutting board. I also figured out about then that the pinwheel pattern would have been lost once they were butted up to each other. So far, I am excelling at making mistakes rather than cutting boards!

Okay, Mary Anne, keep it loose and let it flow. I had a pile of triangles. I gathered them up and took them upstairs and dumped them on my dining room table. And played with them… for three days. It is incredible how many designs can be created with simple triangles. Here are a few examples:

I chose one pattern and it became my 3-D Cubicle Cutting Boards. By this time, though, I had really become hooked on the idea of the pinwheel. Alas, I had gone through almost all of my wood! Now what? Time to pick up the pieces (literally) and let it flow. Ah ha, I’ll make a box! Nevermind that my box making experience consists of a single simple rectangular box. Oh well, how hard could a hexagonal box be to make? LOL It turns out that it is much harder to make than a rectangle.

But you know what? I am happy with it, and pretty darned proud of myself, too. Actually, in some ways I am more proud of myself than I am the finished box. I have some health difficulties that slow me down and limit my shop time, and I am “of an age” where change and learning new things are generally not welcomed. I really pushed myself with all of the projects in this series (and I think there may be a few more) and I came out a success. I didn’t give up. I allowed myself to go with the flow.

So, what do you think of my tartan cutting board? LOL

29 comments so far

View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 4730 days

#1 posted 07-31-2010 09:49 PM


-- christopheralan

View ellen35's profile


2749 posts in 4442 days

#2 posted 07-31-2010 09:52 PM

Now THAT is unique! The pinwheel almost turns on the page!!
You have every reason to be proud of the project and of yourself!
Creative genius lies inside the minds of all – you just bought it out!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4318 days

#3 posted 07-31-2010 10:01 PM

Excellent ! That is alot of pieces and it turned out very nice..

View patron's profile


13716 posts in 4351 days

#4 posted 07-31-2010 10:04 PM

MA ,

WOW is right ,
these are all very nice ,
and don’t fool yourself ,
you are becoming a very talented young lady woodworker .
that’s how we learn .

mistake , mistake ,
hey , maybe not ?

you could make cup/ glass rests from the left overs ,
some cork on the bottom ?

or do a hodge-podge board from them .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4027 days

#5 posted 07-31-2010 10:13 PM

Looks like you have several winners! Also looks like you had fun playing “puzzles”, I kinda like the first one but think it would look better with 4 dark hexagons instead. Just my opinion.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4218 days

#6 posted 07-31-2010 10:19 PM

Thank you Christopher, Ellen, Greg, and David.
You are generous in the kindness of your comments.

David – and for clarity – the pattern examples are not completed projects; they are the result of playing around with the pieces and eventually went into the Cubicle Boards.

P.S. I have to say, when I read “genius” and “young lady” I’m liking woodworking even more. LOL

View patron's profile


13716 posts in 4351 days

#7 posted 07-31-2010 10:29 PM

mary anne ,
what i love so much about the people on this site ,
we don’t talk about doing things ,
whether we know how or not ,
makes no difference ,

you found a way to go further
with the life God gave you
not stop and feel intimidated by it all !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4125 days

#8 posted 07-31-2010 11:01 PM

Hallo there Mary Anne
don´t be so hard on your self :—-))
1. you push the edge a little bit further every time you make things
2. and now you even started to make tricks with our brains tooo :-(.......LOL

Oh by the way it´s a vey niice little box, even my daughter said so
when she walked behind me


View Cher's profile


965 posts in 4103 days

#9 posted 07-31-2010 11:22 PM

Mary Anne you have created a perfect box, I love your enthusiasm.
You are as young as you feel and with all the projects you’re doing lately
you must have the energy of a teenager.

Thanks for sharing Mary Anne, you are an inspiration.

-- When you know better you do better.

View Hacksaw007's profile


620 posts in 4199 days

#10 posted 07-31-2010 11:23 PM

You had better step back and take a big breath….... Your amazing and on fire! And to think you were making whistles such a short time ago…... If I could make stuff like this, I would wear a racoon on my head also. Thanks for sharing…...

-- For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

View littlecope's profile


3117 posts in 4512 days

#11 posted 07-31-2010 11:27 PM

Wonderful Box, Design, Story, and Work, Mary Anne!!
Your persistence and determination to your vision really paid off… Great Job!!

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

View rowdy's profile


375 posts in 4452 days

#12 posted 07-31-2010 11:52 PM

Interesting. Nice job.

-- Rowdy in Kechi, Kansas

View pawpawsteve's profile


16 posts in 3999 days

#13 posted 08-01-2010 12:24 AM

Great box and great story. Also great encouragement for the rest of us reluctant to learn older folk to get to the shop and learn something new!

-- Steve ... determined to die working and believing that God is good!

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4218 days

#14 posted 08-01-2010 12:27 AM

Bearpie -
The endless possibilities with the “puzzles” was a lot of fun. It really opened my mind to the creative flow. I could have posted even more variations. Maybe you’ll see them in future projects. :)

That’s right! The people on this site are DOers. Not just building stuff, either. So much of it is people building. Without all the teaching (a lot by example) and encouragement I’ve gotten from the fine folks here, I would not have progressed nearly this far… or realize how far I have to go. As to being intimidated, that is only a way of self defeat, and my mama taught me better than that.

I don’t know about having the energy of a teenager. I wish!!
What are you working on these days? I hope you are still getting out there and taking your lathe for a spin every chance you get.

Okay, you are almost on to the truth… it is the Vulcoon mind meld that gets me through. ;)
Seriously, if I can do it, I have no doubt anyone else who puts their mind to it can do the same and better.

Thanks, Mike. Reading your blogs and watching the progress on your projects has been a real inspiration for me.

Thanks, Rowdy!

View WoodenFrog's profile


2737 posts in 3923 days

#15 posted 08-01-2010 01:01 AM

Wow! This is a great box and one heck of a good story!
I think you are very good at what you do, I don’t think I can even draw a triangle. ( LOL)
When I was 10 or 11 I had a pet racoon named Tootsie, and she used to climb on my head also.
I loved that racoon. Seeing your pic just reminded me of my days of youth.
Thank you so much for sharing.

-- Robert B. Sabina, Ohio.....

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