Watercolor Art Box

  • Advertise with us
Project by TWegs posted 12-22-2017 10:37 PM 1995 views 5 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve been working on this for the last 6 months as a Christmas present for my daughter. She’s a senior in high school and an excellent artist, so I knew I had to pull out all the stops. I was inspired by artist boxes made in the late 1700s and early 1800s by art supply companies in London, such as Winsor and Newton.

This is made from mahogany rough-sawn shorts I got on sale at Woodcraft. As with all my projects, this was made only with hand tools. The stock was dimensioned with hand planes. The main box is joined with 45 degree miters I made using my no. 5 plane and a miter jig (which I made for this project and works great). The lid is also mitered to the sides of the box with 45 degree miters as well. I glued up the box and then cut off the top and the drawer. First time every using miter joints, I was little scared to see what the inside looked like after cutting off the top, but it turned out great – the joints were super-tight. The main compartment divider was joined with stopped dados using a 1/4” chisel. The trays for the watercolors I sized so that the watercolor half pans would fit perfectly for 3 rows of 12. I lined the water color tray with tin and I cut a magnet sheet with a peel off adhesive I found at Hobby Lobby into small squares and stuck them to the bottom of each pan, so that the pans don’t go flying out of the tray if the box get turned over. The drawer is joined with hand cut dovetails. The front of the drawer has brush tray I made using an old wood molding plane I found on E-Bay for $15 and re-honed the cutter.

The hardware was a challenge to find. I found the lid lock and key at an antique hardware shop, I’m guessing it’s over 100 years old. The drawer pull I found on Amazon. I made the drawer pin from solid brass door hinge, I ordered from Home Depot, which I cut off the end and smoothed down. The watercolor paints are from Winsor and Newton. I found the porcelain mixing trays and water dishes on Amazon.

The finish is as follows: I prepped the wood with Timbermate mahogany wood filler, sanded down with 320 grit. Then I stained it with General Finish’s mahogany wood stain and let cure for a couple of days, then sealed it with Zinsser seal coat. For the inside of the box and the inside of the drawer, I put on two coats of Zinsser clear shellac, then rubbed in finishing wax with 0000 steel wool. Then polished out the wax once it dried. The outside I did a french polish with Zinsser clear shellac using a french polishing method I picked up from a YouTube video. It probably has about 10 passes on it, with a few more on the lid. Then I did the same process of rubbing in finishing wax with 0000 steel wool and buffed it out when dry. I think it turned out pretty good. I hope my daughter likes it.

Thanks for looking.

10 comments so far

View ralbuck's profile


6525 posts in 3005 days

#1 posted 12-22-2017 11:43 PM


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

View Boxguy's profile


2870 posts in 3006 days

#2 posted 12-23-2017 06:23 AM

Twegs, What a nice posting of your work. Thanks for including the story and the great details. Obviously, this box is a work of love. Super job of accuracy in the design and joinery. I admire your preference for hand tool work. The antique lock gives this box the right look and feel. Good call.

Of course your daughter will treasure it and think of you when she does. However, most artists are not thinking about neatness when they are creating. So be prepared for it to look a little loved over time. I wish her well as she launches into adulthood, and I wish you well as she learns to fly.

-- Big Al in IN

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1113 posts in 3051 days

#3 posted 12-23-2017 10:00 AM

This is very nicely done. I’m sure it will get lots of use over the coming years.
Coincidently I have one of those drawer pulls in my Parys box – now I have an idea of how to use it!

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Ivan's profile


15859 posts in 3606 days

#4 posted 12-23-2017 11:51 AM

I’m in sort of similar situation – my daughter is also finishing senior hight school and she is great hobby painter. I bet I could make her happy with such box too. Your box realy has some awesome features and compartments.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

5189 posts in 1321 days

#5 posted 12-23-2017 11:57 AM

That’s a very nice-looking box, and good job finishing it all with hand tools. I’m sure your daughter will enjoy it.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View EarlS's profile


3678 posts in 3086 days

#6 posted 12-23-2017 12:27 PM

Very nicely done.

We bought my niece (also a senior in HS) a watercolor set for Christmas that came in a crummy wooden box. Seeing your box makes me wonder why I didn’t think to make her something like this.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View drewpy's profile


1003 posts in 2095 days

#7 posted 12-23-2017 01:16 PM

Great job. All the details and well thought out. I am sure she will treasure it. I just keep going back and looking at the detail.

-- Drew -- "The greatest wealth is health".

View hoss12992's profile


4171 posts in 2631 days

#8 posted 12-23-2017 07:39 PM

Absolutely beautiful

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View MontanaBob's profile


873 posts in 3422 days

#9 posted 12-23-2017 09:35 PM


View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1090 posts in 1127 days

#10 posted 12-03-2018 02:38 PM


-- Bill - Rochester MI

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics