Spring Box Swap 2018 - Prairie Style

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Project by EarlS posted 05-02-2018 05:46 PM 2610 views 7 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was my first LJ swap so I was a bit nervous, wondering what I could make that would be on par with the amazing projects I’d seen from other swaps. I knew I wanted to try some things I haven’t tried before while keeping a semi-cohesive design style. I also wanted to make something that could be used to store shop items like router bits, router wrenches, and other tools that need a separate home such as squares or calipers. I wanted to make a drawer and also a lidded box and I wanted it to have a prairie style.

The boxes are about 12” x 14” x 10” tall when they are stacked up. The overall size was determined by the foam router bit insert and the small compartment in front of it. The drawer needed to be tall enough for most router bits. Since I wanted a box with a lid on top of the drawer, it needed to have similar dimensions so it wouldn’t look out of place. After a bit of work on SketchUp I had a basic design.

As others have mentioned on their boxes, I started by making the basic parts for 3 different boxes, one from walnut, one from cherry and one from Maple. Shortly into the build I realized I needed to focus on one so I chose the maple since it had the most interesting figuring and contrast. After a lot of work and plenty of scrap the drawer and box sides were complete.

The drawer is maple with walnut inlaid dovetails. One thing I learned, Leigh has a set of instructions for inlaid dovetails, but they were for the D4, not the Super Jig. Only after realizing the set up didn’t work, and going through the list of instructions, did I find the SuperJig version. A little re-work, and the application of an inlaid strip of walnut in the slide slot hid most of the damage.

The drawer front and sides were beveled to expose the interior of the half blind dovetails that make up the dovetail corner posts. The handle is wenge and the inset is walnut.

The feet are a combination of walnut and katalox. The challenge was to make feet that would make the boxes look grounded and solid without the upper box feet looking out of place when the boxes were stacked up. The frame around the inlay overhangs the lower box just enough that the upper box feet blend into the walnut. The upper box has an apron behind the feet that fits around the raised mosaic panel so the upper box will center on the lower box.

I wanted the lid on the upper box to look like a picture in a frame so I used the shaker rail/style bits to make the frame for the mosaic. I’m not sure whether it is a mosaic or an inlay since it is 1/2” thick.

Both the lid and the top of the drawer box needed mosaic panels so they would match. The mosaic/inlay is a variety of exotic and domestic woods – cherry, walnut, maple, African teak, padauk, bubinga, redheart, chakte viga, katalox, lacewood, wenge, and bloodwood. The design is based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style glass. When you get right down to it, it is just a fancy version of the end grain cutting boards.

Everything was finished with a couple of coats of sealer, followed by hand applying 3 coats of semi-gloss Arm-R-Seal, sanded with 800 grit between coats, and 2000 grit after the last coat. Behlen’s Deluxing Compound was applied and buffed out to give everything a nice sheen.

This was a lot of fun and the swap was well run – Thanks Dave!!!

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

29 comments so far

View MilFlyer's profile


946 posts in 2448 days

#1 posted 05-02-2018 06:05 PM

Gorgeous work and thank you for taking the time to write about the build. There is so much to be learned from others’ experiences!

-- VR, Richard "Fear is nothing more than a feeling. You feel hot. You feel hungry. You feel angry. You feel afraid. Fear can never kill you"--Remo Williams

View mikeacg's profile


1535 posts in 1834 days

#2 posted 05-02-2018 06:14 PM

This one made me realize just how far you can push panel details to make a beautiful box! I will never look at a box as a simple, six-sided construction again…

-- Mike, A Yooper with a drawl,

View Ivan's profile


15969 posts in 3644 days

#3 posted 05-02-2018 06:22 PM

So beautiful various woodworking elements.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Peteybadboy's profile


1964 posts in 2726 days

#4 posted 05-02-2018 06:54 PM

This is truly amazing work and design, but those hinges? I really like the project, don’t get me wrong, and I know brass hinges can be expensive…..they do make a difference. Perhaps I’m the one of few that notice those things. You did a job to be proud of. Thanks for posting.

-- Petey

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

5422 posts in 1359 days

#5 posted 05-02-2018 07:30 PM

That’s a beautiful box, Earl. Well done!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View HokieKen's profile


14074 posts in 1915 days

#6 posted 05-02-2018 07:46 PM

These are amazing boxes Earl!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View jeffswildwood's profile


4451 posts in 2754 days

#7 posted 05-02-2018 08:26 PM

By far, one of the best to come from the swap. If it was mine, there is no way it would be storing shop stuff!

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

View torus's profile


451 posts in 1190 days

#8 posted 05-02-2018 08:48 PM

Stacking drawer and lidded box together is on border of genius!
But the artful execution (two-sided mosaic panels, inlaid dovetails, legs, etc) made it to be swap-top box (imho)

Can I ask about short blog entry for your mosaic technique?


-- "It's getting better..." - put this on my RIP stone!

View duckmilk's profile


4193 posts in 2101 days

#9 posted 05-02-2018 09:32 PM

Those are amazing! The prairie style mosaic just sets it apart from others.

”This was my first LJ swap so I was a bit nervous, wondering what I could make that would be on par with the amazing projects I’d seen from other swaps.”

Are you kidding? I looked through your other projects ;)

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

View WhattheChuck's profile


402 posts in 4337 days

#10 posted 05-02-2018 09:36 PM

Pretty cool, Earl! Whoever got that got a real prize!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View Charlie H.'s profile

Charlie H.

405 posts in 1427 days

#11 posted 05-02-2018 10:20 PM

Awesome, simply awesome.

-- Regards, Charlie in Rowlett, TX --------I talk to myself, because sometimes I need expert advice.---------

View Kelster58's profile


759 posts in 1317 days

#12 posted 05-02-2018 11:02 PM

That is AWESOME work !!! Anyone would be proud to own that ! Great job !!

-- K. Stone “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

View EarlS's profile


3736 posts in 3125 days

#13 posted 05-02-2018 11:10 PM

All – thanks for the wonderful compliments. One of the things I really appreciate about LJ is how helpful, supportive, and complimentary everyone is. The boxes were all excellent. I saw things in each one of them that I want to learn how to do.

Torus – I was planning to make a short blog on the mosaic I’m working on for the cherry “alternate” box. I’ll probably get some pictures and an initial entry in tonight.

Petey – the hinges were problematic. I promise I wasn’t skimping on the hinges due to cost. I ordered 5 different hinges trying to find something that looked like it belonged on the box and wasn’t going to bend after a few uses. I wanted to make wooden hinges but I couldn’t really see how to make them work and look good. These were a compromise, they gave me the area I wanted on the lid and wrapped the side to prevent the screws from ripping out of the top edge and they had an antique pewter look to them. Normally, I would have set the box aside and spent a lot of time looking for just the right hinge but I was running out of time and each time I ordered hinges I had to wait 3-4 days minimum for them to show up.

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

View poospleasures's profile


857 posts in 3261 days

#14 posted 05-02-2018 11:25 PM

Really amazing intricate work. These have all the positives going for them. Great color with an unusable design along with being able to stack. Must be the work of a great mind.

-- I,ve had amnesia for as long as I can remember. Vernon

View hairy's profile


3075 posts in 4309 days

#15 posted 05-03-2018 01:10 AM

That’s a great box. You set the bar pretty high , way to go!

-- Genghis Khan and his brother Don, couldn't keep on keeping on...

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