Walnut Pencil Box

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Project by RogerBean posted 10-09-2010 02:58 AM 4654 views 13 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This little pencil box is part of a three part design exercise I embarked on in search of a “simple beautiful box.” Now, I’m not setting myself up as any great arbiter of beauty. I’m just searching like everyone else. I’ve already learned this is harder than it looks.

I chose little pencil boxes because their proportions are attractive, and they lend themselves to solid wood (simpler than veneer) and they do not require hardware, or trays or other complications. I also consciously chose plain wood, as wonderful wood is not a perquisite for a beautiful box.

The first of the three boxes is walnut and is 8” x 4” x 1 1/2”. It has a sliding lid. ...a simple box. While I did veneer the inside of this box with maple, it is plain veneer, used for color and contrast, not to dazzle with great figure. The single divider is capped with a thin bit of cocobolo. Veneering the inside may be gilding the lilly a bit. The little burl inlay, bordered with a thin white-black-white line is the only external decoration.

I finished all sides, top and bottom, inside and out. The finish is Sutherland-Welles polymerized tung oil over a light coat of boiled linseed oil. I wanted it to be silky-smooth to touch, but not glossy.

I guess I need to keep trying. Two more boxes to go. The next attempt is in the works. I’ll post the result in a few days.

Thanks for looking in.


-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

15 comments so far

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4959 posts in 4399 days

#1 posted 10-09-2010 03:14 AM

Wow! You picked the same method I use on my eyeglass cases! (not accusing). Don’t you just love making the box so that people can’t tell how to open it by just looking at it? That divider looks tricky, though- but I don’t put dividers in a glasses case, anyway.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View a1Jim's profile


118297 posts in 4868 days

#2 posted 10-09-2010 03:49 AM

Very nice work Roger super looking box.


View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5509 days

#3 posted 10-09-2010 05:06 AM

Very elegant, Roger. Nice work!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Randy63's profile


252 posts in 4182 days

#4 posted 10-09-2010 07:53 AM

I really like the simplicity of this penicl box Roger. All the joinery seems sharp as a tack and the nice accent inly was very netaly done. Excellent work my friend!

-- Randy, Oakdale, Ca.

View CiscoKid's profile


362 posts in 4164 days

#5 posted 10-09-2010 11:23 AM

Fine looking box. Simplicity is wisdom.

-- Al, Culpeper VA

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5537 days

#6 posted 10-09-2010 11:41 AM

fine looking little box, difficult to build it looks to be.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4327 days

#7 posted 10-09-2010 12:29 PM

Simple and elegant, Roger and with none of those darned slipfeathers that a lot of people find obligatory. They are not necessary and spoil the box, in my opinion. There I’ve said it.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View mafe's profile


13405 posts in 4380 days

#8 posted 10-09-2010 02:18 PM

Less is more, and I love the sliding lit, it’s usually more elegant then the hingh.
Beautiful box, wonderful work.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4367 days

#9 posted 10-09-2010 02:32 PM

Roger… You sir have an eye for beauty. Really enjoyed seeing this piece. I personally find it very inspirational. Thanks for sharing!

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Sodabowski's profile


2401 posts in 4124 days

#10 posted 10-09-2010 07:45 PM

Very nice, that small veneer portion on the top is interesting, I never saw or thought of such a small decoration on the top of a box (I’m building one these days, with a full-top veneering).
Thanks for sharing, looking forward to see the next ones!

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4964 days

#11 posted 10-09-2010 08:07 PM

Nice looking box.

View Bradford's profile


1434 posts in 5113 days

#12 posted 10-09-2010 09:23 PM

You captured the elegance and simplicity that make a difference in a build, that captures attention and holds it. Great write up, sometimes I learn more from it, than seeing the result.

-- so much wood, so little time. Bradford. Wood-a-holics unanimous president

View tomd's profile


2222 posts in 5061 days

#13 posted 10-10-2010 03:03 AM

Great box Roger,a very nice piece, and your photography is always so good on your boxes.

-- Tom D

View Triumph1's profile


938 posts in 4370 days

#14 posted 10-11-2010 02:25 AM

This is a great idea to design around. I cannot wait to see the two future boxes. This one….very, very nice. I like the burl inlay on the top and “plain” wood or not the box is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it.

-- Jeff , Wisconsin Please...can I stay in the basement a little longer, please!

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4244 days

#15 posted 10-11-2010 02:47 AM

Thanks for all the kind words. The next one is a couple days from being finished. I’ve found that these little simple boxes have required more “thinking time” than they have shop time. How much decoration is enough? ...too much? What interior best complements the exterior? What makes plain wood look it’s best? A wonderful design may survive shoddy craftsmanship, but great craftsmanship will not save a poor design. These little guys are proving to be quite a challenge.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

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