Cherry Pencil Box (#3)

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Project by RogerBean posted 10-29-2010 09:54 PM 4580 views 18 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Cherry Pencil Box

This is the #3 of 3 in my little design exercise in search of a “simple beautiful box.” This one is a little more “formal” in approach, of plain cherry, and with a lift off lid. It’s the same size as the first two, 8×4 x 1 3/8”. The traditional 1/16” stringing is maple. The lift is ebony, and the lid inlays are of black mother of perarl.

The interior is lined with chocolate brown leather. The cherry is very tight grain and lends itself to a more formal mirror French polish, where the first two boxes in the series were a satin oil finish.

The last photo shows this box and the two earlier boxes side by side. There’s more on the first two in my projects section. Those familiar with his work will recognize a certain homage to the work of Andrew Crawford. Each time I think I’ve come with something new, it seems Andrew has already done something much like it. Credit where credit is due.

In any event, if you have a particular preference for one of the three, or another comment, I’d like to hear it …and why. My goal was to come up with three attractive, but different approaches to the same box, and hopefully learn something along the way. The boxes are OK, but I’m not sure how much I really accomplished here.

I can relay what I think I learned:

Proportion in itself is important. Apart from the overall size proportions, wall thickness seems to bear on the issue of appropriateness. Too thin and the object looks spindly, or weak. Too thick and it seems bloated and clunky. An oddly shaped box just looks odd.

I began this effort leaning heavy on the idea of simplicity. But, minimalism is not enough. While there is a certain Zen beauty to pure simplicity, is seems to come up somewhat lacking in the final result for a box. A beautiful box needs more.

Decoration: I’ve come to believe the decoration is a large part of what makes a box beautiful. If no decoration is insufficient, then too much seems no better, possibly worse. The choice of type, quantity, and nature of decorative inlays, stringing, and edging makes a huge difference. For example, had I simply added a whole lid of burl, rather than the small bordered inlays of burl (on boxes #1 and #2), the result would have seemed somehow “less.” As small inlays, the burl seems to join the beauty of the burl with a sense of craftsmanship, that seems somehow more attractive. I think a lot about this and struggle with it on each project.

NOTE: There are exceptions. Martyn’s (Britboxmaker) wonderful visual illusions can be very bold, yet the box seems completely in harmony. I think this is because the illusion (design) is the focus, not the box, per se. The box becomes the canvas upon which the picture is painted. (Martyn, your opinion here would be welcome…) These little pencil boxes of mine are quite different though, and the box itself is the point, so the decoration is supportive rather than central. The complete box must speak louder than the decoration. (if that makes any sense) “Horses for courses” as they say.

Well, the next project is back to complex boxes. I learned here, I guess, that there is much more to learn.

Thanks for looking in.

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

24 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5509 days

#1 posted 10-29-2010 10:24 PM

A great finish to the trio, Roger. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite, though.

I agree that too much decoration is worse than not enough. A few of my boxes have erred in that direction, and now I try to keep them simpler.

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

View CiscoKid's profile


362 posts in 4164 days

#2 posted 10-29-2010 10:25 PM

Wonderful craftsmanship. I love the lid lift. The lines are superb without being overdone in the least.

-- Al, Culpeper VA

View mafe's profile


13405 posts in 4380 days

#3 posted 10-29-2010 10:35 PM

So elegant.
Best thoughts,

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

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 5383 days

#4 posted 10-29-2010 10:40 PM

I really like this a lot. Delicate and airy… understated elegance. Wonderful job Roger. Perfect punctuation to your series. Sure wish it wasn’t the last of this type…

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4625 days

#5 posted 10-29-2010 10:42 PM

Very nice inside and out Roger.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View zwwizard's profile


215 posts in 5000 days

#6 posted 10-29-2010 11:25 PM

OK, you ask for it. The box is outstanding. But I don’t like the lid lift. To me it looks clunky. A long narrow lift about 3/4 of the box length would look better in my opinion. and go with the stringing on the top as well. Or leave the lift off entirely and go to tilt type lid. Put your inlays in like a diamond.

Just my $.02

-- Richard

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4244 days

#7 posted 10-29-2010 11:36 PM

Well, you hit right on the main issue. I am ashamed to admit how much I struggled with the lift. The final was about the sixth iteration. If I were to do it again, I think the absence of a lift, with stringing on the lid, and a push down lid raise (push on end and other end lifts up) would be a superior solution. Unfortunately, I had committed to a lift of some kind, and the base was already glued up so that was out. I’ll send along the $50 gift certificate for your perception in pointing out the big weakness! Thanks.

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

View zwwizard's profile


215 posts in 5000 days

#8 posted 10-30-2010 03:06 AM

Thanks for your understanding of my commits. I have a problem with some people who make boxes. They make a 3×5 box using 3/4” wood butt joints, with the hinges tacked on the outside of the box, and want $50.00 for the thing. Then accuse me for undercutting them in price, for a box of the same size with 3/8” side, finger joints and inset hinge, which I will get $15 to 25.00 for. Then I hear crying about they can’t cut the wood thiner, don’t have a band saw or don’t have a big table saw or———- or———. You get my drift. good luck with your boxes. If I can help you in every way, just ask.
Good luck

-- Richard

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


22861 posts in 4966 days

#9 posted 10-30-2010 03:08 AM

Simple elegance

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4095 days

#10 posted 10-30-2010 04:18 AM

Beautiful, beautiful boxes. I think the 3rd one could use the stringing on the top also. That’s my opinion. Still is a georgeous box. The handle is very modern, and elegant, but, so are the others. Besides, anybody that carries Roger as a name, well, has gotta be good!!!!!!!!!! hahaha

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View a1Jim's profile


118297 posts in 4868 days

#11 posted 10-30-2010 04:52 AM

classic graceful design, very well done.


View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4367 days

#12 posted 10-30-2010 05:04 AM

Another beauty Roger…. What I find funny about woodwork or even art for that matter is the interpretation of the viewer. I have seen projects here on LJ that some really liked….. and …. well …. to be honest… ones that I didn’t. There has been projects that I thought where phenomenal and …. well…. others apparently didn’t. Whats cool about art boxes like this (I say art because that is the way I see them) is they evolve, take on personalities, and basically tell their own stories. Then again I may be looking way to far into stuff like this…

I think you did a great job on the pencil box Roger…..

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View tomd's profile


2222 posts in 5061 days

#13 posted 10-30-2010 06:00 AM

Another beautiful box Roger, I have just finished Crawford’s second book and would like to try some of his ideas. Like you I also labor over every little detail, so many choices, so hard to decide which way to go. On decorations there is a fine line between too much and too little, I think I fall into to much, if some is good, then alot must be better. Nice job and brilliant workmanship.

-- Tom D

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1130 posts in 4264 days

#14 posted 10-30-2010 06:12 AM

Great size and shape, love the interior separation and lining

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 4340 days

#15 posted 10-30-2010 06:45 AM

wow, gorgeous… and thanks for your meditations on box design, great read.

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