Keepsake box commission for a friend

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Project by Greg posted 11-11-2010 12:26 PM 2739 views 17 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My neighbor has been watching me woodwork for years and recently commissioned me to build a custom box of my design for him to have for holding loose coins.

I started with a recently obtained wood gift from a fellow LJer, Ron at Tule Peak Lumber. He gave me a beautiful Q-sawn Sycamore slab to try out. Thanks a bunch Ron! When my neighbor saw the grain, he had to have it. So I combined the snakeskin-like Syc with some exotic snakewood I had. There are 7 different woods in all: I used Syc for the sides, Solid Bird’s eye maple for the bottom, snakewood for the top panel & latch mechanism, curly maple for the top frame, cocobolo hinges (with brass pins) and walnut pegs along with a single hand carved ebony peg to hold the latch onto the front.

The hinges were a PITA, but I got one pair out of 3 to work. Aligning the holes through the 5 tongues was the hard part. I pegged them in place with 3/8” flush cut walnut dowels. The latch was simply designed to be decorative and functional, but strangely, it turned out looking like a hummingbird when closed, with the lid portion of the latch forming the wings. The box owners are hummingbird freaks! They were thrilled! I pegged the latch to the box front with a pyramid shaped ebony rivet that was carved with a chisel. (that was after my wife said, “oh, cool, what’s that? CRACK!” She pulled too hard on the front latch and it popped off, so I figured a rivet would hold ‘er. I sanded all to 400 grit. The finish is teak oil, then a few coats of B.L.O. mixed with turpentine & spar varnish. The snakewood polished up beautifully at 400 grit. It didn’t even feel like wood because it was so smooth.

Post Amendment: The front latch is only glued below the ebony rivet. That way, the latch flexes to catch the lid appendage. It works very slick, but you have to play with it to get it to work just right. When you do get it right, the lid snaps closed with a positive “CLICK” and hold very well.

A close-up of the latch mechanism:


The aptly named snakewood reveals why…


A close up of Ron’s beautiful sycamore, and the ebony rivet:

A closeup of the 7/32” (Did I mention it was hand carved?) pyramid head ebony rivet:

-- You don't have a custom made heirloom fly fishing Net?

19 comments so far

View Ken90712's profile


17786 posts in 3749 days

#1 posted 11-11-2010 12:48 PM

What a great box! The details are amazing. From the latch to the hinges. Very well done!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Eagle1's profile


2066 posts in 3624 days

#2 posted 11-11-2010 12:55 PM

That is a beautiful box. I really like the latch, I have never seen something like that. I might have to try something like that sometime.

-- Tim, Missouri ....Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the heck happened

View mafe's profile


12167 posts in 3649 days

#3 posted 11-11-2010 01:16 PM

So beautiful.
What a sence of detail.
Best thoughts,

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

View CiscoKid's profile


345 posts in 3433 days

#4 posted 11-11-2010 01:47 PM

It just doesn’t get much better than that!

-- Al, Culpeper VA

View Triumph1's profile


930 posts in 3639 days

#5 posted 11-11-2010 02:36 PM

Very nice…love that sycamore! How does the latch work? Does the wood flex enough to unlatch? Thank you for sharing.

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

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 3636 days

#6 posted 11-11-2010 03:29 PM

I have grown very fond of sycamore here recently, and you did a beautiful job with showing its true beauty. I really like the design and look of the latch assembly. Very well done!

This box is another example of why I love boxes so much. At first real quick glance you would think this was a simple piece. Only when you really look into it you find that simple is just not the case.

Thanks for sharing Greg and I plan saving this one to use for inspiration in the future…

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3868 days

#7 posted 11-11-2010 05:12 PM

You really did an outstanding job on all aspects of this box. The latch design is unique and functional. I know yor neighbor will really appreciate all you have put into its creation.

View Daiku's profile


232 posts in 3467 days

#8 posted 11-11-2010 06:28 PM

Great box! Loved it all, the woods, latch, hinges and attention to detail.

Thanks for posting,

-- Cal Noguchi -

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3665 days

#9 posted 11-11-2010 07:54 PM

This is well done. The Sycamore is really beautiful. I was wondering how the top frame pieces would look if it was Sycamore. Would it clash with the Snakeskin or compliment it?

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3416 days

#10 posted 11-11-2010 08:05 PM

Great box looks a really nice combination.
The catch is a feature in itself.
Lucky neighbour.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3610 days

#11 posted 11-11-2010 08:11 PM

Greg, saying you’ve done a great job on this box would be an understatement. All the little details are fantastic (hinges, latch… all of it!), not to mention the wood species you chose to put together here. Very handsome piece!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3734 days

#12 posted 11-11-2010 08:37 PM

Wow !

What a great job !!!

I love the interplay of all the woods, the overall design, and the fact that—in the pics—you highlighted your hand-tool work on the hinges. It’s like another signature, to mark your work.

Also … better your wife found the structural weakness, than your neighbor :-)

Really great job !

-- -- Neil

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3667 days

#13 posted 11-11-2010 08:59 PM

Beautiful box. But I keep being drawn back to the latch. Amazing! Rand

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 3444 days

#14 posted 11-11-2010 11:47 PM

The catch on this is just about the most awesome thing I have seen in woodworking. I will try one on my next box I make. Thanks for posting a great looking box

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View jeepturner's profile


941 posts in 3352 days

#15 posted 11-12-2010 04:07 AM

I like the catch. I like the grain on the box body as well, but that latch is going to be the inspiration for my next box.

-- Mel,

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