2020 SurpriseSwap Entry

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Project by wildwoodbybrianjohns posted 03-28-2020 10:44 AM 856 views 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was my contribution to the 2020 SurpriseSwap, M.C.d by GR8 Tony. Thanks Tony for running things this time around. It was my first swap, glad I participated, and the thread was quite fun to follow. Great bunch of guys!!!
My entry went to DonW, who is known round these parts as the master tool maker. I also sent Don a sweet chunk of olivewood, knowing that he makes knives, and in the hope that he will pass that knife on to one of his grandkids. hint, hint:)))

To begin with, I have to give credit where it is due, and admit that some of the design elements here in this box I pinched from another L.J. member. That member is Jeff Baenon, also a master at what he does, known here as triumph1. Had I known that Jeff is a member of the L.J. community before this box was done and sent, I would have chosen a different design for my entry.

My progress pic:

Dimensions: I forget
Woods used:
Apple- box top and bottom
Ziricote- box front and back
European elm- box sides
Gabon ebony- pedestal
Ebonized oak- base
Box is lined with Horween leather, not shown in photo
Hidden compartment is lined with velvet
Hinge- 4mm brass pins
Finish is many coats of shellac.

For the box I used simple butt joints reinforced with 6mm brass pins and 2-part epoxy. The intention here was to frame the ziricote so to make it the dominant feature. I meticulously chose the pieces of elm for the sides to highlight the ring pattern in the grain after shaping, which can be seen in one of the photos. The apple wood segments were also carefully considered for character. All shaping was done with Arbortech mini-turbo, and the arbortech sanding discs that fit it. And probably my makeshift sanding station, a belt sander clamped on its side.

The three sections line up automatically with rare-earth magnets. I overdid the rare-earth magnets to secure the box to the pedestal, with the intent that when the unit was picked up it would seem as though they were permanently connected. And thus, no one would suspect there was a hidden compartment in the pedestal. Originally, I was going to glue the pedestal to the base; but it occured to me that whomever my recipient was, they may not like the base, or it may have been too large to fit neatly on a shelf. So, I used magnets instead, to allow options. In other words, designed so the box and pedestal are a stand-alone unit.

Some mention has been made in the thread about the base. I am still refining this porous technique, and I intend to take it much much further, to the level of 3d sculpture, say. I begin by shaping, and am always reluctant to “take it too far.” And when the piece is done, I think, damn, I should have taken it further. When the shaping is done, I use a rotary tool with various bits to do the porousness-nessing.. Simple really, does take some patience though. And it is always a challenge to do it in an orderly way while attempting tp make it appear random and organic. For me, anyway.

The ebonizing was done with India Ink, 2 coats of that to eliminate any holidays. Before sanding, I always lock in the ink with a coat or two of shellac. When ebonizing with india ink, it is important to use quality waterproof ink. All india inks and china inks brands make the claim to be waterproof when dry, but that is not true.

One final note. The european elm is considered to be quite special because we have a plague here that has decimated 80% of the elm; similar to the Ash borer menace in the states.

Again, thanks to ALL the participants of the Swap, it was a fun ride. And you too, kenny, and duck, and the other jocks who were along for the ride.

Thanks for looking, and have a GR8 day.

-- WWBBJ: It is better to be interesting and wrong, than boring and right.

12 comments so far

View recycle1943's profile


5312 posts in 2680 days

#1 posted 03-28-2020 11:12 AM

Brian, What a beautiful speciman of dedication, imagination and art. If you hadn’t pointed out the base to be oak, from the picture I would have bet a lot on it being butternut

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View mikeacg's profile


1903 posts in 2115 days

#2 posted 03-28-2020 11:24 AM


It sure has been a fun ride, hasn’t it? Your piece is amazing and I really like the magnet idea! Probably have to ‘borrow’ that one for future work!!


-- Mike, A Yooper with a drawl,

View JohnMcClure's profile


1228 posts in 1698 days

#3 posted 03-28-2020 11:37 AM

I’m without words. This is a piece of art.

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View Dave Polaschek's profile (online now)

Dave Polaschek

7329 posts in 1640 days

#4 posted 03-28-2020 01:25 PM

Beautiful box, Brian! Glad to have had you in the swap!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Bill Berklich's profile

Bill Berklich

1179 posts in 1446 days

#5 posted 03-28-2020 03:00 PM

Love the artistry and composition. Well done! Thanks for the insight on the base too.

-- Bill - Rochester MI

View EarlS's profile


4419 posts in 3406 days

#6 posted 03-28-2020 03:56 PM

It is definitely a work of art. I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying your pictures and reading your write up. I suspect that I will plagiarize your techniques shamelessly given the opportunity on my future projects. I always enjoy seeing what you make and reading about your processes. Thanks for participating in the swap. Looking forward to seeing a lot more of your work

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

View jeffswildwood's profile


4877 posts in 3035 days

#7 posted 03-28-2020 08:49 PM

Brian, as I said, you make some of the most creative boxes! This one is no exception. Nice!

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

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


2758 posts in 605 days

#8 posted 03-28-2020 08:56 PM

I suspect that I will plagiarize your techniques shamelessly

- EarlS

Plagiarise my writing techniques? Oh, Earl, you dont want to be doing that, I am really just oh so mediocre at writing. And totally not, funny like Kenny.:<))

Thanks for the compliments, earl!!!

-- WWBBJ: It is better to be interesting and wrong, than boring and right.

View pottz's profile


16308 posts in 2042 days

#9 posted 03-28-2020 11:18 PM

that is creativity at it’s best brian.very unique to say the least.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View swirt's profile


6115 posts in 4030 days

#10 posted 03-29-2020 02:03 AM

Beautiful artistic box.

-- Galootish log blog,

View wildwoodbybrianjohns's profile


2758 posts in 605 days

#11 posted 03-29-2020 11:02 AM

Thanks to all you great guys for the compliments.

Stay healthy, gentlemen.

-- WWBBJ: It is better to be interesting and wrong, than boring and right.

View splintergroup's profile


4999 posts in 2280 days

#12 posted 03-29-2020 02:39 PM

Excellent “melting” effect! Each one is more and more art!

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