Book Urns

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Project by linjay posted 01-17-2021 08:04 PM 521 views 2 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I made these book urns for friends who had given me the Birdseye maple that I used for the insert detail. This Birdseye maple was 60 years old in 1954 – that makes it 126 years old! It came from the farm in the eastern townships of Quebec where my friend was born. The boards are definitely old but have been very well preserved.
One of the difficult parts of this project was finding a way to make the concave edge of the pages. I used a 60 tooth, 7-1/4” blade in my radial arm saw. The blade was rotated and tilted to create an elliptical profile and I took multiple light cuts so that only the teeth were engaged with the wood. This worked really well because the wood is always being pushed against the fence and the blade rotation is still providing some resistance to the forward motion of the wood.
The base material was pine. My friends intention was that these boxes would eventually be burred in the ground back at the farm so pine seemed like a reasonable choice. Once they saw the finished product I understand they might have decided to pass them on. They came up with the book concept and it sounded like it would present many new and interesting challenges – which it did.
The dark wood is roasted maple. One of the problems with roasted wood is that it becomes dried out and a bit brittle – it’s not maple anymore and you always have to take that into consideration. To do the convex back I first had to make thin material – around 3/32” thick. I then steamed these pieces and glued on the first and then a 2nd to provide the final thickness.
The front was made from material that was all the same thickness starting with the center piece and adding the frame detail. The top and bottom pieces were added to end up with a piece that was a bit too long. Then 2 side pieces were added to create a slightly oversize width. After it was all glued up it just required sanding to bring all the surfaces into one. I glued a thin piece of plywood to the back that just fits into the body in an attempt to prevent any cracking due to humidity effects.
The page edges were veneered with some Birdseye maple veneer that I happened to have.
The final picture taken in my shop is before urethaneing. The final finish – by my wife – was multiple coats of water based urethane. She has developed a very useful technique to eliminate brush strokes. When the urethane has just barely dried she burnishes the surface with a rag – very hard – and this seems to smooth out the surface significantly and provide a good generally acceptable finish.
I’m going to make a book box like this some day with a hinged front. These 2 have a back insert that screws on – which is a fairly typical urn concept. If I’d know they weren’t going in the ground I would have come up with something better.

-- It's easy when you know how - but that's the hard part. Ontario, Canada

4 comments so far

View swirt's profile


5992 posts in 3976 days

#1 posted 01-18-2021 03:36 AM

Very nice. They look great and I really like the idea of it being a subtle book as opposed to something that resembles a more traditional looking urn.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Calmudgeon's profile


426 posts in 2432 days

#2 posted 01-18-2021 01:25 PM

That’s an intriguing concept, nicely executed.

-- "As are the things we make, so are we ourselves." - Lin Yutang

View WoodenDreams's profile


1252 posts in 915 days

#3 posted 01-18-2021 04:47 PM

Nice looking Book Case Urns. My wife said I should offer book case urns last year, still on the back burner.

View jjoe's profile


26 posts in 2339 days

#4 posted 01-19-2021 08:05 PM

Beautiful work with some “out of the box” type concepts that must have provided some real skill-growth. I love it!

-- Just a Joe

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