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Project by madburg posted 01-16-2022 01:21 AM 840 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Jupiter – a Suminbo

Before we get into what this project is, Why Jupiter?

Jupiter has many small moons or satellites which orbit the planet and are thought to be the cause of its characteristic rings. Two ‘new’ small moons, Adrastea and Metis, discovered by Voyager, are the ones closest to Jupiter orbiting in its main innermost ring. Dust from them is thought to be the cause this ring.

So Jupiters and its many rings and moons provided the inspiration for the name of the box, which is a follow on for my Starry, starry night box – see it here.

The lift off lid, held in place with a traditional obijimi sash, is veneered marine ply, with book matched burl elm on the outside and jarrah edging, with paulownia veneer on the inside. It has a dyed black band, Jupiter’s ring, running across the top and down the ends. This is inlayed with a range of small shell and opal dots, representing Jupiters moonlets and satellites, with the two larger cabochon stud earrings, being Adrastea and Metis.

But, what is the box? Continuing with my Japanese inspired boxes, this is a traditional writing box – Suminbo, It is used to hold a range of tools and equipment associated with Japanese calligraphy – Shado. It is a little more complex than my previous Suzuribako, check it out here. Its design was based on earlier wrting boxes which also held calligraphy paper so needed to be larger.

The main box/base and the internal writing tray, Suzuribako, are made from cherry.

The lift-out Suzuribako contains calligraphy traditional tools. An Inkstone 硯 – Suzuri, a water dropper 水差し – Mizusashi, two brushes 筆 – Fude, and a brush rest 筆置 – Fude oki.

It seems that in times gone bye people had to make their own tools in order to practice shodo, but today you can find all the necessary objects in stores across Japan or other countries. I got most of mine from AliExpress. Though the Suzuri – inkstone, and the Sumi - inkstick, where given to me be the eventual recipent of the box – little did he know he would get them back!

The inside of the Suzuribako tray and its interior framework have been ebonised and then sprinkled with gold dust to reflect traditional Japanese black lacquer.

I use polyurethane instead of traditional lacquer – urushi. A couple of coats are applied and rubbed down, then another coat is applied, and while still wet the gold dust, or you can use fine glitter, is sprinkled on. This is left to dry after which I brush off any loose dust before applying another two or three coats of polyurethane to cover the gold dust. I then rub it down with 400 grit and apply more coats until the gold dust is completely sealed and I can rub it down get a flat satin finish.

Beneath the Suzuribako in the base of the box are more traditional items. All of which have their own specific Japanese names.

Two paper weights 文鎮 – Bunchin, made from Mexican Rosewood with shell dot inlays and grooves to act as brush rests. A paper knife ペーパーナイフ – Pepanaifu. A brush hanger 笔挂 – Burashihanga, for hanging cleaned brushes after they have been cleaned to allow them to dry. A solid inkstick 墨 – Sumi in its own paulownia box. Also included is an uncarved soap stone seal 判子 – Hanko.

Making boxes that have a specific purpose and hold set items is more challenging than making an empty box. Things have to fit, and fit in particular positions, so the internal layout and associated sizes and tolerances have to be precise and carefully built into the design. Many of my boxes are just empty containers – you put in what you want and arrange things as best you can. So finished sizes don’t really matter, and a few millimetres discrepancy form the original sizes are OK.

The whole box is gift wrapped in a traditional Furoshiki cloth.

It was made as a surprise for a very good Japanese friend who has given me so much encouragement, and help with translations while researching many of my Japanese boxes. Thank you Tad!

As ever thanks for looking, and if you have nay questions please ask.

Hope you enjoyed it

-- Madburg WA

9 comments so far

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

10281 posts in 2040 days

#1 posted 01-16-2022 02:11 AM

A beautiful box with everything in its place. Well done!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View tinnman65's profile


1444 posts in 4872 days

#2 posted 01-16-2022 02:15 AM

Great work on the box, I enjoyed the description as much as the photos. I’m sure you’ll have one happy friend when he receives this lovely box.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Tadyama88's profile


3 posts in 351 days

#3 posted 01-16-2022 02:42 AM

Martin, you did it again. It is an amazing work. I being a Japanese am amazed. I have forwarded the photos of Martin’s Incense box to the Japanese Kodo Association in Nara city, Japan asking them for their reviews. They were so impressed and told me that they are willing to physically examine it to see if it meets all the requirements of Kodo. I plan to bring on my next trip to Japan. What a surprise. Thank you very much, Martin. Tad Yamamoto

View James E McIntyre's profile

James E McIntyre

1887 posts in 2750 days

#4 posted 01-16-2022 05:19 PM

Your really good at making traditional Japanese Boxes and everything fits so well.

Is that real gold dust in the finish?

-- James E McIntyre

View Phil32's profile


1749 posts in 1361 days

#5 posted 01-16-2022 08:36 PM

It’s a beautiful box and your explanation is clear, but does it ignore the Galilean moons of Jupiter?

-- You know, this site doesn't require woodworking skills, but you should know how to write.

View swirt's profile


7669 posts in 4430 days

#6 posted 01-17-2022 02:43 AM

All of it is so amazing and cool. Great box.

-- Galootish log blog,

View madburg's profile


367 posts in 2301 days

#7 posted 01-17-2022 03:45 AM

Thanks all.
Phil – you obviously know more than I do about Jupiters moons – I must confess to not researching it too deeply.
I now find that ‘my’ two moons, Adrastea and Metis, were new moonlets discovered by Voyager. They are in the inner ring, and are the closest ones to Jupiter. Others moons/satellites in this inner ring are Amalthea, and Thebe. The Galilean moons/satellites are further out.
Paul – Its not gold dust in this box, but gold glitter. I do use gold dust which was on my Suzuribako.

-- Madburg WA

View CedarSavage's profile


16 posts in 212 days

#8 posted 01-17-2022 02:45 PM

Beautiful calligraphy box. Well done.

-- Mac - Mountain, WI

View AJ1104's profile


1547 posts in 3117 days

#9 posted 01-18-2022 01:43 AM

Beautiful box with a lot of story. Outstanding.

-- AJ

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