Maple Burl Jewelry Box

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Project by RogerBean posted 07-26-2011 01:51 PM 11412 views 44 times favorited 54 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This maple burl box is the third shaped front box I’ve made. While the shape is not directly taken from any existing piece I know of, it’s intended to speak to the 1800 – 1830 period. The front shape is more complex to build and involves many small pieces and converging angles caused by the curved lid meeting the shaped front. A straight sided, rectangular box now seems comparatively straightforward. (Though I enjoy making them as well.)

Some details: The box is 10 1/8” wide by 7 1/4” deep by 4 3/4” high. The substrate is Baltic birch ply and MDF, veneered with a really special “coral heart maple burl” from B&B Rare Woods, and now long gone. (Interestingly, this veneer was quite pink when raw, but has toned off to more golden with the added French polish.)

Veneer that would be spectacular on a table top, usually doesn’t excel on a box, insofar as the patterns and sheets tend to be too big, or too consistent, and hence come out somewhat bland on a small box. To my taste, ideal box veneer has high contrast, vivid colors, and very tight, small patterns. In other words, a lot going on in a very small space because you’re usually matching pieces only 4 by 6 inches or so. The coloring in this piece is unlike any maple I’ve seen. I decided to let the lid and front flow over the top edge from the same book-matched piece of veneer. The sides and back are matched up with the lid and front so the pattern flows around, and into the lid.

The edging is boxwood, outlined by a fine inlayed line of black/black/pear/black. The inner edge of the lid and base are accented with a black/maple/black line that runs into the side rail quadrant hinges. The full mortise lock and brass escutcheon from WhiteChapel have been polished to match the hinges. This box has my usual side rail quadrant hinges, as I had installed them prior to receiving my first shipment of the great new SmartHInges (which I plan to use on future projects).

The interior is lined with claret leather. I like unexpected details in the interior, so this one contains a tray, with shaped dividers and two separate interior boxes. The tray is Jacaranda rosewood, while the two small boxes are veneered with pippy English yew outside and lined inside with very plain white maple. Lids are solid, of figured claro walnut, bookmatched to mirror each other. The turned oosik lifts are inlayed with a small bit of mother of pearl. There is also a small 5/8” high “secret document compartment” inside a false bottom. Pressing firmly on one end lifts the panel. (I’d include a photo, but then it wouldn’t be a secret.) :-)

The base of the main box is edged with solid maple (to cover the ply and MDF) and the bottom is veneered in a curly maple, but I’ve since covered it with leather, as the curly maple seemed out of place. I like the idea that you can turn a fine box any way you want, including upside down, and every aspect is carefully finished, and hopefully delights the eye.

The front is, not surprisingly, the most challenging part, involving many separate veneering operations, inlayed lines, and pieces of boxwood edging. The downward slope of the lid creates odd angles, so nearly all the lines and pieces needed to be fitted with a scalpel and chisel. A necessity, but then this box is all about small details, anyway.

I make no secret of the design and craftsmanship debt I owe to Andrew Crawford. Both for his books and the time I’ve been fortunate to spend with him. I am, in no way, his equal, but perhaps he will smile a bit at this modified, periodized “shaped-front” attempt at emulating his work. :-)

Thanks for looking in. ...and keep making boxes!


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

54 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5226 days

#1 posted 07-26-2011 02:26 PM

Whenever I get an email notification that you have posted a new project, I can’t get here fast enough to see what you have created!

Another truly stunning piece, Roger. As always, it is the attention to detail that sets your work apart.

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

View jbschutz's profile


610 posts in 3699 days

#2 posted 07-26-2011 02:52 PM

Just another masterwork, Roger. The interior boxes are an elegant touch, and the way the burl grain cascades from the lid down the front of the box is amazing. I am in awe.

-- jbschutz

View michelletwo's profile


2794 posts in 4023 days

#3 posted 07-26-2011 02:59 PM

spectacular..magnificent & any other word that is large enough for this are a true craftsperson.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 4294 days

#4 posted 07-26-2011 03:14 PM

Fantastic work again Roger.
I agree with Charlie, it is exciting to see any of your work



View 58j35bonanza's profile


395 posts in 3700 days

#5 posted 07-26-2011 03:18 PM

This box is awesome! I just love the burl and inlay work.

-- Chuck

View bevins587's profile


33 posts in 3622 days

#6 posted 07-26-2011 03:54 PM


View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4044 days

#7 posted 07-26-2011 04:06 PM

Roger, your boxes don’t come around that often but given the time and effort you spend on them this is by no means surprising. They are worth the wait as well, this one certainly is. I tend to agree with you on grain detail and that in the relatively small size of a box there should be a ‘lot going on’. This is probably a common goal. I do it with different woods in a small area, you do it with great grain detail. This box is a thing of beauty and a tribute to your craftsmanship.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View blackcherry's profile


3345 posts in 4831 days

#8 posted 07-26-2011 04:09 PM

OK I’m in when the next’s class! It a beautiful treasure box Rodger, detailing your skill level that we all inspire to achieve. Remarkable piece thanks for posting….Blkcherry

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4316 days

#9 posted 07-26-2011 04:26 PM

1st. class all the way. Your work is always a joy to view.

View Daiku's profile


235 posts in 3915 days

#10 posted 07-26-2011 04:53 PM

I’ve often asked the question “Why don’t we have great artists and craftsmen like those that existed hundreds of years ago, like in Renaissance times?”. Well, you have shown me that they do still exists! Thank you, your pieces are magnificent.

-- Cal Noguchi

View whitedog's profile


652 posts in 4465 days

#11 posted 07-26-2011 04:57 PM

It’s always a thrill to see one of your boxes , so many great details packed in each one.

-- Paul , Calfornia

View BarryW's profile


1016 posts in 4914 days

#12 posted 07-26-2011 05:14 PM

A lesson in true quality.

-- /\/\/\ BarryW /\/\/\ Stay so busy you don't have time to die.

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 4917 days

#13 posted 07-26-2011 05:18 PM

Roger, this is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen on LJ’s. Thanks for sharing it.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3806 days

#14 posted 07-26-2011 05:31 PM

Another outstanding box Roger. So many perfectly executed details without looking “busy”.
My personal favorite among them is the curved veneer matching.

You do such nice work.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5093 days

#15 posted 07-26-2011 05:36 PM

Beautiful. A very complicated front and lid, Roger. Spectacular work; thanks so much for sharing details with us!


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