Boxguy Notes "Burls Just Want To Have Fun!"

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Project by Boxguy posted 05-26-2012 04:24 AM 3038 views 8 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Pictured: White Oak and Russian Walnut box designed to hold child’s alphabet blocks. It is 10 inches long, 8 1/2 inches wide, and 5 1/2 inches high.

Story: As a thank you to a friend who has often furnished me with wood, I thought I’d make a special box for his wonderful two-year-old who is learning about colors, and letters. I bought a set of wooden alphabet blocks and crafted this box for them to fit into.

Philosophy: I am a big believer that boxes should do something. It is nice if they are pretty. But if you are going to make boxes to sell, those boxes need to do a job. I have made boxes to hold and organize these things: pool balls, darts, wine bottles, jewelry, tea bags, soup containers, watches, coins, medals, marbles, cremains, saw blades, cards, recipes, rocks, pins, ear rings, necklaces, guitar picks, cigars, musical instruments, stationary, scissors, glue bottles, golf club heads, books, ballots, poker chips, suggestions, and tools among other things. The possibilities are endless. I always think that if I can use it to do a job so can someone else. I often make a box that I can use and then make a few more to sell. My experience is that customers look at boxes that are pretty, but buy pretty boxes that are useful. I am trying to build boxes that are utilitarian, attractive, and will still be around 100 years from now.

Materials: The raised letters and feel of these blocks reminded me of the set I had as a kid. I bought them because they are more detailed than a set I could make. The sides of this box are made of quarter sawn White Oak that was scrap from a local factory that manufactures trim. These came as a pallet of “shorts” from a production run. These shorts are too small for furniture, but just right for boxes. The top is also “scrap” from a project at a local plant. It is book-matched Russian Walnut veneer laid-up up on a Masonite core; it is very stable. The corner splines are Black Walnut from a local tree that was blown over by the tail winds of Hurricane Ike. So everything used in this box is recycled wood.

Technique: I included a rear view of this box (picture #3) to show the inset hinge and how it fits into the box. It is mitered using the top of a straight cutting bit and a router table. The hinge is cut from a 4 foot piano hinge, and is fitted to this particular box. The first coat of finish is Minwax Tung Oil. I find this warms up the grain and tones in the wood. It also seals well and goes further than the next two coats of Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane. All these finishes are applied with a one-inch foam brush that I buy in a 100 brush bag at Hobby Lobby. The final coat is Johnson’s Paste Wax applied with 0000 steel wool. (I leave the steel wool pad in the wax can between uses.) I lightly buff the finish between coats with a 0000 steel wool pad. Boxes are meant to be handled and used, and so they need a sturdy finish that will hold up to wear and the natural oils of our hands. The corners are formed with a 3/4 round-over bit, and I used that same bit to curve the top edge of the sides. I really like the look of the grain as it is curved around the corners and the top of this box.

Thanks: As always, thanks for looking, and a special thanks to those Lumber Jocks who take time to make comments and suggestions. Your feedback is what makes these postings worth doing.

-- Big Al in IN

17 comments so far

View Ian Hawthorne's profile

Ian Hawthorne

297 posts in 3564 days

#1 posted 05-26-2012 06:22 AM

Great work Alan – nice touch with the hinge at the rear, and looks like you have acheived a nice lid base alignment.

-- Worlds Best Box Hardware!

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 3323 days

#2 posted 05-26-2012 08:31 AM

Beautifully done. Good job.

Love that burl.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3869 days

#3 posted 05-26-2012 11:59 AM

Attractive box. I agree completely that boxes should have a useful function. Otherwise they become sort of “orphans” no matter how pretty they are. It’s an interesting challenge to continue to find unique and provocative applications for new boxes. It adds much to their appeal.

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

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30576 posts in 3253 days

#4 posted 05-26-2012 02:08 PM

I agree with the “Purpose” thought. Much more likely to sell if they have a purpose.

Beautiful work on your projects sir.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View nomercadies's profile


590 posts in 3254 days

#5 posted 05-26-2012 02:09 PM

It looks like there is a lot of depth in the top. You could almost reach right into it.

I would be interested in what kind of equipment you use to do your photos. The detail in the close-ups and the lighting are very pro looking. Can you do a blog on “Behind the Shooting of the Famous Feature Film … Burls Just Want to Have Fun!” (director’s cut)?

-- Chance Four "Not Just a Second Chance"

View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

732 posts in 3696 days

#6 posted 05-26-2012 04:52 PM

Obviously a super job, very detailed constructional information, and excellent background philosophy – what more could anyone ask for in a LJ Project post!

Answer: A delightful pun!

I just had to make a comment about Burls Just Want To Have Fun!

-- Don, Somerset UK,

View Boxguy's profile


2888 posts in 3183 days

#7 posted 05-26-2012 05:12 PM

@ Ian…Thanks I have been perfecting the base-top alignment. When I miss, a 6 inch belt sander comes in handy.

@ Jay…This whole burl board is beautiful work.

@ Roger…It helps is your mind set is that the answer to most of life’s problems is a box.

@ Monte…Sounds like the voice of experience speaking about sales.

@ Nomer…I like the camera blog idea. Clever titling ideas too. For now, let me do this:

I use an older Cannon EOS Rebel digital camera, two 200 watt photo lights on stands, a tripod, a long roll of paper I bought at the camera shop, and a tripod for my camera. It is all set up in its own location in another room away from the dust of the shop. Excluding the camera, I spent almost $200 on equipment for taking pictures. I figured that it was just an investment in another tool. If I was going to take pictures…I wanted to take good pictures of my work. I’m kind of nuts that way. Perhaps the photo below will do for now. When I am finished I just take down the paper roll and rod and have my window view back.

-- Big Al in IN

View Boxguy's profile


2888 posts in 3183 days

#8 posted 05-26-2012 05:41 PM

@ Don…Thanks for the comment. Nice to know someone is getting the puns. Some are too much fun to pass up. I checked your home page and was fascinated with the variety of projects you have made…many have an element of play and whistfulness that I admire. Looks like you too have found the joy of being a grandparent.

-- Big Al in IN

View JoeyG's profile


1275 posts in 3541 days

#9 posted 05-26-2012 05:55 PM

Another beautiful and useful box Alan, I really enjoy how each of your boxes has it’s own story. I believe I may learn from you and come up with something similar with mine.

As always, your an inspiration.


-- JoeyG ~~~

View Steve O's profile

Steve O

21 posts in 3111 days

#10 posted 05-26-2012 09:38 PM

Boxguy and Commenters,

I recently inherited my father-in-law’s photographic background. He passed away about 15 years ago after many years of making small aircraft models out of walnut(as a kid he had made silhouette models for the Army Air Corp pilots to use in training to identify enemy and friendly aircraft). My mother-in-law passed away late last year and while cleaning out Dave’s old cubby-hole shop, found his solution to photographing his work.

Bench showing the backdrop rolled out.

Roller shade mounted under cabinet with a neutral gray fabric

A couple of tugs and the backdrop disappears. The roll shape keeps dust off of all but the leading edge of the fabric. This death star, er uh, workbench is now fully operational! (fade out to star wars music)

-- Steve O in Oregon

View Boxguy's profile


2888 posts in 3183 days

#11 posted 05-26-2012 10:09 PM

@ Joey…I really like your work as well.

@ Steve…This is a really nice setup. Looks like a great box as well. When will I see it posted? A cloth shade would work better than paper I’m sure. I especially like the asymmetrical finger lift.

-- Big Al in IN

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3605 days

#12 posted 05-27-2012 01:01 AM

Another beautiful and functional box from the “Boxguy”. One request: I would like for you to post the dimensions as it is helpful when proportioning a box project.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Boxguy's profile


2888 posts in 3183 days

#13 posted 05-27-2012 01:45 AM

@ Doc…good suggestion about dimensions. I edited this to put those in. How’s that for smarter? (If I were really smart I would have done this to start with.)

-- Big Al in IN

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3605 days

#14 posted 05-27-2012 02:32 AM

Thanks Al. I’ll try to be nicer.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View kiefer's profile


5812 posts in 3582 days

#15 posted 05-29-2012 01:45 AM

Nice curls in the burl .
What girl could resist ?
Al a very nice box and a well written description of your technique .
I Like it and enjoyed it, keep them coming .


-- Kiefer

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

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