Camphor Serviette Holder

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Project by Garth Kay-Hards posted 10-23-2012 12:41 AM 2597 views 7 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I thought I would share a project I dreamed up some years ago. Woodworkers are creative people and I believe God put something of creativity in all people, whether they think so or not. This was one of my creative moments when we had chopped some branches off the big camphor tree in the garden which was causing problems with the 11Kv power lines in the front of our property. We were still in South Africa then – we’re now living with my son and family in Melbourne Australia. I had put aside a number of logs that I could use in the lathe from which I produced bedside lamp and bowls from. These made great Christmas presents for the kids. They also make great memories of the past times.
I had seen a plexiglass variant of this serviette (paper napkin) holder and decided to turn out a wooden one of my own. So with no plans, and just pictures in my head pieced this together. Basic measurements were – just hold a piece in place and say, “that’s about right” – and then cut it to that size.
The base, sides, back and hinged weight are 1cm thick. and made a little larger than the local serviette packs in the supermarket. I only had my table saw to cut up the camphor logs and so the plank widths were pretty narrow and the base, as you can see is 3 glued and clamped strips (no fancy joints-sorry guys).
The size of the back was determined by the packs of serviettes. I made it take a whole new pack. Allow 1cm for butting and glueing against the base.
The sides kind of evolved. I had the idea of making them high enough to allow for the dowel hinge. I used two pieces to span the length of the base plus the 1cm back, and to allow for the 1cm base. (so the base lies inside the back and the two sides). Then I played with pencil designs on one of the sides until I thought I had a good shape and then using a coping saw I cut it out. I finished of the curved scroll lines using a V carving chisel. If you look carefully at picture 3 you’ll notice that the coping saw cut allows for the 1cm base edge. It gives the illusion that the scroll is on top of the base. The holes for the hinge dowels were accurately measured and drilled before I did the scroll work.
Then the top was also cut out with a coping saw and the decorative grove carefully cut in using the V chisel.
I had decided not to use any scews or fasteners so only white cold glue is used.
I turned the ball and dowels on the lathe and fitted the ball to the end of the lever.
In order to fit (and maybe to be able to remove) the weight lever I did not glue these two dowels. I left them protruding slightly so that they could be pulled out if necessary.
The whole project was sanded down to take a clear polyurithane finish.
Then for my final touch I decided to personalize the project by sticking a label on the back. After playing around with the a computer print (on standard computer paper) I found that the paper absorbed the polyurithane finish very well and I placed the label onto the wet varnish and aplied more varnish over it until it went almost transparent, but showing the printing quite well.
It was a fun project which only took a few hours to make, and it has become a great piece on the dining room table. Folk have asked where we got it and we point them to the label on the back.
As I said earlier, the great thing with these sort of projects is that they bring back lots of lovely memories.

-- GarthKH

7 comments so far

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3176 days

#1 posted 10-23-2012 11:19 AM

Very nice design. A useful household item with many great memories. Good job.

-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

View prattman's profile


447 posts in 2601 days

#2 posted 10-23-2012 12:04 PM

very clever, I like it

-- Everyone calls me Ed or Eddie , mom still calls me Edward if she is mad at me.

View Jeff's profile


507 posts in 3677 days

#3 posted 10-23-2012 12:17 PM

Nice idea. And a very useful item. Does it retain the camphor odor after finishing? I have a few pieces in my garage and they remind me they’re there every time I walk by.

View DeLayne Peck's profile

DeLayne Peck

667 posts in 2685 days

#4 posted 10-23-2012 03:36 PM

I love the design, very appealing antique quality. I am betting a lot of high-end scrap will become napkin holders at Christmas thanks to your post.

Should keep things in place when that “blowhard” relative shows up for a meal.

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

View oldnovice's profile


7498 posts in 3851 days

#5 posted 10-23-2012 05:03 PM

I like the appearance too … good original design!

I too was wondering about the odor retention of the camphor!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Garth Kay-Hards's profile

Garth Kay-Hards

8 posts in 2896 days

#6 posted 10-23-2012 07:38 PM

What I didn’t say was that I did leave the bottom untreated so that one can still smell the camphor. The scent isn’t as strong as I would have hoped but it’s still there. I wonder if there are other was to treat timber to allow its scent to escape – I’d love to hear them.
If, or should I say when, as I’ve often thought of making it again, I would probably make proper joints as a good woodworker should. I’m sure a number of members frowned on my lack of using them :D This was a quick job and I was playing with the idea and it turned out better than I thought.. But I must say that trying my hand at a little carving by hand (and there really is only a little carving on this project) left a very satified feeling seeing the final result. As woodworkers I think we tend to avoid any carvings, but they can be simple and effective.
Thanks for the comments and yes – I hope the idea finds its way into many Christmas wrappings.
Oh, and I fortunately the wind blows so hard sometimes down here that the other blowhards go unnoticed :-)

-- GarthKH

View oldnovice's profile


7498 posts in 3851 days

#7 posted 10-24-2012 05:45 AM

Just a thought if you want the smell of camphor; since this is not a heavy use item I would really consider no finish except the ball knob or finish the top edges only! Leave a larger surface area exposed.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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