Catherine's Pennsylvania Spice Box

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Project by BenR posted 01-25-2013 06:26 AM 9821 views 36 times favorited 51 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Greetings LJs,

This is a present for my one and only daughter, Catherine. As I type, it is on it’s way to New Mexico. This is the first thing I have made for her as I wanted to wait until I had the skills to make her something really beautiful (and for her to be old enough to appreciate it). This was my big project for 2012 (finished a couple of weeks ago). The Pennsylvania spice box modeled on those from Chester county. I have seen similar patterns of line and berry inlay in pics of antique spice boxes or a chester drawers (is that why it is called that?). The box is approx. 22 wide x 18 deep x 24 tall. I made it in walnut, walnut crotch wood, poplar as a secondary wood, holly and eastern red cedar for the inlay, and holly and walnut for the banding. The finish is Danish oil and wipe on poly (I cringed when I put it on, but I did want maximum protection). I tried to stop just before it takes on that plastic look. I think it turned out ok.
Even though it is small, there were so many skills required. I went through everything I know, and then some (interior casework, line and berry inlay, banding, miters, finishing, mouldings, secret drawer and compartment, mortising a lock and hindges, fitting a door, and dovetails. There were 192 dovetails in all, and all were cut by hand (half blind in the front, and thru dovetails for the back). Now that is dovetail practice!
I am trying to learn to plane properly, so I planned everything possible. This went so-so, as at times I just made work for myself (tear out). I did progress some in my skills, although planning end grain still escapes me. I just ended up sanding the end grain and the crotch walnut (after destroying several pieces). I also had problems with the door. When I started on the box, I did the case, interior, door, and mouldings. Then I made all of the drawers. While I was doing that, the door developed a cup. I had it in the house with very little temp change. I guess because there are no breadboard ends, the door was still subject to moisture changes. Note to self, “wrap in plastic wrap until ready to finish”. I planned out some if it, and adjusted the hindges to hide it.
All in all, I am very proud, and I hope Catherine loves it.

-- Ben in Va

51 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118333 posts in 5067 days

#1 posted 01-25-2013 06:30 AM

Beautiful work and outstanding piece.


View deon's profile


2522 posts in 4516 days

#2 posted 01-25-2013 07:39 AM

Exelent good work!

-- Dreaming patterns

View Ivan's profile


17323 posts in 4358 days

#3 posted 01-25-2013 08:12 AM

Incredible box!Outstanding details!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Woodknack's profile


13594 posts in 3870 days

#4 posted 01-25-2013 09:08 AM

Wow, beautiful.

-- Rick M,

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 4347 days

#5 posted 01-25-2013 09:30 AM

Exceptional piece of work, so nice in so many ways
That is an incredible project I’m sure she will treasure it

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4824 days

#6 posted 01-25-2013 10:02 AM

You may have had some small problems with this piece, but it is definitely master class work and not just well made, but very beautiful as well. I am sure your daughter will be thrilled with it, and I bet future generations who inherit it will feel the same as her.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View DouginVa's profile


503 posts in 3763 days

#7 posted 01-25-2013 12:07 PM

An exceptional job, very professional. I bet if it weren’t spoken for by your daughter you could get a pretty price for it at auction.

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View DouginVa's profile


503 posts in 3763 days

#8 posted 01-25-2013 12:09 PM

I forgot to ask, did you put in any secret compartments?

-- Just a man with his chisel.........

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1137 posts in 3803 days

#9 posted 01-25-2013 12:21 PM

Beautiful piece of work that will surely be much appreciated.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4444 days

#10 posted 01-25-2013 12:34 PM

Lovely work indeed. Keep ‘em coming.

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

View rdwile's profile


167 posts in 3602 days

#11 posted 01-25-2013 12:38 PM


This is an awesome piece, definitely on my must build list someday, i just hope I can execute it as well as you have!!

-- Richard D. Wile, IG: @rdwile

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3783 days

#12 posted 01-25-2013 12:43 PM

This is definitely fine woodworking! Heirloom quality through and through. “Excellent, outstanding, beautiful” are only a few of the adjectives one can start with to describe this project. Thanks for sharing.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Oldtool's profile


3537 posts in 3681 days

#13 posted 01-25-2013 12:45 PM

Absolutely magnificent, can’t give enough praise to really do this justice. Well, maybe one: there is no way to improve on this build. You should be proud of this, and it will definitely be a family heirloom.
Thanks for showing, and the inspiration to us all.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View michelletwo's profile


2795 posts in 4506 days

#14 posted 01-25-2013 12:46 PM

you have reason to be proud and how could she not love is splendid

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5372 days

#15 posted 01-25-2013 01:12 PM

Wow. That is a real beauty.
Good job, and I can appreciate all the work that went into that.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

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