"My Soft Underbelly"

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Project by Triumph1 posted 05-10-2013 12:54 AM 4517 views 20 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I received an email through my website requesting a commissioned urn. She wanted an urn to hold the ashes of her departed son. When asked what aspects she was looking for in the urn she said that he liked working with metal. She also liked angles over curved surfaces. Early on she sent me a picture of him as a very young boy. She stated how peaceful those times were…that really struck me emotionally and the design work for “My Soft Underbelly” started.

The body of the urn is made from a piece of figured Claro Walnut I picked up on a trip out to San Francisco. The grain wraps around the box. The entire body is made using mortise and tenon construction. A lot of careful cutting and routing took place to get all the angles perfect. I made three routing fixtures to add the machined out detail to all four sides. The silver you see is aluminum tubing. I cut 55 pieces of tubing and filled them with a mixture of two-part epoxy tinted with India ink. I made two fixtures to sand them down to the same length and polish the ends. I made them flush on the body of the box. They strengthen the miter joint. The angled “bottom” of the box has eight tee nuts in it to attach the Claro Walnut Picture frame (that has Wenge splines to strengthen it). Behind the frame is the access to the ash chamber. The bottom is lined in black velvet. I wanted the urn to be something that is touched and shown. I made the inside accessible so it can hold memories and not just be put on a shelf to stare at. The inside is lined in red velvet.

The legs and the majority of the lid are made from the Claro Walnut also. The two panels in the lid are veneered with Amboyna Burl and Curly Maple. The brackets that hold the feet are made from African Blackwood and carved to look like hammered steel. Almost all the edges of the brackets, legs and lid have a .1” rebate on the edges to amplify the “machined” look. That took another three custom routing fixtures. I left the aluminum dowels proud of the bracket surfaces to represent rivets. You can see in the pictures how the legs are only mounted using the brackets. This gives them a floating look.

The key to the urn is to expose its “soft underbelly”. To do this you place the urn onto a mirror and a reflection of her son is shown. “My Soft Underbelly” was created to represent the vulnerability one has with love.

The twist to this story is the new owner shared the same last name as me…and her departed son and I have the same name…Jeff Baenen. This made it a very special build. The picture of him on the tractor was taken at a Baenen family reunion that happened almost 30 years ago..and I remember being there. It turns out we are distantly related cousins. She found me by Goggling her sons name. The world works in mysterious ways.

“My Soft Underbelly” is 12” x 8.5” x 7.5”. It was finished with four soakings of Danish Oil followed by two buffings of BriWax. The hinges were purchased from Ian Hawthorne ..they are awesome. I polished all the stainless screws prior to assembly.

-- Jeff , Wisconsin Please...can I stay in the basement a little longer, please!

34 comments so far

View sras's profile


5063 posts in 3492 days

#1 posted 05-10-2013 01:37 AM

What a beautiful piece – so much detail and meaning! While all your work is first class – the story and unique details make this one of your best (in my opinion ;)

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View gbear's profile


522 posts in 4462 days

#2 posted 05-10-2013 02:30 AM

I think you nailed it Jeff….great job!

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View savannah505's profile


1832 posts in 3949 days

#3 posted 05-10-2013 02:52 AM

Sweet piece!!!!! Love the look and, oh hell, I it’s all superb!!!!

-- Dan Wiggins

View watermark's profile


483 posts in 2305 days

#4 posted 05-10-2013 03:09 AM

NICE work.

-- "He who has no dog, hunts with a cat" Portuguese proverb

View kiefer's profile


5654 posts in 3029 days

#5 posted 05-10-2013 03:17 AM

Jeff this is a very touching and emotional project .

The design is very original as usual with your work ,but this one touches my heart .

-- Kiefer

View NaptownWood's profile


293 posts in 2235 days

#6 posted 05-10-2013 03:18 AM

Crazy coincidence and great piece. Wood and metal go nicely together, and the mirror thing is cool.

-- Witty signature line still pending

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3671 days

#7 posted 05-10-2013 03:23 AM

What an awesome box Jeff…! it is also extra special because of the unique situation and story behind it. This piece will be treasured forever…

View Woodbridge's profile


3688 posts in 2780 days

#8 posted 05-10-2013 03:37 AM

An amazingly creative, very touching and sensitive creation.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View shipwright's profile


8293 posts in 3160 days

#9 posted 05-10-2013 04:20 AM

You are just so wonderfully creative Jeff.
The world does turn in some strange ways doesn’t it ?

Well done.

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

View stefang's profile


16703 posts in 3697 days

#10 posted 05-10-2013 08:32 AM

It seems that this box was meant to be Jeff. It is very beautiful and at the same time a very sensitive and wholly appropriate design. It’s hard to believe that this was all just coincidence.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Ian Hawthorne's profile

Ian Hawthorne

297 posts in 3011 days

#11 posted 05-10-2013 10:08 AM


-- Worlds Best Box Hardware!

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30324 posts in 2701 days

#12 posted 05-10-2013 10:16 AM

Beyond incredible. The whole project is beautiful and the story is heart wrenching for the mother.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View CampD's profile


1772 posts in 3849 days

#13 posted 05-10-2013 11:34 AM

Nice tractor, that you driving it!

-- Doug...

View Roger's profile


21002 posts in 3166 days

#14 posted 05-10-2013 12:50 PM

This is krazy-kool! and I mean that in a good way. Wow!!

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View milehigh's profile


57 posts in 3703 days

#15 posted 05-10-2013 01:21 PM

Brought tears to my eyes.

Beautiful Piece

Thank you for sharing your work and the story


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