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Project by Triumph1 posted 02-26-2014 10:38 PM 3729 views 11 times favorited 35 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The announcement for the winter woodworking awards came at a very good time for me. I was just beginning to get back into the shop after taking some time away to heal myself. Last February I had a bad fall that resulted in a non-dislocated fracture of the sacrum….not fun and nothing that can be done about it. Shop time was replaced with relaxation and then gym time….but the box making bug always comes back. I knew I wanted to get back into box making in a big way and “Vertebrae” is the result and the awards was a good push. The idea for this box first came about by seeing some skeletal remains of deer that just didn’t make it across the road. Spinal columns and the interlocking vertebras are very beautiful when you really study them. So between the deer and researching human anatomy due to the fall I started sketching.

All components of “Vertebrae” started from an 84” x 3” x 7” piece of black walnut. Each vertebrae began by attaching compound cut sketches to a block. Next I drilled a 2” diameter hole about ¾ of the way through the block to create the cavity. After that I ran them through the table saw creating the flat needed to be able to stack them and still have the tail of the vertebrae hang down further. Then all the fun started. Using a mixture of bandsaw, chisels, rasps, Foredom, coping saw, drill press, etc … I hand carved/shaped all the vertebrae.

I created a fixture to make the intervertebral discs. The fixture, using double sided tape, would place a precision disc onto a piece of walnut. Using a straight bit and a router bushing in my router table I was able to machine a 2” diameter stub tenon in the same location on each side. One side would end up being the bottom of one box and the other side would hold the box inline with the other ones. Doing the discs separate from the vertebra allowed me to ebonize them. I used a vinegar/steel wool mixture to accomplish that. One side of the lid was also created using the fixture. Although, for the top of the lid I created another routing fixture to make a figured walnut insert. I domed this insert using rasps. I left the insert natural so it would really stand out against the ebonized walnut. The insert represents the nucleus of an intervertebral disc.

The sacrum portion of the box was created by doing a glue up of two walnut pieces. It started as 6” x 6” x 7” block. I sketched up the shape I wanted and attached the compound cut sketches, drilled a 2” diameter cavity to except the first intervertebral disc and then started the cutting and hand carving. I left two flats on the ends to create mounting locations for the two pelvic bone carvings. I created two routing fixtures that allowed me to mount the pelvic bones using a mortise and tenon and dowel joint. Once I got the rough pelvic bone blocks to mount I removed them and started the lengthy carving session on them.

The stand was created using some scrap black walnut. I antiqued the paper label using a coffee/coffee grounds/bake at 200 degree method.

“Vertebrae” was finished with four soakings of Danish Oil. It was waxed once with natural Briwax and then again with Satin liquid wax. “Vertebrae” is 12.5” x 12” x 18.75”. The stand is 17.5” x 17.5” x 2”.

So “Vertebrae” represents walnut to me in that walnut is the backbone to many a Lumberjock project!

Here are a couple more pics and some process pics:

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

35 comments so far

View gbear's profile


528 posts in 4664 days

#1 posted 02-26-2014 10:54 PM

I love this piece. It is very artistic and beautiful and I can imagine tons of doctors who would pay highly to have this display in their office, not that it wouldn’t look good anywhere. Very creative and well done!!

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2800 posts in 4157 days

#2 posted 02-26-2014 11:17 PM

That looks very complex, you did a Fantastic job carving this one my friend!!! I’m really glad to see you back!

-- Dennis Zongker

View leafherder's profile


1871 posts in 2517 days

#3 posted 02-26-2014 11:29 PM

Fantastic carving and it is also a box! Very creative.

-- Leafherder

View Woodenwizard's profile


1361 posts in 3608 days

#4 posted 02-26-2014 11:50 PM

Nice and somewhat unique wouldn’t you say :)

-- John, Colorado's (Wooden Wizard)

View Woodbridge's profile


3692 posts in 2983 days

#5 posted 02-26-2014 11:56 PM

I’ve enjoy your boxes so much. They are all so creative and well constructed. This is another very imaginative box. The carving is super. You really do define out of the box thinking.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3873 days

#6 posted 02-26-2014 11:59 PM

Amazing and Awesome piece of work Jeff. Good to see you back in the shop creating such creative pieces.
A good buddy of mine is a chiropractor and I spent many hours staring at vertebrae charts and 3D pieces in his office and this piece of yours reminds me of it…

View PaulDoug's profile (online now)


2266 posts in 2269 days

#7 posted 02-27-2014 12:37 AM

Glad you posted this and glad you are getting better. I am relatively new here and seeing this made me look at the rest or your boxes. Magnificent stuff you have built. True art.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4447 days

#8 posted 02-27-2014 01:42 AM

Well Jeff, you never disappoint. This one included.
I am so sorry about your fall. Best of thoughts to your recovery.

Very nice piece,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View TurnTurnTurn's profile


614 posts in 3674 days

#9 posted 02-27-2014 01:45 AM

Incredible, can’t wait to see it in Milwaukee!!!

-- TurnTurnTurn

View wood2art's profile


34 posts in 3412 days

#10 posted 02-27-2014 01:51 AM

Fantastic piece. You have a true vision of what is possible. I hope you are fully recovered, or well on you way there. Keep up the good work.

-- Jim, Minnesota

View maplerock's profile


529 posts in 2365 days

#11 posted 02-27-2014 02:15 AM

Fantastic… all the way to your coccyx! Brilliant!

-- Jerry... making sawdust in the Knobs of Southern Indiana

View Triumph1's profile


930 posts in 3644 days

#12 posted 02-27-2014 02:22 AM

Thank you everyone for the comments and well wishes. Jim, I am feeling much better now…still can’t do situps without putting a blanket under me…but much better. Gbear…boy I hope you are right:-) Don…I’m excited for you two to see it! Dennis…I went through your awesome book many a time while being couch bound! And speaking of couch…it is that time. Thanks again everyone…it feels so good to be making sawdust again!

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

View savannah505's profile


1834 posts in 4151 days

#13 posted 02-27-2014 02:43 AM

WOW, what else is there to say after all the other comments. Really fantastic work. So glad to know your better.

-- Dan Wiggins

View shipwright's profile


8414 posts in 3363 days

#14 posted 02-27-2014 03:37 AM

Superb Jeff. Your imagination is a great asset and your woodworking talent is up to the job.
This is just pure art as are so many of your pieces. I love the attention to detail.
I’ll leave it at that but I could go on for quite a while.
It’s good to have you back. You are an inspiration to many of us here.

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

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 2925 days

#15 posted 02-27-2014 04:04 AM

amazing work.

-- Steve

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