A Newly Born "Antique" Box

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Project by KnotCurser posted 03-11-2014 01:18 PM 2568 views 4 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A couple of months ago, I was reading Sheila Landry’s blog entries (as I do most every day) and became very interested in a box she antiqued using paint and some really wonderful stenciling techniques.

It got me thinking. What would it take to create an item that would look perfectly at home on a shelf in an antique store and fool it’s owner into thinking it was at least a hundred years old?

Here’s what two month’s of mulling this over and a couple of day’s worth of work in the shop resulted in – a box that would (hopefully) fool most of the people most of the time.

Here’s a few items I’ve noted when trying to turn an item old:

1) Study similar items that are actually old! You get a lot of subtle clues from this – in this case, the staining in and in front of the finger hole. I wouldn’t have thought to do this. Also the wear marks at either end.

2) Less is more. Don’t overdo it. I scrapped the first label I made for this because it looked too old – and fake.

3) Say NO to perfection. The folks making these boxes in the 1890’s didn’t care about perfection, neither should you.

The box itself was a section of dimensional poplar last week. I used the table saw to re-saw it into two pieces and a very simple box-joint jig for the joints.

I used a slew of things to make it appear aged, but the number one item in my arsenal this time was powdered graphite – it instantly made the box look stained and old.

After that I used water-based varnish and put it on pretty thick as I wanted it bit of a blush to develop.

Dimensions of the box are around 10×3x3 “ish”.

My wife quickly claimed this one claiming she needed a box for her cosmetics – how appropriate!

Oh yeah! I am seriously looking for some comments on this project – please let me know what gives this away as new, what I over-did or under-did, etc…....



-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: [email protected] /

20 comments so far

View kiefer's profile


5852 posts in 3952 days

#1 posted 03-11-2014 01:28 PM

I like the look of this and it certainly looks old and well used .
The label is a great addition and I would like to see more on how you made it .
What gives the age away from what I can see is the interior but another shot of it may change my mind .

-- Kiefer

View toddbeaulieu's profile


858 posts in 4289 days

#2 posted 03-11-2014 01:29 PM

I really like the box! Well done.

The only reason I’d even notice or think to look for details proving it’s not really aged is because you asked. In other words, challenge accepted!

A few comments that may or may not be legit, because it’s hard to tell from photos:

1. I’d like to see scratches run into the label. It appears that they run under the label.
2. Love the random damage, but the planed edges look planed, rather than worn. I suspect you could use something a bit more primitive to introduce wear, as opposed to a cutting tool.
3. Think about the pattern normal wear from use would leave. You’d hold it somewhere and then slide the lid open. For sure, I’d expect to see a nice wear pattern on the notched end of the lid, including the underside of it where the user would pinch it between his fingers while opening it.
4. Wear would wear off the finish, so it would be great to see worn edges of bare wood.

View tyvekboy's profile


2138 posts in 4298 days

#3 posted 03-11-2014 01:38 PM

Nice box.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View dbray45's profile


3414 posts in 4062 days

#4 posted 03-11-2014 02:03 PM

I have a couple of very old boxes and as well as you did, you can still tell that it is a new-ish box.

Just to let you know, most of the boxes of age were all rough cut and their wear is what smoothed them out.

You did a wonderful job and as such you could probably make a bunch of these and sell them. They would make really cool novelty boxes. Get a branding iron and brand your name and date on the bottom and back of the lid. And don’t forget the labels, the old label look is great – especially old chemicals and the like (that is why you mark them as new). The original boxes that contained these kinds of things were seriously poisonous but they didn’t know that at the time. This way, you can assure people that the box is actually safe.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

View KnotCurser's profile


2040 posts in 4354 days

#5 posted 03-11-2014 02:31 PM

Todd, Thanks for the notice of the scratches!

I just noticed that they do indeed go UNDER the label instead of run into it – damn! Yes, I affixed the label after distressing it and should have caught that one.

And, BTW, this is a copy of an actual label that hasn’t been doctored to read “Poison” – it was actually sold in bottles with this very label on them. Wild, eh?


-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: [email protected] /

View DryingProtection's profile


9 posts in 3131 days

#6 posted 03-11-2014 02:59 PM

Hopefully you are not going to intentionally try to fool anyone and will put your mark or label on the bottom.

View dbray45's profile


3414 posts in 4062 days

#7 posted 03-11-2014 03:01 PM

I could tell that it was a copy of an actual label. You can date the original labels to the skull and crossbones – the companies changed them from time to time. As a kid, I grew up helping a neighbor who sold antiques.

What I was saying, the original wood boxes DID have these chemicals and some were seriously poisonous and were absorbed into the wood, making them every bit as poisonous.

Replicating antiques to be viewed as an antique is not good, making a copy of antiques but acknowledging that it is a really good facsimile is a whole different matter.

I once had a still life painting that was identified a fraud of a master. The person that painted it lived in the early 1900’s. She did a great job but she didn’t add a key element to the painting – that a good appraiser saw immediately. If was for this reason that the painting was not burned by the museum that bought it. She did a really good job, right down the making the paints from scratch, she just couldn’t paint the bugs that are in still life paintings with fruit. When I got it , I sold it as the fake it was and got a good amount of money for it as such. The auction gallery where I sold it even advertised as a seriously good fake – which is appropriate.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

View scrollingmom's profile


1212 posts in 3749 days

#8 posted 03-11-2014 03:56 PM

I think it turned out wonderful. You did a great job.

-- Kelly, Allen,KS

View KnotCurser's profile


2040 posts in 4354 days

#9 posted 03-11-2014 04:16 PM

PLEASE let it be known that this was not made to fool anyone – I have signed and dated it on the bottom! :-)



-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: [email protected] /

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4239 days

#10 posted 03-11-2014 04:53 PM

I like the effects, and find it interesting to explore ways of artificially aging an item. It’s another challenge that I believe is fully within the prerogative of a box maker. I like both the box and the effect.

It is comforting to know that you were not anticipating forming a world wide antique counterfeiting ring. I see no problem at all with exploring these for your own use, or for full disclosure sale. I expect that these are all fully acceptable restoration techniques, with no misrepresentation intended at all.

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

View DryingProtection's profile


9 posts in 3131 days

#11 posted 03-11-2014 08:17 PM

Glad to hear it, Knot curser. I collect antiques. That being said your box reminds me of antique box that has been refinished, to make it look nicer. In reality this type of box was just a crate-type packing box, I don’t think it would have such smooth finish. maybe you need to throw some dirt and grime on there ;-)

View toddbeaulieu's profile


858 posts in 4289 days

#12 posted 03-11-2014 08:18 PM

I know rubbing dirt on the wood is an actual technique. Never tried it.

View DryingProtection's profile


9 posts in 3131 days

#13 posted 03-11-2014 08:22 PM

here is a product they say ages wood. It’s from artisans that create scale models: maybe it would work for your projects as well

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4861 days

#14 posted 03-11-2014 08:42 PM

I really like it Bob.

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4089 days

#15 posted 03-11-2014 09:36 PM

Being young, as I am,...... uhh-humm. uh, I …...... uh…. what were we talking about? .................OH, yea, it looks gr8 to me.

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

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