A Wedding Gift


About a year ago, my cousin asked me if she could borrow one of my boxes to use in her wedding. She was looking for something that she could set out for people to put cards in at the reception. I showed her pictures of some of the boxes I had made and gave her dimensions. She said she liked this box best. It was one I made in a class with Frank Strazza of Homestead Heritage. I highly recommend taking a class from him if you ever get the chance.

My plan was to make her a box as a wedding gift instead of letting her borrow it. I had a few months to work on it. I had some nice figured maple in my stash. I wasn’t thrilled with the walnut I had on hand, so I went to my local supplier in search of the right wood. I wasn’t thrilled with their selection at the time. One of the guys pointed me to the Peruvian walnut. He said it is the exact same species, but because it is so wet where it grows, it comes out dark and even. I can’t remember exactly why, maybe longer air drying. Anyway, I thought that was perfect. She recently went to Machu Picchu, so that was a good tie in.

So I started milling up the wood. Life got in the way like usual. I spent more time at work than I had anticipated. Then when I was off work, there was a steady stream of family events and appointments all at about 3 hour spacings, which made it really hard to find my way into the shop. I pushed to get it done before the wedding, but no joy. I found myself half-assing things for the sake of time. I decided to just take my original box to the wedding and finish this box properly.  Crisis averted.

With time on my side, I completed the box.  Unlike the box I built with Frank, this one was not a hand tools only project.  It was a nice mix of power tools and hand tools.  One thing I did different was to cut a rabbet on the back of the box trim.  It made installing the trim incredibly easy.  Just slide the trim onto the box until it stops.  I could get all four pieces glued in place at one time.

The hinges are from Brusso. I really like the quality of their products.  Since my cousin and I are both engineers and she is an actual rocket scientist, I figured the OCD force would be strong.  I made sure the screw heads are all clocked.


The finish is several coats of lacquer, with each layer being rubbed out in between. If I had it to do over, I think I would have given the maple a coat or three of BLO before the lacquer. The walnut and maple is a strong contrast. I put a velvet lining on the bottom inside of the box. It complements the box nicely.


I finished the box in time to put in the Alaska Creative Woodworker’s 12th annual Artistry in Wood show.  Before judging, I saw the competition and there were several worthy adversaries in the box division.  I prepared myself for a poor showing.  I happened to be out of town on the day of judging, but someone sent me a photo and my jaw dropped!  I won a blue ribbon and best in division.


The show is over, now it is time to pack the box up for shipping to my cousin.  I hope she finds that it was worth the wait.

The Sleek Black Beauty


Over the weekend I made the rounds to the antique stores in town.  The stated purpose of the trip was to look for copper light fixtures for the house.  I’ve had a hard time finding them online, so I figured I would find EXACTLY what I want at an antique store.  Yeah, right.  This was a thinly disugised tool hunting trip.

No luck with the copper light fixtures, but I did come home with a new plane.  Actually, an old plane.  I picked up this Stanley #8 expecting to find some fatal flaw in it.  The more I looked at it, the more I realized how well this tool has survived the years.

The biggest issue I saw with the plane was that someone had painted everything but the knob and tote black.  It made me remember all of those perfectly good hours I wasted listening to Car Talk on the radio.  If I recall correctly, Tom had a 1964 Dodge Dart which he named “The Sleek Black Beauty”.  The name seemed appropriate for this plane.


The sole seems to be in really good condition.  There is some very minor pitting and a couple of small scratches.  A good lapping might take care of some of that.  I need to find a bigger lapping slab!


The knob and tote are in remarkable condition.  No cracks or repairs and they fit tightly.  Looks like rosewood from here…


I suspect this is the original iron.  Pretty cool that you can see the transition from the hardened steel edge to the body of the iron.  The pitting seems to be contained to the softer steel.  I think I could get away with sharpening this iron and keep using it.  I won’t know for sure until I put it on a stone.


I was gloating to Jonathan at The Alaska Woodworker over my new find.  I sent him a couple of pictures and he asked about patent dates and other markings.  There really wasn’t much on it.  The only thing identifying it as a Stanley was a faint stamp in the top of the lateral adjuster.  I was feeling kinda bummed that I might have an early 1980s vintage.  “Oh, well.  I have a really good user in any case”, I told myself.  Jonathan’s over-the-phone carbon dating put the plane as an early 1900s!  SWEET!

At some point I plan on doing a tune up and light restoration.  That black paint really bugs me.  In the meanwhile, I’ll sharpen the iron and put it to work!