I have now been woodworking for 38 years and until recently, I had never built a box. Actually, I have created many boxes. A cabinet is basically a box with doors and drawers. Then, a drawer is a box without a lid. I have made countless examples of drawers over my many years of woodworking. But I have never built a true box, the kind with a lid on it.
A friend had been persistent in asking me to make him a liquor box. A bonus: he was willing to pay me to make it. I don’t normally take on commissions, but an actual box project would force me to do something I have been meaning to do, namely build a box and explore box making joinery which is a little different than the joinery I typically use for furniture (a note: this project began last May during the pandemic).
My interest in boxes goes back to my first book purchase on box making. The book titled “Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making” by Doug Stowe shows various styles of boxes, some of which have very creative design elements. Then, more recently I purchased Matt Kenney’s book “52 Boxes in 52 Weeks” and his design aesthetic further enhanced my curiosity for a proper box project.
My friend asked me to build a box which could hold six small size liquor bottles. Each bottle of liquor had a sentimental meaning and he wanted a nice custom box to put them in. Also required was a space for six shot glasses. The design would be totally up to me.
After thinking through the options, looking at my two books on boxes, I decided to come up with a simple design which looks mostly modern, but also has a rustic look. Take a look below:
The modern look is gained from the clean, simple, light colored wood grain found in the sides, and then there is a hint of rustic from the walnut wood which had some defects and deep beautiful colors.
Further Design Influencers
I have to mention two more people who influenced this design: Chris at the Third Coast Craftsman and his Trick Lever Jewelry Box which features wedges or “keys” at the front corners (see a video about it here) as well as Philip Morley who likes to obtain better grain from wood by cutting strips from thick boards. He then lays these strips flat and glues them back together creating quarter-sawn grain. I wanted the look of quarter-sawn ash because I really dislike the bold grain of flat-sawn ash. It is what you see the sides of the illustrations above. By the way, I highly recommend you follow both Chris and Philip on Instagram.
Using SketchUp and Camtasia, I made a video discussing the design considerations and sent it to the client. I set up scenes in SketchUp and talked through the different views. The client agreed with the first version of the design and since I had all of the material on hand, I was able to get started right away.
Next up: I’ll get into the construction process for the box.