Box #4: A box for Mom

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I wanted to make a special box for my Mom’s birthday. It took lot longer than I had indented, but the result was worth it (and she thinks so too).

  • Lid: Book matched Blackheart Sassafras
  • Sides: Tasmanian Oak
  • Splines: Tasmanian Blackwood
  • Base: 6mm MDF

It held a lot of firsts for me, so whilst a challenge, it was a great learning experience and has given me some new skills to add to my quiver namely:

  • Cutting and book matching the lid.
  • Inset lid.
  • Long hinges (rather than normal small door style hinges).
  • French polishing, steel wool and wax.
  • Flattening the matching edges of the box and lid with a hand plane by “planeing in a circle”.

The finish was a real challenge. Up till this box, the only finishes I’ve every used where polyurethane or wax. I did this with poly too, but the timber features simply didn’t pop. After trying a range of options, and having to sand back after every failed attempt, I decided to follow a single, well documented process and ordered Neil’s Polisher’s Handbook, with a bottle of U-Beaut Hard Shellac. I dutifully followed the directions for French polishing. Whilst perhaps not a professional finish, and it took me a looooong time, it is by far the best finish I have every produced on a project. It is also the first time I have used 0000 steal wool. All I can say is WOW. It transformed a beautiful finish into something spectacular. After a final coat of wax, I couldn’t stop touching it. It is such a sensual feel. Glassy but also silky. The grain can best be likened to the type of rock we used to call “tiger’s eye” as kids, where you can really look right into it, and the grain shifts beautifully as you move your vantage point. The other point of interest, I’ve used lots of Tas Oak, but am quite enamoured with what this finish did to it. Again, incredible depth!

I think I’ve found my go-to finish for future projects.


May 2019


    1. Haha, no I grew up in South Africa. I just can’t bring myself to use the colloqial “Mum” of Austrlian English. My kids use “Mum” and when I say it, it’s a half way affair, sort of like the arostocratic pronunciation of the Brittish ma-am, but with a short “a” sound.

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