01 January 2008

brother blogs

Lest Julie and Twin retain their monopoly on thoughtful handmade gifts, their brother decided to build his girlfriend a jewelry box for Christmas, and Julie was kind enough to ask him to guest-blog about it.

The main box is made of cherry and measures 16” wide by 10” deep and about 4 1/2” high. The inside is lined with 1/4”-thick curly maple (a really cool wood with a distinctive figure that’s often used in musical instruments, particularly guitars) that I stained golden yellow to complement the dark red cherry. In the bottom of the box, the lining serves as a shelf for two removable trays, which sit just above (or “proud of” in woodworking-speak) the seam between box and lid. The lid is a simple raised panel with an unassuming 5/16” brass pull.

The design is largely based on an article from Fine Woodworking, available here with a subscription. I omitted several details, most noticeably the 1/8” hand-cut dovetails with mitered corners, which struck me as needlessly over-engineered and impossible for a woodworking mortal to build. (I admit the latter consideration was more important.)

I added a few details of my own: in addition to selecting different lumber, I used side rail hinges that screw into the sides of the box and have stays to keep the lid from opening past 95 degrees. They were a pain to install, but they’re much more mechanically stable than the itty-bitty box hinges with positive stops the FW author screwed precariously into the rear edge of his box. It’s simple physics: a box whose lid is attached with a stopped hinge behaves like a lever, so a light push on the top of the open lid produces a much larger force on the hinged joint. The hinges I used will withstand a lot more force before the screws fail or--worse yet--the wood into which they’re secured splinters out.

I also designed dividers for the trays and put fabric-covered foam inserts in the bottom of each compartment, a detail that makes the box a lot more useful and nicer to look at.


First, the divided trays: after laying out a sensible arrangement on graph paper, I cut the dividers to length from one-inch wide cherry that I planed to the same thickness as the kerf (i.e., blade width) of my tablesaw (about 1/8”). That way, the horizontal dividers could be interlocked with the vertical ones using notched half-lap joints cut on the tablesaw, which makes them more sturdy and easier to keep square during assembly. (An overview of the basic technique is available here. But one note of caution: the joints should fit tightly, and 1/8” stock is very easy to split if you’re not careful putting the pieces together.)

I prefinished the components before final assembly and then secured them into the trays with simple yellow glue. This process wasn’t as difficult as it looks, although it did require careful setup and accurate cutting.


Once the divided trays were built, I set about finding a way to line them with fabric. The technique described below is a variation of the one presented here. I settled on faux suede in a shade of green that looked nice with the wood. (I wanted something with a nap, but real suede is purported to tarnish silver and I didn’t think it would be as easy to work with.)

So that each compartment would have a cushioned surface, I cut padded inserts out of a product called Darice Foamies, which are 2mm thick foam pads with paper backing, available at Michael’s for around $0.80 per 8 1/2” x 11” sheet.

I cut the foam pads just slightly smaller than the compartments, leaving a gap of about 1/32” on all four sides so they’d fit snugly after being covered with fabric.

After the foam inserts were cut to size, I retained the services of a sewing / fabric consultant known on this blog as Marmee for instruction on how to create a pattern for cutting the fabric. (The two trays are divided into 28 compartments, but there are only four unique shapes, so making a pattern for each shape saves time).


Here’s the basic procedure: first, cut a piece of paper to just under twice the width and about one-and-a-half times the length of a foam insert. Place the foam insert in the center of the paper and trim the corners of the pattern off at 45 degrees, leaving about 1/16” between each corner of the insert and the angled edge of the pattern. The idea is to wrap the fabric around the insert like an envelope so the foam is completely covered and the fabric doesn’t bunch up sloppily at the corners or underneath.


Once all the cutting has been done, assembly is easy: just coat the back of each insert and its fabric cover with spray adhesive, move them to a clean surface, and fold the fabric around the four edges of the foam insert. If you’ve measured and cut everything carefully, the pieces should fit snugly in their compartments and won’t need to be glued in. I didn’t make the inserts permanent because I wasn’t sure how well they’d hold up over time and I wanted them to be removable so they could be replaced easily.


From Julie: How cool is my big bro? It's really even more gorgeous in person. I've put in an order for a box of my own, though I don't know when I'll get it... ;) Although the lovely recipient of this jewelry box certainly deserves it, both for putting up with my brother and for being such a sweet person.

20 comments:

Maura said...

wow. that is amazing! so so pretty.

Claire said...

My god! He should make them to sell. I've been searching for a nice-looking sturdy jewelry box that isn't ugly. That one is simply beautiful and stunning.

house on hill road said...

good god - all of you are talented in such great ways! happy new year, julie!

Mozilla said...

JESUS!!! (said with spanish accent!)
since everyone else is using the appropropriate OMG!! Your big brother is the best boyfriend ever!! Handy AND Thoughtful!! Your family has produced a slew of crafty people.

Courtney said...

Are you going to get her something to put in there soon? Hee-hee. Really beautiful.

Nadia said...

I would buy one too, if he ever goes that way. That's gorgeous!

craftyarchitect said...

that's absolutely beautiful! what a luck girlfriend!

sally said...

Well it is good to know big brother also got the crafty/industrious gene like the twins. Beautiful jewelry box!

Dinah said...

Gorgeous! Just gorgeous! She's a lucky girl.

Tracy Harris said...

1/8" dovetails with mitered corners! That is a bit crazy!

It's lovely!

Linda said...

That is absolutely beautiful!!!! What a lucky girlfriend!!!!!

purejuice said...

i love this tutorial, and the gift itself is so thoughtful. it makes me happy to think about them who made it and them who got it! happy new year to all and thanks.

Mirth said...

Well it looks like I'm dating the newest blog stud. I think that the box looks even more beautiful in person, but perhaps that is just knowing the thought and love that went into it. The padded inserts were most def. a good idea as well as the sturdier hinges. It is definitely worth all the months of hints and teasing leading up to its gifting. Let's hope it survives 900 miles of shipping.

sulu-design said...

Oh, so this is what has kept you so busy that you haven't had time for keeping in touch with your old friends! Kidding, kidding (it goes both ways, right?). Seriously, Justin, this is insanely impressive. I had no idea that the crafty talent ran so wide in your family. What a lucky recipient. Puts my little bubble gum pink box to shame.

Lil D said...

Wow - not only for the (extremely) impressive workmanship and it being such a beautiful gift, but also because I had previously believed that such thoughtful and hardworking men had died out sometime back in the 50s...

Alicia P. said...

I'm completely speechless. Fantastic (the first word that came to mind) doesn't even begin to describe.

anutje said...

You make my day!

anuriitta,
http://anutje.livejournal.com/

blazedanielle said...

This box is truly a work of art! It is gorgeous!!! :) I love boxes and little nooks!

Anandi said...

omg, that box is gorgeous!! I want one!!!

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