The black walnut box with silver inlay and sycamore as secondary wood is now complete and as always was made entirely with hand tools only.
This project draws inspiration from Japanese art and architecture and the first concept drawing echoed the architectural feel of a torii (鳥居) gate lintel. This was further refined as the small project developed.
The exposed dovetail joinery follows the curves of the ends of the box for an organic feel.
Ornamentation in sterling silver is a simple, nature-inspired illustration in the lid, with the elements in the front of the box tying the composition visually and providing grounding to the shapes of the grasses in the lid. Continue reading
The first thing I ever carved was this love spoon in mahogany that I made for a friends’ wedding, with a presentation box in oak and sapele based on the Mastermyr chest. Not the finest love spoon in the world by a very considerable margin, and certainly not the finest example of box making, but this was an important piece from a personal perspective. Please read on as I’d like to tell you why.
Having carved the lid, we are looking at the rest of the Viking chest today. The form of the box I am making is based on the Mastermyr chest, which is a Viking-made tool chest found in the 1930s in Gotland, Sweden. A farmer, while ploughing for the first time an area reclaimed after draining a lake and a mire, hit on and pulled from the ground an iron chain. The other end of the chain was tangled around an oak box full of woodworking and metalworking tools from the Viking age.
A drawing of the original box. A bit worse for wear and tear but who can complain, after 1,000 years?
The bog environment preserved the box and its contexts in a remarkably good condition for their age (1,000 years). The chest and some 200 tools and blacksmith-made items, including a few fascinating locks, are held in the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.
My version of the Mastermyr chest, reinterpreted as a box for a child. I do not get any buzz from creating exact replicas, and treat any source material as inspiration.
I like the form and the joinery involved. Because the ends and sides are angled in (not square), it’s more fun than a regular box. And because of the joinery, when you glue it up, you have to do it all in one go. It’s a bit like a puzzle piece to assemble.
We are almost into the New Year and this is traditionally the time when people try and sum up the year behind, and look with expectation to the year ahead. This has been a year of great change and challenge for me. To take stock I looked back, beyond just the last 12 months, and looked around me today so that I can plan into the future. This one is much bigger than just woodworking.
Concept sketches and lettering attempts for what would become a parting present for a colleague and friend.
I think of my family and ask myself, what have I invested here? Will it pay off? Difficult questions to answer, and all too easy to feel inadequate as a parent. Too many hopes and wishes, and not enough tangible stuff. We invest time, effort, love and care and it usually does pay off, but how will your kids remember you? What part of who you are will still live on when you’re not around anymore? If I am not here tomorrow, what would my legacy be?
The resulting carving that grew from the preliminary drawings above, and from the direction my gouges and hands took those first ideas in. This has been the year I decided carving was not beyond me and as always I found I have so much to learn…
I’m back to the carving on the lid of the Viking chest. After wasting away most of the ‘negative space’ material from the background, time to do some further shaping and to put some detail in.
Suckers. This is small scale repetitive work and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do here, really, so I tried a couple of approaches on a section. I forgot I wanted some suckers on a section where they face directly up and I hadn’t left enough wood for them. Worked around that ok, not ideal. At least by the time I got to do further arms I worked out a sequence to simplify this part of the work.
The main thing I try and accomplish is something with good balance and proportions that doesn’t look mechanical.
I started carving the lid for a wee chest I have made. I made the chest in oak but, although I punish myself regularly, the carving will get done in black walnut, a very agreeable species to carve. I had a few unusually clear boards to chose from which helped as well.
First, the underside gets a lightly scalloped and textured surface with the edges left intact.
On the top, spray adhesive gets a photocopy of the carving design stuck onto the surface so that I can carve through the paper. You can’t see the grain this way but it’s quicker than drawing it all again. I just letter in the recipient’s name.