Promise box

Box. Jarrah, 6×3.5×4 inches.

Sometime last year my wife decided she wanted a box to hold her earrings in that was a bit nicer than the plastic container she’d been using. She was looking at some mass produced jewellery boxes at the store trying to convince herself that one of them would be suitable. We both knew that these over decorated, plasticy junk were nothing like the simple, well made things she likes. I tried to dissuade her but she nevertheless chose one that, she conceded, was merely good enough though not near enough to hide her disappointment.

In the previous few months I’d taken an interest in woodworking, so I told her I would make her one better than any of these pieces of crap and it would well built and look exactly as she wanted it. This was utter lie. I had neither the skills nor tools to make a bird house let alone the finely made box she has in mind. Nonetheless, my good intentions and wanton confidence must have suspended her doubt just long enough that the good enough junk went back on the shelf. With the expectation that I would make good on my boast, I set out to gain the necessary skills to make her the box she deserved.

After a few months we developed a running joke. “Where’s my box?” she would ask, to which I would reply with a variation of “I just have to learn how to; cut dovetails/dimension boards/sharpen chisels/cut in a straight line”, and the like. I only had a few hours each weekend with the tools but I was making progress and managed to make a few small test boxes that, while not perfect, were certainly better than good enough. A month ago I felt confident enough to have a go at the real thing. The box above is what came out.

Everything was done with hand tools. The wood for the bottom was resawn from a roof beam I grabbed from the rubble of a 100 year old house being demolished in our neighbourhood. The lid was hand milled from a billet of Jarrah I found on a wood pile near the mill where my father grew up in the 50s. The mill is long gone and the site is now a camping ground where I spent many family holidays as a child and where my wife had her first camping experience when we moved to Australia.

I gave the finished box to my her this past weekend and our long standing joke met its an end. She is very happy with it. I obsess over the shortcomings, yet I feel I did the best work I could. She recognises it’s not perfect but she knows it was made with love, which is never perfect either.


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