My second box was significantly more elaborate than the first one. I had intended to go on with practicing dovetails, but I just couldn’t bring myself to build a box just for the sake of building a box. It had to be for something. So, the only box I could think of a pressing need for was a fancy container for my limited edition Grado HF-2 headphones (terrific sound, btw.). The problem was finding the right piece of wood for the top. Nothing I had was really big enough. It turned out that dovetails just weren’t right for this box.
I resawed a highly figured piece of cherry, but the resulting piece was still several inches too small to make a one-piece top. So I ended up doing this box with a plywood bottom and a frame and panel top. I used another piece of cherry carefully sawn, rabbeted and mitered so that the grain would wrap around the perimeter and be continuous on the top frame, with a slightly outward bow to the grain. The box is nearly flat, with the center panel about 1/64″ proud— but it doesn’t look that way. It looks like the top angles up, making the entire 3″ tall box look much larger than that. I’m pretty happy with it. The center panel is floating, so the top should remain free from warps for a few years.
There are some tool marks that I couldn’t avoid, and I still round things too much when I try to sand them— but reading David Pye’s The Nature and Art of Workmanship has been a real eye-opener about flaws. I mortised the hinges, and nearly made them machine perfect except for some slight slips of the chisel. I can live with that.
I’ve been thinking through a lot of things that I should go into more detail about, but it is a lot more fun to do things than to write about them. But just as a brief note, anyone interested in Ruskin, Morris, and the whole Arts and Crafts thing really should read Pye’s critique. In brief, he argues that Ruskin’s aesthetic theory fails miserably in its attempt to embrace workmanship, largely because Ruskin was clueless about making things. Instead, he ends up promoting a “rough taste” without understanding why/how things are made either rough or smooth. Cultivating taste is an essential part of any sort of education, craft or otherwise. But it’s one thing to look at things and guess at their surface qualities and yet another to really design/make/use them.
I am particularly enamored of Pye’s insistance that photographs fail to convey any significant data about workmanship in its deepest sense. You’ve really got to touch things to get the feel for them, on multiple levels.