A Pine Box for Christmas

IMG_5906Every year, I attempt to make something for one of the kids’ Christmas presents. This year, I attempted a pine hope/memory box, using a Japanese Toolbox design…

I don’t know what I was thinking. You would guess that increasing the kid count from 2 to five would make me decrease the size & scale of my Christmas project. If there’s one thing this project taught me, it’s that I still have a LOT to learn!IMG_5896

In my research, I came across a YouTube channel where a guy made a Japanese toolbox. Besides simplicity, it used a wedge and required NO hinges, handles, or other hardware, just some nails! I thought the removable lid design would be much more durable than a hinge, and would cost lest to produce.

I scaled the design to my materials, so it would fit an 8×10 with room to spare. Using 1×10 blued pine for the bottom & lid, I extended the width to about 20 inches. Continuing the design with 1×8” blued pine for the front/back & 1×4 blued pine for the lid stays, I only had 3 dimensions of lumber to buy. After ordering some old-fashioned cut nails online, my initial expenditure was about $140 to make 5 boxes. (This doesn’t include any sealants, most of which I had on-hand already.)

IMG_5897I took too long to start the project, and couldn’t finish the boxes in my garage. It’s not insulated, you see, and keeping it above 50 degrees for days on end could get expensive, if I even had a heater that would do it. Instead, I decided to seal & coat them in my cellar, where it’s close to 50 most of the time anyway. A small propane heater was able to elevate and maintain the temperature well enough.

I started with a mixture of equal parts boiled linseed oil/spar varnish/spirits. I propped a window fan in the window to exhaust fumes, and made sure the heat was on the opposite side of the space. I used my respirator and fancy filters, but it was still unwise of me to do this. That mix took more than 24 hours to ‘dry’ and in the future I’ll use less spirits.IMG_5903

That base coat gave the pine some amber-ish color, so next I experimented with lettering. I wanted to put their names on all of them, so I bought a stencil set at Walmart for $2. I found that paint would run under the stencil and bleed, black sharpie was tedious and not dark enough. What worked best was something in between. The markers they use for cow ear tags. It’s a felt tip, but pushing on it draws a potent paint-like ink. That worked great, allowing me to do one letter at a time, and not taking an IMG_5899eternity.

Lastly, I wanted these to stand up to years of kid abuse, so I chose clear polyurethane to entomb the wood. I applied coat after coat, sanding lightly in between layers. One tip that helped was to sand with a block, going WITH the grain, by hand. If you use a power sander, or sand across the grain it makes scratches that turn white instead of clear.

It took days of ‘spare moments’ to get them all covered, and I ran both my propane bottles empty, but they’re sure to last for years to come! If you’re considering doing something like this, check out those YouTube videos. Just be sure you plan some extra tIMG_5908olerances for the thickness of your varnish. Thanks for reading!


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