A box for Emma's Dad
Emma's Dad had a table. And a lot of other furniture as well of course, but it is the table that concerns us here. When he went to live with Emma and Peter, I was lucky enough to be given a few pieces of his nice old oak furniture, which were no longer required. I found out though, that what he needed, was a box: a nice, sensible, sturdy box to hold his diary and pens, and scissors, and all those essential bits and bobs that you have to keep handy, day to day.
When I saw the table I knew straight away what I should do with it. I would make a nice oak chest for Emma's Dad. This is what it looked like when I got it. It genuinely looked as if it was waiting for me to give it a new lease of life.
The first thing I do is to strip away all the old varnish, polish, ring-marks and stains from the top of the table, to see what the oak grain looks like, so I can choose which pieces I want to use. Here it is with the top stripped.
One of the drop-leaves had a particularly pleasing grain pattern, shown below. I had a feeling that piece would warrant further investigation, even though I could only just make the grain out through the varnish before I stripped it (see the smaller picture). I decided to try to use that nice piece of grain in the box lid, or somewhere where it could be seen to advantage..
I then dismantled the table, completely down to the individual pieces.
And then stripped the underside of the tabletop. See here the recesses cut into the wood to take the hinges that fix the drop-leaves to the central part of the tabletop. With all my furniture, I leave these 'damage' marks in if they are not too bad and they don't threaten the strength or integrity of the eventual piece. I quite like the way these little marks and blemishes remind us of the final objects' original heritage.
The first cut is important to get right - my dad used to say "measure twice, cut once" and this maxim is as true today as it was in 1960. Here I am making the first cut across the end of that nice piece of grain pattern, starting to shape the box lid. I wanted to do this before making the sides of the box, to make sure I didn't inadvertently use the nicest bit on a side or back panel.
I cut out all the four sides, and the bottom, glueing them together into an open-topped box. I made the corners using an interlocked joint, for extra strength.
I fixed two curved end-caps and used oak plugs to cover the countersunk screws - a technique often used in old furniture to hide unsightly screw-heads and provide a smooth wood finish.
The carefully set aside lid is smoothed and fitted to the box using some cranked dark bronze hinges that seemed to suit the character that the box was beginning to develop. It's funny how the pieces I make seem to take on a character of their own, during the building process.
I found some old brass-bronze handles from an old sideboard, which suited the box perfectly, working well with the bronzed hinges..
The drop leaves of the tables I use, usually have a curved edge to make a nice smooth surface when the leaf is in the up position. I often use this edge shape to form part of the item I am making - in this case I used it to form a good solid lip all along the front edge of the box lid, so that it could be lifted up easily.
I fitted a fine brass chain to the lid, to stop it falling back and straining the hinges.
I was pleased with the look of the oak grain on the lid - a lovely reminder of the original table from whence it came.
And with a final waxing, the box is complete.
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