Free Maple! And giving back to a neighbor

Tim and Dianne are the kind of neighbors you love to have. Always ready to lend a hand and very handy at everything from blowing out your sprinklers for the winter to throwing an awesome block party.

So at the July 4th picnic, Tim mentioned that the decrepit red maple in their front yard had died and that they were going to have it removed. That prompted, “Say, you wouldn’t mind setting aside a piece of the trunk for your woodworking neighbor, would you Tim?” “No problem,” says he.

A week later I came home to find a piece of the promised log in our front yard. After dragging the heavy sucker—think of the opening scene from the movie Les Misérables where the con picked up the massive mast section with the French flag attached to it; that’s how heavy it felt—I set it in the back yard.

Over the next few days, I processed the log into 4/4 boards and stickered them to dry out. And if by “processed”, you take that to mean I lost 7 lbs in blood, sweat and tears using hand tools that left blisters on my hand, you’d be right. (The 8/12 on the boards is the month and year I processed them. I painted the ends to prevent checks, but that didn’t work too well.)


So when Christmas rolled around four months later, I decided to use the maple in a gift box for our fine neighbors. Yes, it’s still pretty green, and it was tough breaking it down to 3/8” thick boards for the sides and lid. But that’s nothing a  L O T  of sweat, a Disston D7 and a circular saw gone wild can’t handle.

I resawed one board to make a book-matched lid. However, the cut was so rough that the book-matching effect was reduced after planing it smooth.


I butt-joined the mahogany sides to the maple and pinned them with 1/8” brass rods.


I’ve experimented with the creation of finger holes to lift box lids as the lid edge sits flush to the front. On my first attempt, I used a half-round file to make the recess and this worked ok. On the second try, I used a sanding drum chucking in my drill press and that worked out badly because the box drifted as I held it at a 45 degree angle to the drum.

Then I read in David Freedman’s Box-Making Basics, that the author uses cove bits at the router table to create finger holes. Even better. Here’s a shot of the finger hold I made using a ¼” cove bit.


The Reveal


Tim and Dianne have three kids. That means they never have any time to themselves. So in keeping with the tradition of putting something into the gift box for good luck, we included a gift card to an upscale Chinese food chain. I’ve always said that date night tastes better over a glass of white wine and sweet and sour pork.

The belated Christmas card included many thanks for their help over the last year and well wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013. And the smile on Tim’s face when I delivered the box to him was thanks enough for me.

May they look upon their box and remember the red maple in the front yard that gave them such joy over the years. And if it calls to mind the gratitude of happy neighbors, all the better.



About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
This entry was posted in Boxes, Hand tool techniques, Projects and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Free Maple! And giving back to a neighbor

  1. Jim B says:

    Box Making Basics is the best book of the subject I’ve seen.

    Good job on the project too.

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