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Jack’s Box

Jack’s pine box follows a pattern. I was inspired by one I saw it in a book on Shaker pieces of treen 40 years back but changed its proportions and some of the details to suit my needs. Since then I have made at least 400 or more of them and sold them regularly when I lived in the USA. For Jack it concludes his foundation course, a course I developed and now put out via either woodworkingmasterclasses.com, commonwoodworking.com, YouTube and here on my blog. These channels replaced my first book to give total visual content for all and it has definitely reversed the unpleasant trend that my craft with hand tools was dying out. It also replaced my one-on-one courses with students attending my workshops though one day, if I live long enough, I will repeat them. I stopped because my workload doubled and even tripled when I took on filming my craft. Had I not taken this step many of the ‘trade secrets’ and less common practices would have been lost.

Jack learned so much making this and it started with roughsawn surfaces and uncut lengths so all came from hand tools only

Woodworking with individuals like Jack, Peter, Hannah and several others in the past are transformative. It’s students over the years, at least 6,500 to date, that enabled me to encapsulate a different lifestyle I engineered to teach and train others. The 25 years of classes meant writing, writing meant writing articles for magazines and then writing my own efforts in manuscripts to include my drawings and so on. The thing is, though I was told at 14 years of age that I could never be educated, I found writing about the things I loved and lived for took me beyond the bench and the vise, the tools on the bench and the wood I so cared about into a new world of discovery. I discovered drawing had much more depth, sentences could be rearranged using more words than school ever taught me.

Maybe where jack goes next???

I study etymology not to get a degree in English but because they have such incredible depth and history. Few words reach the tips of my fingers and the keyboard without my researching the meaning, root, origin. For my woodworking this translates into words such as spokeshave, spike + shave. Not so much spoke as in wheel per se but think chair spindle and ladder rung, chair legs, rails and posts. Not that this discounts wheel spoke, just that it adds in a 100 times more applications than wheels though there are a lot of spokes in carriages and wagons from the past millennia.

So, my life has and still is unfolding with new days filled with not just interesting things but, and I think much more importantly, meaning. You see, I may have had the odd detour to distract me occasionally, but I have kept pretty well on track in my love of woodworking and everything surrounding it. I’m not so much interested in reading about it or even just watching it but the doing of it. That small split still intrigues me. The splitting of an 18″ log eight feet along its length is unmistakably log-split. Then the split-cutting of tenons in pine or differently in oak and cherry and ash. Each its own sound is like musical nots in my ear. They are indeed recorded there to such a degree that I can usually tell when my student is splitting one wood or another.

Jack’s first double dovetailed box

This was Jack’s 2nd dovetailed project with one or two practice corners to preface the single dovetail and the double. It’s not that long when my other apprentices through the years completed their multiple dovetails in a larger project like a tool chest. Considering this is Jack’s first double dovetailed project, and all of the dovetails were remarkably well fitting, I can see that he is on the path to a remarkable future as woodworker and furniture maker should he want to pursue such a thing. The trick now is see what we can do to allow it to unfold as it should. What made Jack transfer to woodworking after gaining a degree in IT? It was a chain of events that would take another blog to answer.

26 Comments

  1. Michael michalofsky on 22 September 2019 at 11:57 am

    Question
    When you sold the boxes
    What was the price
    Just curious

    Thanks michael

    • Paul Sellers on 22 September 2019 at 4:09 pm

      I sold them in Texas for $50 in 1995-2000 and then around $90 in hardwood like oak, but in mesquite in Texas they sold all the higher.

  2. P Mc on 22 September 2019 at 12:56 pm

    What made Jack???

    Is there more?

  3. Tom Angle on 22 September 2019 at 2:49 pm

    ” 14 years of age that I could never be educated”

    It is terrible when someone tells a child that. I heard things similar like you will be a factory worker or you are not smart enough to take this class or that. It actually drove me and I can see where with some it would destroy there self esteem. I guess there are some that need to put others down to feel good about themselves.

    • Paul Sellers on 22 September 2019 at 4:14 pm

      As far as I know it never really affected me. In fact it may well have been the best thing that ever happened to me. Who knows. My education with teachers stopped and my education with the men I worked with began. Ten men around in a cluster on small stools for lunch gave me the basics. Pre internet meant evening in the library researching my interests of nature study and furniture making. It was later on that I needed more English language and maths and that came through my mentoring craftsman, George who left no stone unturned.

    • Bob Dahl on 23 September 2019 at 8:16 pm

      I know exactly what you are saying. My fourth grade teacher said about the same thing to Me, and five years later My younger brother. It really stung for several years. I graduated college and later in service earned a Directory of titles in aeronautical engineering. Brother was a turbine engineer and Factory representative. I truly believe some people enjoy hurting others.

  4. Tom Angle on 22 September 2019 at 2:53 pm

    @Michael michalofsky

    Depending on where you are at, depends on the price. Where I live now, $20 would be a good price, maybe more if you sell it as all hand tool made. Where I grew up (very large Amish community) people flock to there for the “old world” craftsmanship. You might be able to get $50 if it was in hard wood with a little carvings or a Pennsylvanian Dutch painting on it.

  5. nemo on 22 September 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Prices vary by region and over time, no doubt, but personally, 20 US$ seems very little to me. One thing I’ve learned over time is not to sell my own work (unrelated to woodworking) short, as I used to in the past. My error was that I priced things as to how much I would pay for it. Being a bit of a cheapskate that invariably led to low prices. I’ve since learned to price things to what I think some (but far from all) people would pay for it. Which in my personal case is always much higher than what I would pay for it. Doesn’t matter – things still sell.

    Lovely boxes. Intend to make something like that soon for my second ‘Useless Machine’. The first one was built about five years ago around a box bought in a thrift store – it was before my woodworking days, when I was unable to build a simple box that looked tolerably good.

    Today made a second tooltote for my ancient 7.2V Makita drill (love these, I can keep them running till the end of time by building new battery packs). Nothing fancy, made out of various scraps of plywood but using ‘proper’ housing dadoes, knifewall-technique, handrouter, etc. Installed an old broomhandle as handle, using wedges in the ends to clamp it in place. First time using wedges, it worked fine and looks very nice. First plywood tote was for another 7.2V Makita drill that I converted to use with a small external 12V lead-acid battery and a short length of electrical cord.

    The tote is a purely utilitarian thing, but I do take pride making it as good as I can. A next tote, this time for gardening tools, I’m going to try ‘real’ wood and dovetails. Both will be a bit of a new area for me. Practice dovetails ended up reasonable, but have never actually used them in a project so far.

  6. Martin Schulman on 23 September 2019 at 10:49 am

    Paul-my son Rafi and I spent time in one of your classes a few years ago. I made one of those little boxes and still use it daily. It’s design and function are something of a miracle. I never get tired of looking at it.

    • Paul Sellers on 24 September 2019 at 11:35 am

      Dear, dear Martin and Rafi, I do hope you are all well as am I. I remember you two well and hope things are going well for you. Thanks for reaching out with your comment and kindest regards.

  7. Adam on 23 September 2019 at 12:09 pm

    Great blog post as usual, thank you Paul.
    And I learnt a new word – “treen”.
    Good luck with you upcoming projects, Nemo!

  8. Leland Purvis on 23 September 2019 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve watched the videos and seen the boxes on your shelves for years and made some myself, and one thing always made me wonder: Any items in the box would be likely to put more pressure on the long sides than the ends over the years. And the hinges attach to the long side as well. So, wouldn’t one want the dovetails to be on the ends and the pins on the long sides, to resist those pressures? 80-100 years later it seems like it might make the difference, no?

  9. William Fariss on 23 September 2019 at 3:23 pm

    This may be a stupid question, but where do you purchase the hinges you use. The box looks as though the hinges are swaged (both leaves flat against each other when closed). I have been searching for those types of hinges but I have been unable to find them.

    • Paul Sellers on 23 September 2019 at 4:27 pm

      New old stock on eBay. And the only stupid question is the one that’s never asked.

  10. Alan Smith on 23 September 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Great article Paul. Love your thoughts and progression. I’ve learned that to be a great leader you have to pour into others more than thinking of self – then all grow. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and craftsmanship. Does your web classes teach on these boxes? Plans? They look superb.

  11. Jeffrey Potter on 23 September 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Paul – first thanks a bunch for sharing. You have taught me more than the 20 years of playing with wood. I was one that only used machines because that is how I was taught.

    You have opened my eyes to woodworking with hand tools. I am now officially a convert. The quality I now get with hand tool is just amazing. Though I had to do some tool purchases it is well worth it. Love your YouTube channel. Keep it going !!!

  12. Bob Hutchins on 23 September 2019 at 9:04 pm

    I like Jack’s box but prefer a bottom that does not protrude beyond the sides. That is an easy modification to the style, but then my mind goes to using dovetails to attach the bottom as well. Of course making the bottom set inside the sides reduces the volume by vertical dimension.

    Have you ever done boxes with bottoms dovetailed to the sides? Is this an impractical idea?

    Thanks all the good work you’ve done over the years and continue to do.

    • Paul Sellers on 24 September 2019 at 9:01 am

      Whereas people do occasionally make dovetails along the long grain axis and defy the practical standards, it is not a good practice at all. There are many other ways of attaching the bottom including using a thinner bottom and planing it flush too. This works up to about 5″.After that you have contrary expansion and shrinkage issues as the wider you go the more the wood expands or shrinks.

  13. Bob Hutchins on 23 September 2019 at 9:06 pm

    PS: Can an ‘edit’ option be added for comments? (Or does one exist that I don’t know about?) I often want to clarify what I’ve first typed or to add something but don’t want to make multiple posts (including this one).

  14. Keith on 24 September 2019 at 12:01 am

    Glad asked about the hinges I need some in brass for a door I just made to put on a oak church sign just had to restore Paul sellers had to do joints and towels through used a method I seen in one your videos on YouTube drawbore worked very well had to match the existing door the other door was damaged many years ago so told them I would make a new one done all by hand even made towels and beading wish could show you pic when complete

  15. Sylvain on 24 September 2019 at 8:27 am

    Dovetail must be done end grain to end grain. Dovetailing to long grain will tend to make the long grain split. It is intrinsically weak.
    But you can make a dovetailed box with one side open and the top glued, as if you would slide a drawer in. Up to you to put it on its back side then.

  16. Harold Blair on 24 September 2019 at 10:57 am

    Paul, as one who took your classes during your Texas sojourn, I still have my box. My wife now uses it to hold some of the tools for her weaving. Since the Texas classes, I have continued to build larger and more complex pieces of furniture using your techniques. I wish to thank you for the efforts expended in videoing your YouTube and WoodworkingMaster classes. I enjoy them immensely. Such a treasure for future generations.

    • Paul Sellers on 24 September 2019 at 11:32 am

      I remember you well, Harold, and your wife too. Kind regards.

  17. John Sweet on 25 September 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Hello Paul, I too took your class in Texas. Since that time I have made Nearly 100 of them. out of various hardwoods.My dovetails still leave room for improvement but then I think perfection.is not possible for me I continue to improve and remember fondly the Time I spent in Your class Thank you for taking my wood working to a much higher level.All my best.

  18. Elfin Spectre on 25 September 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Thinking on Paul’s studies in etymology, (also a fascination of mine), I have long held the view that education is less about cramming knowledge into people and very much more about, “drawing out”, (from the Latin e ducere, the root of the word, “ductile”), the latent talents in them.
    Carry on educating, Paul!

  19. Richg on 25 September 2019 at 11:11 pm

    I do not comment much I love reading your blog posts. I like was told at young age I would not amount to very much. Like you I proved them all wrong. I am Sr. IT engineer now have been for the past 30 years all self taught. There is not a lot that I have learned over the years that was not self taught. Well maybe the US Navy wasn’t lol. Wood working has come very naturally for me not sure if it is a gift or in my blood. I have Learned a lot from you Paul, and you have given me a lot of self confidence to move forward in my work. I just finished you Coffee table build and after 22 MT’s I think I got them down pat lol. I have built a couple of your boxes as well.
    I do have a one question the one thing I am struggling with is Drawing or trying to draw it never was one of the things I learned. I am trying to watch some of the utube videos, but I was wondering if you ever took any classes on drawing or are you totally self taught?
    Thank you for all you do for us.

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  • David on As Boring Things Go…Paul... Your ranting about the rich is tiresome. You should stick to woodworking instruction.
  • Paul Sellers on As Boring Things Go…No. You can drill holes around an inch in diameter using a sharp Forstner bit just fine.
  • Paul Sellers on As Boring Things Go…Such a nice and gentle response, Ed. Thank you. And what you said is exactly what I meant.
  • Steve on As Boring Things Go…There's a twist to the normal drill here..
  • Paul Sellers on As Boring Things Go…It will work with spade bits, brad point bits and Forstner bits. With the auger bits, because a depth of entry is governed by the incline of the screw at the point of the bit, the…
  • Paul Rowell on As Boring Things Go…I think the gearing/torque would prevent you from being able to turn the handle on all but the smaller diameter augers.
  • Samuel on As Boring Things Go…Ok. In light of fun being too empty an expression and commenting on a blog can be done without properly considering the outcome: there is more to woodwork than fun. I guess I’ll ta…
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