During the Jim Crow era, trains were segregated and Black people were not allowed to visit the dining cars. Many passengers would pack a meal in shoe boxes when traveling to southern cities. Road trips by automobile also present challenges for blacks looking for places to eat along the way. Planning a head with boxed lunches became a tradition. My friend Carolyn Wallace, owner of Perfect Brew Catering, resurrected this tradition as part of her business offerings. She krafted her own moveable feast box, adorned with artwork by Artistry T. Design, for her clients looking for boxed meals vs. a traditional catering setup. A friend of hers, Kashara, wanted to immortalize Carolyn’s paper box in wood and asked, given my newfound skill set, if I could make one. I took the challenge.
I have a boat load of oak wood from the failed first version of my headboard. It’s coloring was close to the brown kraft paper of Carolyn’s paper box, so I decided to use it for the project. Since I had never made a box my first step was to study the box Kendall Glover made for me. I could clearly see he mitered the corners. I knew the top was an inlay, but wasn’t 100% sure how he made that happen. Whatever the process I would need to do similar to attach her logo. My lid will come completely off, like a shoebox, so I didn’t have to worry about hinges although the lip (for lack of the proper term) he created that his lid fit around reminded me that my lid needed to fit over the entire bottom. Time to dive in.
No pics, but my first step was using a ban saw to cut the thickness of my almost 1″ thick board in half. My target finish thickness would be 1/4″. I could have ran the board through the planer until it was the desired thickness, but what a waste of wood, time and blade that would have been. I was a bit nervous since I had not cut anything that thin or tall. I didn’t hit the half way mark, my two sides weren’t the same thickness, so now I used the planer. With two equally sized boards of 1/4″ I headed home as I have all the tools for my next steps, building the bottom box.
I ripped one of the boards to the proper shoebox height and cut out the bottom of the box. I learned well after I completed the box that the next step I did was create a rabbit joint for the sides to rest in. I knew to do it, but only after watching Ben Napier’s new show Home Town: Ben’s Workshop did I learn the name of the action. With the cut made on my router table I was able to get the measurements for my side miter cuts. I was spot on with both the short and long sides on the first cut. I used my table saw instead of miter. I find my sides meet up tighter. With all cuts made I was ready to glue up the the bottom. I clamped the hell out of it, perhaps overkill, but I thought better too much than too little.
With the bottom complete I could measure the outer dimensions to obtain the size of the top. At this point I could have made a deeper rabbit joint to recess the lid enough to accommodate the logo, but my mind was fixated on using the CNC router at the Manufactory, so I returned to the shop. No pics of the process because the 2″ spoiler bit I used finished the process in seconds. I was poised to hit the kill button in case I made the cut depth setting too deep, but I did not. The 2″ bit made large curved corners which I had to use a chisel to clean out. I clamped my lid down. The first chisel I used was super dull, so I asked Ben (owner of Manufactory) if they had sharper or could he sharpen the one I had. He gave me another set. Clearly I’ve never used super sharp chisels (mine at home aren’t either) because I promptly managed to slice down the side of my index finger on my right hand, major blood flow, but not deep enough for stiches. Another reason for no pics. I did finish cleaning up the corners and returned home to glue up the top.
With lid complete it was time to test the fit……too tight, so what to do? I needed to shave wood from either the outside of bottom or inside of the top. I did both. I had a set of hand scrapers that I was able to use. I scraped and scraped until I had the perfect fit. There were a few subtle gaps in my glue up on the bottom, so I was able to use the scrapings and wood glue to fill them in. It was beautiful, I pulled it off, except for one issue. The lid slid on perfectly but only in one direction. If I flipped it around it would catch on one end. Not sure what was not in alignment, but I’d just have to give it to Karshara with instructions. I decided to add natural Danish oil as my finish. Once it dried I added the SGw/S brand. As long as the logo and brand were both upside right the fit was perfect.
The final step was adhering the logo in the recessed area I created in the lid. To protect and seal it in place it was recommended to me to use ArtResin, Epoxy Resin. After watching their video many times, I psyched myself out. The project sat for days as I feared messing the lid up and needing to start over. Kashara called concerned I’d miss the Christmas eve deadline and talked me off the edge. I had to buy a mini torch for the bubbles the mixing would produce. I decided to practice by making myself a couple of coasters for my office desk. I rinsed out a plastic cup, dried it, but not thoroughly enough as when I mixed the two parts it almost looked like foam it had so many bubbles. With torching I still couldn’t thoroughly remove all the bubbles. I returned to the ArtResin website and found in the FAQ section a response that said mix container must be completely dry. Even a small drop of water will cause excessive bubbles. Armed with that knowledge I went for broke. The pour and bubble removal went flawless. My first box was now complete.
I was invited to Carolyn’s to be there for the reveal. She was on a Zoom with all her family, so they were able to see it too. I grinned all the way back home. I amazed myself again. I truly have found a new skill set that I absolutely love, woodworking. I’ve joined the Cincinnati Woodworking Club in hopes of meeting people that can help me grow in my new craft and now dream of buying a warehouse to have a proper woodshop of my own.
What a wonderful gift! Great work!