by Christopher Schwarz
While picking though a table of vintage Japanese tools for sale in 2013, I spotted this sliding-lid box under the vendor’s table; it was blackened by age, soot and rust. Despite its scars, however, the box was still graceful and functional.
The owner, a Japanese carpenter, wouldn’t part with it. But he let me measure and photograph the piece both inside and out so I could make a respectable version for myself.
The carpenter said it was a toolbox, and it would indeed fit a small kit of tools. But other experts in Japanese furniture said it was more likely a generic storage box that could be used to hold anything – wooden Tupperware, if you will.
The original was made using Douglas fir. For this article I made versions in both vertical-grain fir and Port Orford cedar, another wood preferred by Japanese joiners. The biggest challenge of the project was finding the dome-head nails. I settled on using No. 5 dome-head tacks (called “taiko byo”) for Japanese drum making, though upholstery tacks with a head 1⁄2″ diameter or smaller are a more economical choice. (Both choices are listed in the “Supplies” box.)
Construction is simple, yet achieving perfection is difficult thanks to all the small details. The corners of the box are joined by finger joints. Everything is reinforced by the dome-head nails.
Blog: See photos of the original sliding-lid box.
Plan: Download a free SketchUp model of this project.
Web site: Learn more about Port Orford cedar.
To buy: Toshio Odate’s “Japanese Woodworking Tools.”
In Our Store: “Woodworking Legends – An Interview with Toshio Odate.”
From the December 2015 issue