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Mom, if you’re reading this — SPOILER ALERT — Go read something else.

When my mother read Chuck Bender’s “Chester County Style” article in our December 2011 issue, she called to say how much she admired the spice box with line-and-berry inlay pictured on page 54 (and at left). And I thought, “I can make a spice box in less than 30 days!” I never know what to give her for Christmas, so it seemed like an excellent solution – never mind that I’d not yet attempted inlay or made ogee bracket feet. I’ve read a lot about and watched people do both, so I was confident I could muster through. In less than 30 days. (The word “hubris” comes to mind…)

I neglected to factor in the shop move. And the only power machinery I have at home is a table saw and sliding compound miter saw. No jointer. No planer. No band saw. And no time to resaw and surface by hand.

I did manage to find just a day or so later some nice, wide walnut at the local lumberyard, and got it over the jointer and through the planer while the former Popular Woodworking Magazine shop remained operational. But by the time I finished the case dovetails, I was out of luck. The machinery had been disconnected from the dust collection, and shop packing was in full swing. (While the machines are now at the new location, as of this morning, we were still waiting on approval of the new electric service – so no joy there.)

If I had any hope of finishing this gift in time for Christmas, I simply had to get started on the nine drawers inside. But I couldn’t start on the drawers until I had the 1/4″ shelves and dividers installed – and to do that, I had to resaw 5/4 stock and surface it. And, I needed to begin the line-and-berry inlay on the door.

So I called Glen Huey – who is, I must say, a prince among men. Glen immediately offered up not only his shop, but his invaluable assistance. He helped me resaw, glue up and surface the dividers (his wide-belt sander is a thing of beauty), and lent me his jigs (and the router to go with) for the shelf and divider grooves.

Instead of having to make router patterns for the door inlay, I used ones Glen made for an inlay class he taught last summer. And, he showed me his (magical) technique. (No really – it’s magic. Though I still have to insert the string around the outside edge and the two circles, what you see here took me less than an hour. If you do – or want to do – any inlay work, check out his “Line & Berry String Inlay by Router” DVD. )

And while I was routing out the inlay recesses and gluing in wee bits of cherry and maple, Glen was surfacing the stock for my drawer fronts and sides.

So I now have all the drawer stock in my pathetic-by-comparison shop, and will spend the weekend communing with my dovetail saw and chisels (and running up and down two flights of stairs to the table saw in my cellar to cut the pieces to size…it’s my holiday exercise plan).

My goal is to finish the drawers by Sunday night…then head back out to Glen’s on Monday to complete the inlay on the door, make the feet and run a little moulding on his router table. With that done, a little BLO (and a hairdryer) followed by a shellac topcoat, and I might be able to attach the hardware on the 24th. And my mom will have a nice Christmas gift from me (and from Glen).

— Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 12 comments
  • Darrell

    Where would this local lumberyard be?

  • renaissanceww

    Don’t ask me how I know this, but make doubly sure the finish is cured before trying to wrap it.

  • bobbollin

    Lovely work! You have convinced me that I do need Glen’s DVD.

  • J. Pierce

    That is looking very terrific! Now I feel kind of silly because I’ve been rushing to wrap up a dovetailed keepsake box for my mom during a couple of days off. Granted, I’m not cutting it nearly as close as you are, and I did have to do all my resawing and thicknessing by hand – but still, wow, I feel a little silly.

    (either way, I finally perfected my technique with the moving filletster plane)

    Regardless, congrats! Looking darn good.

  • John Cashman

    Very nice. But if I may, a Millers Falls miter box and shooting board will save you a lot of running up and down two flights of stairs.

    Please post more of your progress. If only you had a blog of your own on which to post . . .

  • pmcgee

    Or … you could just work in the cellar …

  • Publius Secundus

    Muster through? Muddle?

    Beware the siren song of power and 3450 rpm motors. Without Chris to kick around and flatten flattening stones with a claw hammer, you may be vulnerable to the fleeting alure of wide belt sanders and the like, and–shudder–tempted to eschew bench planes and hand saws. Beware. Be not weak lest you begin furtively searching for a receptacle in which to plug. I suppose Christmas is approaching soon though. Good luck on your project.

  • tsangell

    Color me impressed with a magic marker.


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