I think that once you start kicking up some sawdust, it doesn’t take long to realize that a handmade project out of wood would make a good gift. I wanted to build something for a few family members, so Nicole helped figure out what to make.
I ended up going with toolboxes. They would be of universal design – a four sided, open top box, with tall end pieces for a handle to span between. It would have a divided space and an open space, however the dividers would be removable – leave them in for a spiffy way to take a six pack and a sleeve of brats to a cookout, or take them out actually use as a toolbox. Sometimes you just need to take a few tools on the road, and this would be the way to do it.
The beauty of this design is that you could go with some butt joints and bang one together in an afternoon. But since these were gifts that would put my newfound woodworking obsession on display, I wanted to put a smidge more emphasis on craftmanship. So I came up with a design that showcased some integrated joinery, beveled edges, and a comfortable, octagonal handle that would let the person carrying the box know that there was some attention to detail going on below.
For material, I decided on ambrosia maple – at first I thought the wormy grain patterns were a bit chaotic and haphazard. But the more I looked at the wood, the more it grew on me. It brought some interest to the design, and I hoped the rustic patterns would encourage the recipients to put the boxes to use – even beat them up. They would look great with some natural but hard-use aging.
With the important decisions finalized, I began milling the wood and batching out the components (I was making four toolboxes). A couple bottles of beer were used to determine the width and sidewall height, and they were rewarded with a trip into my belly (that is my idea of R&D!). It was fun matching up the pieces to get as much harmony between the ends, sides and base as possible.
One thing I underestimated about woodworking projects is the time it takes to complete a project. Even the simplest designs have a lot of steps, and it just takes a lot longer to finish than you think it would. After I finally got the assembly complete, the toolboxes were sanded, assembled, and sanded again. Added six coats of wiping poly and let them cure for a few days.
Nicole helped get them gift ready, which she is quite good at doing. Rather unbelievably good. There was a beer theme – the boxes would have a six pack of the recipients favorite beer (with custom labels), and the open space was packed with snacks, including a homemade batch of beer bread (just add a can of beer and bake – it is delicious, almost dessert like). A final detail was the vintage looking bottle opener attached on one side of each box.
The boxes were well received, and I had a lot of fun making them.