Monday, May 12, 2014

Uncle Bob's Box

As a kid, we always had this little cabinet in my house. It was built by my great uncle, who more or less introduced me to woodworking. The box is full of memories as it travelled to several homes, and then finally was given to me by my mother last year.

I decided to reverse engineer it, and in the process learned a fair bit about how Uncle Bob built it. The one thing I had trouble with was finding appropriately small hinges. I also opted for brass knobs rather than the "shaker" wood knobs he chose.

Always a bit of a prankster, he dated the box (which I believe was in fact built in 1952).

Here's my version, done in cherry. I plucked all dimensions using dividers or the piece itself as a story stick. I consciously avoided most of the improvements which came to my mind. I used copper nails (something I have become fond of in this maritime town). The drawer is rabbeted, but most of the construction is simple butt joints glued and secured with nails. With something this small, it should be plenty strong. The original has in fact taken quite a beating and never suffered.

Only in building it, did I realize that by removing the drawer, there is a bit of a secret compartment underneath. Not sure if that was an intentional element of design, or if it was an aesthetic choice to have the gap under the drawer.

I opted not to put a knob on the top, it looks awkward to me, and the overhang of the top door leaves plenty of purchase for opening. I also did not use a stain, as Bob did. I just used several coats of tung oil. It has already darkened considerably in the sun.

I really enjoy these small scale projects. Other than sourcing or producing very thin stock and miniature hardware, these quick projects are full of the type of gratifying discovery that makes woodworking so great.

I dated mine, as well. My daughter has decided she wants the old one in her room, which I think is appropriate. The replica went to my mother as a gift. Happy Mother's Day, mom!


  1. Joiner's Apprentice,
    I love it. Can you give us a dimension or two (to base our copies on).
    Random ROG

  2. Roger-

    This is so simple that I would encourage you to design your own based on whatever layout ideals appeal to you. However, if you would like to build a replica of my replica...

    the stock is 1/4" thick

    Height is 10 1/2"
    Width is 7 1/2"
    Depth is 3 5/8"

    Doors are 3 1/2" x 5 3/8"

    Drawer front is 1 1/2" tall

    You should be able to figure out the rest, but let me know if you have other questions.


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