August 2012

Fine box making in the Shropshire hills
August 2012

Fine Decorative Boxes

Well, what has been on my desktop disturbingly headed ‘May 2012 newsletter’ has finally come to fruition. In August. Sorry for the long delay, it has been a very busy time, just for a change!

There has been much going on – a lot to do with the smartHinges [see below] and I have been VERY busy with courses following glowing reviews in a recent issue of Good Woodworking. And I have been making lots of flute cases.

Newsletter news:

It occurs to me that there is not actually much about box making itself in these newsletters – plenty of stuff about jigs, hinges, courses, and the new websites. But not much actual box making.

So I will try to include a ‘project’ in each subsequent newsletter from now on, and I will probably start with this one. Here is a taster:

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This is a flute case I have been making recently from a wonderful piece of flamed Cuban-type mahogany. The colour and figure of the solid for the sides was too specific to be matched to any available veneer, so the obvious thing was to create my own from the solid.

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It wasn’t an option to create the lid from solid as this would have made it far too heavy, so I decided to convert some of it into veneer. The solid was cut down to a little over 1mm using a bandsaw [startRite 351] and then brought down to about 0.6mm through a drum sander.

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More on this project in the next edition.

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Weekend courses:

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I have been running these for around 5 years at the rate of four in the spring/summer and four in the autumn. This year, as a result of that Good Woodworking review, demand has shot up and I have already done twelve weekends – and by the end of the year it’s likely to be nearer twenty . Looks like I’ll be having a busy autumn!

For the most recent weekends I have been able to add a couple of elements to the ‘curriculum’ …

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 … not least book-matching the veneer for the lids.

Anyway, a few quotes from some who have done the weekend courses recently:

“Just a note to say thank you for such an enjoyable weekend. I never thought that I could achieve so much in just two days. I am delighted with my box.”

“I would not hesitate to recommend the course to anyone and if you have any potential clients who would like to talk to someone who has done a course do not hesitate to put them in touch with me.”

“I had a superb time last weekend and ended up with a great box to show for it!”

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you and the others … I gained a great deal from the weekend and I hope to produce my own fine boxes in the not to distant future.

“Thank you for a great weekend that was most enjoyable and rewarding.  Not to mention to meet some great like minded people.”

“Many thanks again for last weekend.  I greatly enjoyed your course & very much appreciated your professional approach to box making & your attention to detail.”

Autumn weekend dates:

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The weekend dates for Autumn 2012 are as follows:

Sept 8/9, 29/30
Oct 13/14, 20/21
Nov 3/4, 17/18
Dec 1/2

Much more info here and info on charges and booking here.

Please email me as soon as you can if you would like to book one of these dates – as usual, newsletter subscribers have these dates in advance of the general public. I will be posting the dates on the website on August 21st.

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BMW ‘Gold’:

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When I first started doing these weekend courses some five years ago, I was far too ambitious as to what was achievable in just two days. Amongst other things I wanted to include fitting a lock and building a tray – well, it wasn’t to be, there simply wasn’t the time.

But I have recently been considering offering a ‘deluxe’ version running over two weekends in order to able to include these extra elements and more. The first ‘weekend’ would need to be three days and start on a Friday, the second weekend [not necessarily immediately afterwards] would be two days.

BMW is the slang I use for these weekends at home – box making weekend – and when discussing this new version, it has turned into ‘BMW gold’! Hence the pic of the gold BMW – sorry if you thought I was offering a gold plated BMW as a prize or something …

I will not be doing it this autumn, but please let me know if that is something any of you could be interested in. You would need to commit to both weekends when booking and I would probably offer one ‘gold’ weekend pairing each session, so two per year.

smartHinge is back – and it’s cheaper!

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As many of you will know, and for reasons completely out of my control, there have been major problems this year with the supply of these hugely popular hinges. But the good news is that everyone’s favourite box hinge will be available again soon – from October. The following explains briefly what has been going on – some of you may have already read a version of this:

Since its introduction at the beginning of 2011 the
smartHinge has become many box makers’ hinge of choice. Until now smartHinge has been made in a small precision engineering workshop in Perth, WA, by Clive Jarman. This method of production seemed to meet the requirements for making a high end, niche, precision hinge for discerning users.

But as more and more box makers have been discovering the incredibly easy fitting, good looks and classic simplicity of the smartHinge, demand has soared and the current supplier has not been able to meet this increased demand. He also imposed a substantial price increase which I was not prepared to pass on to my customers, so I have been effectively operating at a loss for some time.

Consequently I have been investigating ways of having them produced in the UK in sufficient numbers to meet current and future demand without sacrificing any of the quality, consistency and function that have made them so popular. I have now found a manufacturer and by the end of October there will be a UK produced smartHinge available – initially in polished brass, but soon to be followed by lacquered, gold-plated and stainless steel versions.

High price and delays have both been significant issues for many would-be customers this year and this has led to many lost sales. Not to mention frustration for me! Now these problems are solved and the advantages of the UK-produced version are obvious: guaranteed stocks, fast delivery, lower price and more significant discounts available on larger orders.

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So, I am now taking orders for the new UK produced smartHinges – new prices as follows, but note special offer below:

1-5 prs: £29.95 ea
6-10 prs: £29.50 ea
11-25 prs: £28.95 ea
more pairs? price on application

Very Special Offer to Subscribers: If you are prepared to place a firm order here by the end of Friday, August 24th I am offering a 10% discount off the full price – so you will get them for £26.95. But please note that this is ONLY available to newsletter subscribers and the page that displays these discounted prices will be taken down after that date. I will then be updating the usual payment page with the new prices for all subsequent visitors. You should receive your hinges towards the end of October.

Place your smartHinge orders here.

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A few flute cases:

I have been making a lot of flute cases recently, or rather completing a lot of half made cases that I’ve had on the go for some considerabe time.

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Some have been rectangular cases which are suitable for baroque and early classical instruments …

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 … but many of the cases I do feature curved tops, a format I have gradually developed over a long period. They are very time consuming to make but they are one of the designs that I am the most pleased with. These are in imitation of the original leather covered cases for Rudall Carte and many other C19th instruments, and many of my cases actually do house these old and beautiful instruments.

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One job I am very much looking forward to is making a very special case for a kingwood flute d’amore that has been commissioned from the flute maker Boaz Berney for the wonderful flute player, Carla Rees. Carla sadly lost her home, all her flutes, specially commissioned music and much more in the riots last year.

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in the next edition …

I will be adding a few practical tips to every edition from now on – and speaking my mind a bit: Like on whether a ‘holder’ is a good thing for a cabinet scraper.

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I will also be saying a word or two about veneers:

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Of all the elements I teach, using veneers seems to be the one that has the greatest effect on a person’s work. Blowing the mystique is important – it opens so many doors – inlay work, many decorative possibilities, laminating, curves – and it has the general effect of focussing the user’s attention more, so producing finer work. Also: bandsawn versus knife-cut? – does veneered mean ‘fake’? – or is it the only way to use valuable and rare timbers? I will be putting down a few of my thoughts on this interesting subject next time …

The work to the new box making/supplies website has continued, but somewhat slowly as for now all my efforts have been towards getting the smartHinge back on course. This is now all but sorted so my attention can move to the supplies …

Well, even box makers need holidays – so, please note that I am away [Lake District] from August 10th, the day you will probably receive this, until August 21st. So, any feedback/queries sent in that time will not be answered until I return.

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I am also off to Poland for another concert with Gabrieli Consort at the end of August – another short paid holiday playing wonderful music at the University Church in Wroclaw.

Thanks for reading.

Andrew Crawford.

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Nice weather!