December 2013

Fine box making in the Shropshire hills

Fine Decorative Boxes

no. 13, December 2013:

Well, the summer seems a long time ago now, but at least we got one in the UK – the first time in several years! My workshop garden looked the best it has for ages – long overdue!

Anyway, welcome to this latest newsletter – much later than I’d intended, it should have gone out around three weeks ago but my mother died last month at the grand old age of 96, a year and a day after my wife’s father. But she achieved her ardent wish of living in her own home, with only minimal care, to the end.

So, being that much later I had to decide that many items scheduled for this issue would have to wait. It was important, however, to announce the long overdue new items available on and the course dates for the first half of 2014.


new look and home for the newsletters …

You’ll notice that there’s a slightly new look to the newsletter this time, it has a different background and header colour to match the livery of the website which is where the newsletter sign-up page is now.

There is also a new newsletter archive page with links to all my archived newsletters in pdf form. Each has a short summary so you can see what you might be interested in before you read …


available now from

The following items are available straight away from the smartBoxmaker website. For reasons of high postage charges the wide abrasive sheets are only available to UK visitors. But for the benefit of my many European, US, Canadian, Australian and other overseas subscribers I’m in the process of sourcing these items in those countries. If anyone knows of useful non-UK suppliers/sources please let me know and I will try to publish a list of these in the new year.

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inlay lines: beautiful snakewood and figured sycamore inlay lines, 8mm wide x 600mm, all ready to personalise your boxes, or anything else for that matter.   Available now – click here.

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extra-large abrasives: self-adhesive, 600 mm x 400 mm, in a variety of grits, to make large double-sided sanding boards with many uses around the workshop. Almost everyone who comes to do a course with me goes away with a set of four sheets because they see how versatile these large abrasive boards can be. And they often come back for more when their friends see how hugely useful they are as well.   Available now – click here.

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glue bottles: the very best I’ve found: light, easily refillable and cleanable, ideal for box making and any small scale work. Each supplied with a short length of stainless steel wire of just the right diameter so you can set yourself up sauce bottle style.  Available now – click here.

smartHinge: heavy demand recently, together with a minor manufacturing flaw on a recent batch, have led to my not having the stocks I’d normally hope to at this time of year. I have some, but if it’s vital you get your hinges quickly, please email me first. I might also have a very few stainless pairs – see below.
Available now – click here.

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Books: the publication of my new book ‘The Incomplete Guide to Box Making’ is making excellent progress, but is still a little way away …

Looking back over past newsletters it’s noticeable how often I refer to this new book being in the pipeline. Even the very first, no. 1 in January 2010, is already referring to it as having been in the pipeline for a long time, which it had been!

Someone who came to me for a weekend course last year was also an author negotiating with his publishers over an overdue book. He said he’d been forced to break out his ‘emergency metaphor’ for such situations: “it’s like a glacier, very slow progress but a great force over time.” Hi, Dominick – hope you don’t mind me borrowing your great and hopefully very apt metaphor!

Special offer: Anyway in the meantime I’ve decided to offer a deal on the titles above. Many of you will have one or both of these already, but for any that don’t I’m offering the following: ‘The Book of Boxes’ for £13, ‘Celebrating Boxes’ for £10, and £20 for both titles [all + p&p]. Full retail price for both is £36.   Available now – click here.


available very soon:

– the following items are just around the corner …

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box lining materials: pig suede, adhesive backed card and double sided tape: the easiest, neatest and most luxurious and way to line a box interior. And you get full instructions.

Available early next week, probably Dec 9th onwards.


This is a bit of a new departure to see if this sort of thing might be popular …

Stylishly put together this first offering is an excellent and very comprehensive iPhone ‘photo-documentary’ by US box maker Roger Bean. It shows how Roger went about making this gorgeous and complex burr walnut pen box. Many insights into his processes.

112 page – highly recommended, and this is the first of several.

Available early next week, probably Dec 9th onwards.

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 … and a couple of collage-type posters of my own work.

These are jpg files, 250 x 400 mm so around A3 in size, and 300 dpi so can be blown up larger if you want …

Will be available early next week, probably Dec 9th onwards.

smartHinge in stainless steel.

Actually, I do have a very few, email me if you’d be interested – first come, first served. They are just around the corner, honest – the manufacturers have been working hard to iron out a few last issues while I sit at home fussily rejecting their best efforts.

Available early in the new year.

smartHinge in stainless: actually, I do have a very few, email me if you’d be interested - first come, first served. They are around the corner, honest - the manufacturers have been working hard to iron out a few last issues while I sit at home fussily rejecting their best efforts. We’re nearly ther

smartLock: the development of my own smartLock is continuing apace, I’m very excited with progress …

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Under the bonnet is a distillation of all the best features taken from a wide range of locks I’ve encountered over the years in my box making, with a few of my own ideas added for good measure. I’m not keen to reveal too much just yet, suffice to say for now that smartLock is set to match the smartHinge in every respect: it will be by far the best quality, best looking, easiest to fit box lock available.

Available from March …


available sometime:

… and a few other ideas for the future, but don’t hold your breath …

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I’ve decided to produce a copy of my favourite ruler, but with a few small improvements: light, flexible, 500 mm long, double sided, NO inches, NO half mm marks, NO cms [all in mms], short divisions for easy reading to name but a few. smartRule, of course – more news anon.

‘Precision Inlay Corner Jig’: catchy name, huh! My disappointment with the way Veritas dealt with this project leads me to want to have it made myself, which was my original intention. But I can’t think of a convincing name that incorporates the smart tag! – suggestions on a postcard. Better still by email.

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Coloured lines: of various formats, also part-made elements such as pre-dimensioned cores and laminated veneers to enable you to make up lines to your own designs. And box kits, pre-veneered boards, advice sheets – still working on what to make available. But all firmly there, together with “The Incomplete Guide to Box Making”, somewhere in my very well used, and extremely long and tortuous pipeline.

And some other hardware items: sliding button catches, push button catches and others – all will make their way on to the site in due course.


‘Gold’ BMW – 5 day course

As you might remember, I did the first ‘Gold’ course earlier in the year, but it was spread over two weekends. It went fine, but only two people booked – there were many people interested, but the two weekend format was clearly a disincentive. I had thought to offer it for four people as with the normal weekend, and in the end I was very glad that it was only two as there were certain logistical issues that needed addressing to do with tool availablity, working space and so on.

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This time I decided to have five consecutive days, Thursday – Monday, and the first five day ‘Gold’ BMW happened in October. I’m very pleased with the way it all went. I decided to limit it to three participants until I was sure everything was working as it should. There was no problem filling the places this time, the format was much more popular, but one cancelled late on so it was back to two again!

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The schedule went very smoothly, the boxes were completed in the time and came out very well, and hopefully lots of important techniques learnt along the way. Fitted with smartHinges of course, and Ian Hawthorne’s Neat locks. Carsten and Robert seemed well pleased.


course dates for the first half of 2014:

January 18th/19th

February 22nd/23rd

March 6th – 10th [‘Gold’ 5 day course] – NB: full
March 15th/16th

April 12th/13th
April 26th/27th

May 10th/11th
May 22nd – 26th [‘Gold’ 5 day course]

June 7th/8th 
June 12th – 16th [‘Gold’ 5 day course]
June 28th/29th

July 12th/13th

There are still places available on all dates EXCEPT the March 6-10 5 day course which is already full. As always these dates are offered to newsletter subscribers well ahead of them being posted on the website. This time I will probably wait until after Christmas to post on the site.

If you’d like more information on the ‘standard’ two day weekend courses please go here – and for info on the 5 day courses go here and here, or email me any Qs, of course.

I am having to increase my prices slightly, but am holding them steady for newsletter subscribers until the end of the year. If you’d like to book a place, please let me know as soon as you can – and perhaps consider a token for a discount, see below …

booking your place:

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Option 1: email me the date you’re interested in, I will email you the relevant information and, assuming I have a place available, 50% deposit [or 30% for a 5 day course] will secure your place.

Option 2: or, if you play your cards right you could land a box making course, or a contribution towards one, as a gift. But you will need to persuade someone you love, or perhaps more importantly someone who loves you, to buy you a:

Fine box making
in the
Shropshire hills

Gift Token!

The ideal gift for the man, or woman, who has [almost] everything.

Simply buy a token online to a set value to give [or receive!] as a gift. This value can then be used towards booking a course – see option 1 above.

The values offered are £20, £50 and £100, or the ‘weekend course’ voucher. The full cost of the weekends is normally £285, but buying a token in advance qualifies you to a 15% discount, so the Gift Token price is £242.25.

I can also supply a Gift Token for a course on a specific date, but this can’t yet be bought online as I always need to confirm that there’s a place available. Please email me to let me know the date and course you would be interested in and we can take it from there. The 15% discount also applies.

Who knows, drop a hint in the right company and you might be lucky!

Available now – click here.


and now for something completely different …

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 – in honour of the Pythons reforming, of course.

This has little to do with boxes, but something to do with wood and music, two things I have a certain interest in. ‘Henrietta’ is a true story about a piano. Or was it a harpsichord. Anyway, this has been stuck away in a corner on my fine-boxes website in an area called ‘Pandora’ and I thought it was time it had an airing. Click here to read, and hopefully enjoy.



Well, that’s it for this one – I will try to pick up some of the loose ends from the last three or so letters in the next one.

In the meantime wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and all you would wish for in the new year.

Thank you for reading.

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Andrew Crawford

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