July 2015

Fine box making in the Shropshire hills

Fine Decorative Boxes

Welcome to newsletter 16 – July 2015

This newsletter has been delayed by two main issues: I wanted to wait until I had some more smartHinges to offer all you hinge-starved box makers out there, and until my new fine-boxes slideshow was up and running. Despite my best efforts the new slideshow isn’t ready [see below] but I DO have some hinges to offer …

So, this is a slightly shorter than usual edition – to offer some smartHinges and to post my 2015 autumn course dates before we go away for a much needed rest.

And a request for help …



The company manufacturing these has now finally understood that after all these hinges are, as I’ve emphasised over and over again, harder to make than they first appear! And they also now seem to have finally understood the term ‘flaw-free high polish’ as clearly stated in the specifications I supplied them with more than 10 months ago!

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So, as a result of my relentless pursuit of excellence in these, we finally have some progress and I can offer some hinges again – see ‘buy smartHinge’ below. They are excellent quality, consistent and well polished. But please note, on a few in the current batch the stop angle tends to be nearer to 94˚ or even 95˚, so a little more than my preferred [and clearly specified] 93˚. But many box hinges go back to 100˚ or more, so I’m being somewhat picky here – but I’m still determined to eventually get this aspect perfect as well! The current ones are paired, so pairs of hinges will match.

Almost all the recent problems have been to do with the quality of the polishing …

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… and as one perceptive subscriber remarked recently: “You could have built (and polished) the Forth Bridge by now!” Thanks Philip!

buy smartHinge:

So, for now I can offer some very nice quality hinges – I’m limiting this to 5 pairs per person – and not posting them on the site yet – just email me how many pairs you’d like and I will send you the necessary details.

I can’t offer any price breaks at the moment as in order to achieve the current high quality the price to me has inevitably increased. But I’m holding the price the same – £29.50 a pair – and not charging postage to UK addresses. Outside UK the shipping is £5.50 for 1-5 pairs.

If the supply holds up I will be opening up the smartBoxmaker online shop again in the autumn so lining materials, inlay lines, abrasives, books and so on will be available again online. Don’t hold your breath, but I’m doing what I can to ensure that the matching smartLock will be available as well by the middle of October. Only a year late!!


I feel I should offer my apologies to anyone who has enquired about the hinges or offered helpful suggestions over the past few months and not got a response …

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… I’ve been inundated, and my best efforts at coping with all the enquiries, over and above my normal inbox, have at times not been equal to the task! I will be spending some downtime in France going back over my inbox and attempting to answer everyone. Don’t worry – I’ll be having plenty of time off too!


box making courses

The prices have gone up a little – the first time in a fair few years – as follows:

weekend course [max 4 people – £295 [£265 if paid in advance]

BMW ‘Gold’ 5 day course [max 4 people]  – £670 [£595 if paid in advance].

August 1/2 weekend places available:

There are still a couple of places available on the August 1/2 weekend course – please email me if you’d like to fill one of these – I‘ve disabled the online booking in case of multiple bookings.

autumn 2015 dates:


12th/13th – weekend box making course
17th-21st – ‘Gold’ 5 day box making course


3rd/4th – weekend box making course
8th-12th – ‘Gold’ 5 day box making course
24th/25th – weekend box making course
29th-Nov 2nd – ‘Gold’ 5 day box making course


14th/15th – weekend box making course
19th-23rd – ‘Gold’ 5 day box making course


5th/6th – weekend box making course
10th-14th – ‘Gold’ 5 day box making course

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This year’s courses have run very smoothly and have been very well received – a few recent comments:

… thanks for such an informative, constructive and enjoyable course. The other participants added to the whole ambience.
Gordon H, UK

Your approach to imparting woodworking skills is just right, an excellent combination of explanation, demonstration and hands-on …
David B, UK

I’ve had only one complaint in the 8 years of running my courses:

One complaint; Andy grinds and makes really excellent coffee but I told him he really ought to do it on the hour, every hour! Seriously, a true craftsman, very generous with time, knowledge and help.
Martin C, Kent, UK

info on weekend courses            info on ‘Gold’ 5 day courses

booking your place:

These new dates won’t be bookable on the box-making.com site until I post them publicly at the beginning of September, from which date it will be a free-for-all. So please email me which date you’d like and your payment preference:

 – a deposit for the full amount [50% for weekends and 30% for Gold]

 – or the discounted full amount up front saving 10%

 … I will then forward the necessary info.

If you’d like to book a place please do so soon, or in any case before August 7th. I will not be answering emails from then until the beginning of September.


newsletter 17 preview:

The next newsletter will be along soon, hopefully the second week in September, by which time I hope the new slideshow will be sorted, along with the new galleries, Pinterest and new Facebook page. And perhaps even the flute cases site which has been much neglected! Here are a few snippets/tasters of the subjects covered …

new slideshow:

What I do is very visual, and ever since I had the first version of the slideshow [12 years ago?] I’ve been keen to offer two ways of viewing my work: a random one, the slideshow, and a controlled one, the gallery – both residing on the fine-boxes site.

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The current versions are both old and are long overdue for updating, relying as they do on relatively small images and lacking a lot of recent material. With a view to offering a new updated version of both of these, and to make full use of Facebook, Pinterest and other social media, earlier this year I did a great deal of work gathering together and re-working material stretching back over 30 years. The result is around 1400 images.

As with everything else I have very specific requirements and don’t like settling for anything less! The large number of images, together with the requirement for a new random order for each visit and fast loading times, have led to my website company giving up on the problem! A few others have had a go, but so far without success. So, I would appreciate any ideas from all you web design and IT geniuses out there …

Anyway, I will be doing everything I can to get this going for the autumn and will update progress in NL17.

‘The Incomplete Guide to Box Making’

There is good progress to my new book, ‘The [Still] Incomplete Guide to Box Making.’

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Elements of the construction of the box shown here, similar to ‘Lava’ but using veneers cut from an elm burr on a green background, feature in the new book. There was plenty of lock fitting and keyhole cutting practice, resulting in the completed box looking rather like the mothership from ‘Close Encounters’! Not smartLock as I needed 10 different keys – anyway, more info in NL17.

also in NL17:

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I will reveal what the mystery pic and the deliberate mistake were in newsletter 14, and offer some weak excuses for a number of unforgivable NON-deliberate mistakes in newsletters 14 and 15. Also a project to make a domed-top flute case and a look back at some very duff early attempts at photographing boxes!

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Also the mystery of a very poorly made and designed coffee table and perhaps a coffee machine too far. Finally a good look at Frank Zappa, my double 24” disc sander, together with a bit of a discussion of disc sanders generally, and revealing an unexpected and somewhat tenuous further circular connection with FZ and Tina Turner …

until then …

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We are jumping on the car ferry to Bilbao. Amongst other things we intend to partly retrace a cycle trip I did over the Pyrenees in 1987 – a bit younger and fitter back then!

Thank you for reading – have a great summer!

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Andrew Crawford