November 2011

Fine box making in the Shropshire hills
November 2011

Fine Decorative Boxes

Hello, welcome to a very late newsletter. This was meant to come out sometime in August – but a couple of health issues have delayed things. Nothing too serious, just annoying, time consuming and inconvenient. But all sorted now … so, welcome from boxland, albeit a bit late.

Weekend courses:

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These are increasingly popular and every weekend this year has been full.

Extra weekend dates:

So, I had to add an extra weekend on July 16/17 and have added another extra one on December 10/11 this year. I still have a couple of places left for this, please email if you’re interested. I have also decided on a couple of early dates for 2012 – these are:

Jan 21/22
Feb 11/12

These dates will be posted on the site in about two weeks and places tend to go fast – so please email me to book a place in advance.

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Who would have thought that waxing a couple of veneered panels could be so much fun … ?!


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I’ve had a lot of visitors wanting to learn box making in the second half of the year, mostly from UK but also from as far afield as Switzerland and Thailand. The above images show a beautiful line being made by one, and the result inlaid into a walnut box …

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… and this shows a flute case being made by another recent visitor.

Box making done …

I’ve not managed to do much making this year, it has been very busy musically, and with health not being great and a lot of teaching … but I have done some:

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This is a pair of boxes for one customer featuring some beautiful figured maple and some inlaid mother-of-pearl stars.

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And I still have a lot of flute cases in progress, around 20 cases …

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… most of which I hope to deliver by Christmas.

‘Pilgrim’ glasses case

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When I posted a couple of pics of the box above earlier in the year the interior hadn’t been lined. Well, it now has – and I hope you’ll agree that it looks great with the beautiful ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ themed glasses finally fitted in place.

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The owner of this box also decided that he wanted some maple handles to help lift it – it IS quite a heavy box. So these were duly added.

The black and white squares which decorate this box neatly leads me on to …

Mystery pic

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OK – nobody got this. A couple came close, and it was perhaps a little obscure, but I think anyone who has done a similar job will have used a solution similar to this. The inlay lines for the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress box above incorporate around 14,000 little black and white squares. Well, these were made up in ‘logs’ tunbridgeware style and thin slivers were cut off on a small bandsaw.

And in order that there should be absolutely no break out – if you lose the bottom corner of the bottom square you have effectively lost a strip of squares in each dimension – you need to use what I think is properly referred to as a ‘sacrificial back fence’.

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Here you see the slivers in the process of being cut off – for each sliver cut [and there were a LOT!] a piece of the sacrificial fence is also cut off – thus preserving that all important back/bottom square intact.

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Here are just a few of the made up pieces ready to be put together to form the lines to be inlaid into the box.

Precision Inlay Corner Jig – not at all happy with Veritas!

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OK – I was going to include a very long old moan about my dealings with Veritas – but I decided it was not really appropriate for here. I may well eventually post something fuller on Lumberjocks [the best WW forum site there is – more on this and other forums in the next newsletter]. So for now I will just have a short, but nevertheless heartfelt moan. And there is a practical point to this …

Basically, I am hugely regretting my decision to approach Veritas to get this jig made, rather that getting it made myself. As it turns out I could have had it done for around half the cost, a year sooner than Veritas got it out, and be doing very well out of it by now. In addition, it is NOT after all a ‘Veritas’ product as I believed it would be – and the prospect of having a ‘Veritas’ endorsement for this was a very important factor in my approaching them in the frst place.

Also, despite the fact that my jig is based on the Veritas corner chisel, on the corner chisel listing on the Veritas site they refuse to give any clue that there is another jig available that uses the same chisel!

And although they are now including my name in their printed publicity and on the Lee Valley website, my name is NOT included on the printed information that is sent out with the jig, neither was I even consulted about the instructions! This I consider to be an unforgivable discourtesy to me, the originator of this jig.

Anyway – the point to all this is …

Corner jig Price cut:

I am on an extremely small royalty … so, in order to give sales a bit of a boost myself I’m now offering it at a substantially reduced price. My new price for this is £39.50 as opposed to £49.50 which is the price set by Veritas. I’m also offering a £10 voucher to be used towards a day of one-to-one tuition, or a weekend course, assuming you are in UK … or prepared to travel.

Incidentally – I have devised a jig for sharpening the corner chisel, always an awkward task. Here is a pic, and here is much more info posted on Lumberjocks

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… the movie:

The smartHinge movie I mentioned in the last newsletter is now up on YouTube – go here to watch just how EASY they are to fit. I plan another three movies: a more detailed one about the fitting, another one explaining the rationale of the design, comparing in detail with other hinges, the back story and so on, and a third showing a sdelection of work by makers [amateur and professional] who are using the smartHinge in their work. If you have used smartHinge
on a box of yours and would like it included in the movie, please send me good quality images and I will use them if I can.

The smartHinge has been getting very good reviews in all the WW press – and here are a couple of quotes from recent users:

“What can I say about those hinges? After fitting them I almost felt guilty. Like I had just cheated on an exam. It shouldn’t have been that easy. But it was and they were brilliant.”
PL, GMIT Letterfrack

Knighthood for Crawford

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The silver-plated smartHinge will be available very soon – please email me to reserve yours. And the matching smartLock shouldn’t be far behind … watch this space.

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Incidentally – it has always been my intention to supply a few steel screws as well so that the threads can be safely cut before inserting the brass screws. If anyone can point me in the direction of a company that manufactures decent quality 5/8” no.3 countersunk woodscrews in both brass and steel – I would very much like to know …

New Book

Some real progress on this – and in any case I console myself with the thought that the longer it takes …

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… the better it will be!

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I’m adding all the time to the tips and tricks that will be included – from truing imperfect boxwood squares to making your own beautiful zebrano lines …

Still no definitive publication date – but I’m working on it!


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I used to post all my musical goings on on the website, but I’ve now decided to put any relevant news in the newsletter. For anyone interested in early music as well as boxes I’m quite busy towards the end of this year. I was in Lausanne last week for a Matthew Passion with Gabrieli Consort and Players and for those liking French baroque I have a Wigmore Hall concert
on November 24th with Florilegium. Then I’m off with King’s Consort to do a couple of Bach B mi Masses in Barcelona and Vic, then back home briefly to fit in some box making work before I’m back to London to record the French baroque programme with Florilegium at the beginning of December.

There will be more news in the next newsletter on my students’ gallery [please send me your submissions] a bit of a look at woodwork forums, progress on my proposed box making supplies and much more. And it will hopefully not be as delayed as this one was!

Thank you for your attention – please note that I’m now away until Nov 30th [see music above] so will not be able to answer any emails in that time. But I will answer any comments as soon as I can after I return.

Happy box making!

Andrew Crawford.

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