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“And The Winners Are . . .” Here are The Top 10 Lidded Boxes in This Woodworking Contest

by Mark Stephens | March 23rd, 2015
Entries at Practical Art

What good is a lidded box if you can’t open it to see the details? You’re allowed to handle the artwork at this event.  It was a packed house on March 21 in which visitors to the reception could check out the box contest entries and vote for their 3 favorites. The top 10 boxes are below.

We host two woodworking contests per year, and if nothing else, we’re having an awful lot of fun admiring and showcasing the beautiful work our customers do. In this third installment, we asked people to make a lidded box no larger than 16″ in any direction. It could be any shape or style – it just needed a lid.

So who won, right?

Below is a gallery of the top 10 winners as decided by the general public. Even though these 10 had the honor of taking home a prize, every participant deserves recognition and thanks for being willing to put their effort and creativity on display for critique. But I’m sure you’ll agree (more or less) with the finalists below.

How Voting Worked

There were two ways to vote, and voting was open to the public. Vote online, or in person at Practical Art in downtown Phoenix where the boxes were on display. The ballot system was the same for both venues though:

  • Choose your three favorite boxes
  • You must pick three, and they must be different boxes
  • Ballots that voted for the same box more than once were discarded

In these contests we want to reward effort, skill, and creativity, which is a task that’s easier said than done. Therefore we believe that if you come in to see the boxes in person that your vote should be worth more than a vote submitted online. Makes sense right? Those who take the time to admire these boxes with their eyes and feel the lids, joints and finishes with their hands have a better perspective than those who see a picture online or just make a few clicks in favor of their friends. So all the votes that were made in person at Practical Art were worth two.

Total Votes: 1,924

1,512 votes came in online, and 412 came in in person. The “bonus” for voting in person made a big difference in the results. And I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

ribbon-blue 1st: The Guitar by Dale Schmitt

Woods used: Curly maple, Pacific quilted maple, purple heart, cherry

Finish: Catalyzed lacquer (spray)

Dale’s small jewelry box easily stands out from the rest because of its guitar shape. But lift the lid and you’ll find a unique tray that spins and reveals hidden storage underneath. In Dale’s words: “I find that paying attention to detail is very important to achieve the best results.” Indeed, click the images to get up close to this winning box. You’ll see he built a snug display stand, made authentic guitar parts like the bridge, neck and frets, and sprayed a glass-smooth clear finish. Congratulations to Dale.

Prize: Tormek T-4 wet grinder sharpener

Click to enlarge:

ribbon-red2nd: Art Deco Box by Bill Barrand

Woods used: Mahogany, zebrawood

Finish: Conversion varnish (spray)

You can rely on Bill to produce a completely original design when he’s faced with the challenge of a woodworking show. He’s entered a piece in every one of our contests, and for this one he chose a bent lamination project. Bill used some mahogany from his 25-year-old stash of the good stuff to contrast with the striped zebrawood.

Prize: Wilton Tradesman Vise

Click to enlarge:

ribbon-yellow3rd: Jewelry Box by Ron Beauregard

Woods used: Lacewood, curly maple, bubinga, black palm

Finish: Tung oil

Ron put his skills to the test to create this sophisticated jewelry box. While he used several types of woods with different colors and grain types, it’s not overboard.  The lacewood sides feature some gentle angles instead of strong perpendicular lines and the corners are reinforced with contrasting splines. But look at the lid. It’s just a nicely figured piece of curly maple but the narrow and off-center inlay strip of lacewood ties it to the box sides without much fanfare. The interior top tray is attached to the lid with a pin-and-arm hinge that lifts and supports it as the lid is opened. The black palm knobs are rounded and slightly tapered. These little details, and more, tells the story of the time and energy he put into this box – he earned every vote with this stunning box.

Prize: Tenryu Gold Medal Table Saw Blade

Click to enlarge:

4th Place: Nature’s Gift Keepsake Box by John Porter

Woods used: Cherry, bubinga, satinwood, curly maple

Finish: Satin lacquer

As you can surmise, John made this box as part of a birthday gift. It worked as the presentation of his wife’s new iPhone. To create the bow, he laminated blanks of bubinga and satinwood cut them to the shape, but drilled out the inner loops and used a bandsaw to cut out the remainder. The gift tag is laser engraved curly maple, and the lid is simply a fitted left-off lid. Naturally, this box drew a lot of attention for its unique lid. John happens to be the manager of the Woodworkers Source store on I-17 in north Phoenix.

Prize: Bessey clamps

Click to enlarge:

5th Place: Rustic Live Edge Box by Rick West

Materials used: Eucalyptus, ebony

Finish: Laquer

Rick used some unique eucalyptus from a tree that fell down in his friend’s yard. Working with eucalyptus is tricky, as Rick says, because it’s hard and brittle. Plus the wood formed numerous cracks, but he filled them with epoxy and crushed turquiose. While the figure and wild look of the box lid grabbed a lot of attention, Rick applied a flawless finish to the box that really helps make it looks its best.

Prize: General Tools Moisture Meter

Click to enlarge:

6th Place: Memory Box by Betsi Packwood

Woods used: Chakte kok, walnut, lacewood, sirari, bamboo, ebony, holly

Finish: Old Masters Gel polyurethane

Betsi worked long and hard to create this segmented masterpiece that’s 12″ in diameter. Her style is to turn in a way that leaves the facets on the sides while also including numerous intricate designs throughout. In case you didn’t think she did enough, Betsi also included a fitted, removable tray. Her finish is a satin sheen wipe-on gel polyurethane.

Prize: Portamate Roller Stand

Click to enlarge:

7th Place: Small Jewelry Box by Brett Eichmann

Woods used: Wenge, zebrawood

Finish: Satin lacquer (spray)

Brett chose the stunning combination of zebrawood and wenge for his box. At first glance, the box just looks like a simple rectangle, but he knows how to pay attention to details. Brett cut and assembled the box sides in way that forces the grain to wrap around it in sequence. He also crafted removable trays that are just flawless. Two things draw your attention to this box. First, the perfect lacquer finish. Second, Brett’s command of proportions. It’s a small box, and therefore the parts are thin – such as the 1/2″ thick sides, the 1/4″ thick lid, and trays assembled from 1/8″ thick wenge strips.

Prize: 3-piece Chisel Set

Click to enlarge:

8th Place: Triangular Box by Oscar Witham

Woods used: Fall offs

Finish: Danish oil

The lid on Oscar’s box is a captivating visual puzzle, much like a mosaic. He used just small pieces that fell off from a different project and came up with this unique box.

Prize: Zona Miter Box and Saw

Click to enlarge:


9th Place: Displacement by Chris Ewald

Woods used: Walnut, maple

Finish: Boiled linseed oil

The basic design of this box is a rectangle with an inward angled bottom. You can see the inspiration on the cover of AJ Hamler’s book The Box Builder’s Handbook. But Chris basically “displaced” it on a peculiar axis. It’s certainly a whimsical take on the basic lidded box. Chris’s work turned a lot of heads.

Prize: General Tools digital t-bevel

Click to enlarge:

10th Place: Scrolled Jewelry Cabinet by James Butler

Woods used: Oak, walnut, bloodwood

Finish: Satin lacquer (spray)

A scroll sawn box takes a lot of time and patience, but it paid off here. While James says the pattern was “relatively simple” (side note: that’s simple?!), attaching the sides to the legs was tricky thanks to the angle.

Prize: Powermatic shop apron

Click to enlarge:

See 99 Marvelous Lidded Boxes in This Woodworking Contest

by Mark Stephens | March 17th, 2015
Prizes for the woodworking contest

The top three entries in this contest win some fantastic tools from our fine vendors.

I really hope you spend more than a few minutes browsing the gallery of marvelous projects below. The 99 lidded boxes you’ll see are the entries in our latest woodworking contest, and we’d sure like your help picking the best ones. No doubt, it might be overwhelming. 99 boxes is a lot of boxes.

We set two requirements: 1). the boxes must be no larger than 16″, and 2). they must have a lid. With that, these woodworkers sauntered to their shops and created some stunning work.

You’ll find triangle boxes, hinged boxes, sliding lid boxes, one “secret puzzle” locking box, several turnings, dovetail joints, a few scroll-sawn boxes, some with fancy exotic woods, others with reclaimed and repurposed materials, and dozens of others that’ll simply blow your mind. The boxes are made by hobbyist woodworkers who, as you’ll see, have some fascinating skills that should be celebrated. So that’s what we’re going to do.

On Saturday, March 21 at 5:00 there’s going to be an awards ceremony and maker reception at Practical Art (Central & Camelback in downtown Phoenix) – if you can be there, you should! There’s nothing quite like getting to see these great looking projects up close. In fact, there are more than a few pictures below that just can’t convey the detail, artistry, and well-honed skill that went into creating the boxes. Come see these in person if you can, we’re collecting votes for your favorite three entries at Practical Art. (If you can’t come on Saturday, try to swing by anytime this week between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm – it’s open.)

First Place: Tormek T-4 wet sharpener
Second Place: Wilton Tradesmen Vise
Third Place: Tenryu Gold Medal 10″ Table Saw Blade
+ more prizes

For those of you who can’t make it to Practical Art at all, cast your vote here.

Online Voting Ends March 21, 2015, 9:00 AM PST/12:00 PM EST

  • Determine your three favorite boxes
  • Enter the 3-digit code listed under the picture of your favorites
  • Choose three different projects
  • Do not vote for the same box more than once per ballot. Ballot will be disqualified.

Online voting is now closed. Results are posted here

3 More Easy & Exquisite Finishes for Mahogany Woodworking Projects

by Mark Stephens | March 10th, 2015

Each of these finished samples is 8″x20″ and cut from the same board – yet, you can get vastly different (and beautiful) results with a very simple technique, demonstrated below.


If you’ve seen our other tutorial on three tips for finishing mahogany, you’ll start to notice a basic four-step formula I like to employ to arrive at certain colors and characteristics:

  1. Dye
  2. Sealer
  3. Glaze
  4. Clear finish

That’s it.

Does it seem like an arsenal of chemicals? Believe it or not, the steps go quickly, and it’s actually a watered down version of what many professional furniture finishers do. So, don’t worry – this is not an uncommon practice, plus the steps you see here can be pulled off by any hobbyist woodworker with supplies found at a retail woodworking store.

There’s nothing especially proprietary with the brands and products I’ve used in the tutorial below. You can use similar colors by other brands. These just happen to be my choice because they work well and I’m accustomed to them.

I’ve performed these finishes on genuine Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) from Belize. But they’ll work on other types of wood such as African mahogany.

1. Classic Aged Mahogany

It’s one of the certainties when working with mahogany that once you cut it, plane it or sand it, the freshly revealed wood is disappointingly light. Mahogany needs to oxidize to its naturally coppery bronze color. Or you do this instead. Age it with a little bit of dye and a soothing, yet light, glaze of brown. The result is a wonderful and consistent warm mahogany color that very few would believe .

Products used:

  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Golden Fruitwood”
  • Zinsser SealCoat (dewaxed shellac)
  • Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain

How to do it:


2. Cognac Mahogany (Greene and Greene Style)

If you want less gold and more brown in your mahogany, try this. It’s a variation on the Greene and Greene style recipe by Darrel Peart that begins by mixing 7 parts orange to 4 parts medium brown dye, then diluting the mixture and applying it in a series of coats. (Applying dye in several diluted coats is a good practice). Instead, this mix is 5 parts orange to 4 parts brown. The only difference between this finish and the “Classic Aged Mahogany” above is the addition of the brown dye.

Products used:

  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Golden Fruitwood”
  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Brown Maple”
  • Zinsser SealCoat (dewaxed shellac)
  • Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain

How to do it

Start by mixing a batch of dye in a mixing cup. Try a 5:4 ratio of Golden Fruitwood to Brown Maple. Then move on to these steps, which are essentially the same as above.


3. Burgundy Red Mahogany

Going further, you can take that same mix of dye that’s used in the cognac color above and just add a little bit of reddish purple to arrive at a starkly different color.

Products used:

  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Golden Fruitwood”
  • Behlen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Brown Maple”
  • Belen Solar-Lux NGR Dye “Medium Red Mahogany”
  • Zinsser SealCoat (dewaxed shellac)
  • Old Masters Dark Walnut gel stain

How to do it

Start by mixing a batch of dye in a mixing cup. Use 5:4:2 ratio of the dyes in this order Golden Fruitwood:Brown Maple:Medium Red Mahogany  Then do the same application process.