The Letter Box

Large letter box made with maple and walnut

Over the years I save the cards and letters from “She Who Must Be Obeyed” but lacked a space to put them. While I enjoy making things for her, making something for me was not on the list. However…an excuse to ruin some wood was at hand.

I started with some 1/4″ flat curly maple and highly figured walnut. I made four panels and a lid backing the 1/4″ with plywood and securing it all with marine epoxy. In hindsight, I should have used Baltic Birch as the stuff I chose had voids. Once dry, I trimmed the panels to size and used curly maple for the corners.

Once the box was built, I cut the lid off on the table saw and capped the edges with walnut. I have a love-hate relationship with Brusso quadrant hinges, but once the box revealed itself, there really wasn’t a choice. If you do these, use a drill press and very sharp chisels to cut your holes. They make a template for these but I’ve tried two and fitting by hand gives me the best results.

Custom escutcheon by
AB Craftworks, Croatia

Add a half mortise lock set and then the escutcheon. There is some symbolism in out relationship, my wife and I, so a custom piece was in order. Etsy was my friend and I hooked up with Boris, a craftsman in Croatia (AB Craftworks). Several design mods back and forth and he cut a coin that turned out far better than I had hoped. It’s solid brass so no plating to worry about. I cut the key-way first because of where I wanted it to be on the face, then cut the mortise for the coin.

Sanded to 320 and finished in 8-10 coats of tung oil varnish. The sized are only moderately polished, but the top got the full treatment. After several weeks to cure, I cut the finish down to 3200 and polished with cutting wax and finally polish. (These are hand finishing products but I’ve been watching some Blacktail Studios stuff for years and Cam has broken the code on mirror finishes which I may try.)

Once finished, the interior was lined with suede cloth, brass handles were added, and a small rails for the inner box.. the rails are waxed with carnuba to allow the box to slide.

Overall, I think this came out well. The chatoyance in the maple is amazing and the walnut isn’t bad either. Other than the plywood choice, I’d do it again.