Shed Some Light on Hand-Built SimplicityComments (0)
By George Huron
The strength of dovetails, the beauty of miters and the elegance of oiled cherry all work together to make this candle box a labor of love that will be cherished for years to come.
As the instructor at a school special-izing in traditional woodworking, one of my jobs is to design attractive classroom projects that emphasize fundamental hand tool skills. I often design Shaker-inspired projects because I admire the principles of simplicity, practicality and fine craftsmanship exemplified in Shaker furniture. My appreciation for Shaker furniture began when I read “Making Authentic Shaker Furniture: With Measured Drawings of Museum Classics” by John G. Shae. I remember how impressed I was with the elegant, strong, functional and beautifully proportioned cabinetry, chairs and tables in this book. Over the last 10 years, I’ve built many Shaker-inspired pieces. Each was simple enough that I could understand the steps needed for their construction and yet complex enough to challenge my growing skills. My students find building this candle box a valuable and enjoyable learning experience because they use most of the hand tools in the toolbox, complete the project in one day and find the end result pleasing.
Because candles were once made with tallow and were edible, they were stored in boxes to protect them from rodents. Although candle boxes were not exclusively a Shaker idea, many examples exist displaying their exacting craftsmanship. These boxes were made in great variety but often incorporated dovetails. Variations featured hinged lids and bottoms attached with nails.
This candle box is not a reproduction of a Shaker piece as much as it is inspired by such designs. Dovetails strengthen the box and grooves cut into the sides create a framework for the bottom panel to support the contents of the box, and for the top panel to slide in and out. Miters at the corners prevent the grooves from showing through to the outside surfaces.
The process of cutting the joinery for this candle box uses hand tools, but many of the steps described here can be accomplished using power tools. For example, I use a plow plane to cut grooves, but they can also be cut using a router or a table saw. I leave it up to you to choose the tools you are most comfortable using.
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