What might have been

The Cuban mahogany box is now in the care of UPS, speeding to Seattle for a just-in-time appearance in the Annual Box Show at Northwest Fine Woodworking. The last few days had more adventure than I might have wished, including an out-of-proportion circus concerning the bottom of the tray.

I like to open a box and find a prize inside, kind of like Cracker Jacks. Lacking time to make an elaborate tray I scoured my wood supply for something special and stumbled on some maple left from a tree taken down for the renovation of Kearney Hall at Oregon State. Most of that wood went to a gift commissioned by OSU for the major donor in the project:

but a single sawn veneer remained. Its strong graphics complemented the Macassar ebony of the tray sides and provided a satisfying surprise when the lid was raised. I made up a panel with the veneer (an overnight stay in the vacuum press), but it tore out badly when I planed it to thickness the next day. I tried to remove the tearout in the usual way with a handplane, but the panel was small and warped slightly from the pressing and resisted. 
Anxious to get this minor piece of the project complete, I tried to emulate my friend Bill Storch–who can perform miracles with a belt sander–and safely sand the tearout away. The panel tried a new trick: each time I sanded a side, the panel would warp the opposite way, presumably something to do with the heat that sanding generated. Stopping often to check the work and flip it for a balanced result, I gradually removed tearout until, just as the last torn fibers were disappearing…a ghostly pencil mark appeared in the center. 
A pencil mark? How can a pencil mark appear while sanding? Sanding makes pencil marks disappear, and anyhow there wasn’t a pencil mark in the first place. Except for one on the side I had glued down. 
Bad words. 
Yes, even though there appeared to be plenty of margin when checking the process, the center had become so thin that you could see the pencil mark on the glue face, and the bland face of the core. 
It would have been nice,

but no luck. I thought about inlays and various other fixes but the sand-through was in an awkward spot and there was nothing to do but cover it.

This was probably my favorite option:

but I wasn’t sure the gallery would approve, so I went conventional in the end, shown here with the chisel used to carve the handles:

In this close up you can see a bit of the striped Macassar that I liked with the sadly unusable maple.

And here is one of the handle/pull/grabber-do things.

I started using these after watching everyone lower the lid on my madrone box (pictured in previous post) by grabbing the corners even though there is a perfectly good handle in the center. They are also fun to make, though they resist being finalized; I recarved them slightly three or four times after applying the finish, the last time barely an hour before packing it to ship. They need to be just so. 

One thought on “What might have been

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