Found Treasure

While looking through my collection of photos, I found a picture of a box that I made many years ago. It was my idea of what a treasure chest looked like.

I have added this chest to my gallery under the year 2009.

Small Treasure Chest

Although relatively small (only 13″ long), it was made very sturdily and weighed a lot – even when empty. The box was constructed with 3/4″ red oak, dyed with a dark walnut aniline dye. I cold-forged the strap hinges and handles, and fastened them to the chest with pyramid head screws.

This chest inspired the large yew treasure chest I made the following year that was featured in the Taunton Press book, Blanket Chests by Peter S. Turner and Scott Gibson.


Insanity 2: Doors

As you saw in my last post, I had created two doors with curved frames for Insanity 2.  The curved edges eliminated most of the conventional options of attaching doors to a cabinet, so I sat down with my sketch book to come up with other ways.


Here are the sketches that I drew.  Their only purpose was to illustrate different ways of attaching the doors to the cabinets and were not representative of the shape or size of the cabinet or other components.

Insanity 2 Door Attachment Sketch, Page 1Insanity 2 Door Attachment Sketch, Page 2

Thanks to Jeremy Morgan, Peter Franks, Chris Martin and Neil Zenuk for the suggestions.


Christy Oates – Crab Desk

Crab Desk by Christy Oates

Artist Name:  Christy Oates
Title:  Crab Desk
Details:  circa 2009  –  Plywood, maple veneer, steel hinges, acrylic paint, wood dyes
Flat:  48″W x 35″H x 1-1/4″T
Opened:  48″L x 14″W x 35″H (Desk) and 13″L x 13″W x 17-1/2″H (Stool)

Why It’s Notable:

This piece merges wall art with furniture and takes collapsible furniture to a new level.  A few folds and flips transform a picture of a desk into an actual working desk complete with a stool.  When not needed, both the desk and stool disappear into the wall.

Shell Box

At the beginning of October, I created a box whose design I absolutely adored. The proportions, the grain, the style… everything. It was also a fun box to build and simple in some regards, but quite challenging in others. I proudly showed my latest and greatest creation around and decided to go forward and begin producing them in quantities.

I started by analyzing the prototype and seeing what, if any changes were needed. A thicker lid reduced the chances of drilling through the top when installing the hinges. And routing, instead of drilling out the inside, created a more practical compartment.

To facilitate production, I started by building a jig which would allow me to hollow out the boxes accurately and efficiently. I also made a drilling jig which ensured that the holes drilled for the pin hinges were evenly spaced, which is crucial to their operation. And I also made a set of bevels (think sliding bevel, only fixed) to help lay out the carved lid. I also mortised a piece of plywood to hold a lid blank for carving without any clamps.

These four aids did help speed things along, but there is still an awful lot of handwork involved. The outside of the box is shaped by hand, the lid carved and everything sanded. Then I sprayed on three coats of semi-gloss lacquer, applied black flocking to the inside, and buffed the lid. Finally, I installed the pin hinges. Boy, that process sounds a lot quicker than it actually is!

This Just In…

A month-and-a-half ago, I was asked by the editors at Canadian Home Workshop to come up with some ideas for their annual gift idea issue.  I thought about it for a little while, about two weeks, before passing on my best idea – a little box I had dreamed up based on a wooden hinge I had made a few weeks prior.  Managing editor Jodi Avery MacLean loved it and asked me to make one for the gift issue.  However, because I had waited two weeks to get back to her, I now only had three days to finalize the design and make two boxes along with the necessary jigs to cut the finger joint and rout out the inside.  So I worked my tail off and managed to meet the deadline.  Then, over the next week, I put pen to paper to draft up an clear and concise article that I was happy with.

By now the November issue of Canadian Home Workshop has hit the newsstands, and lo and behold there it is on page 50.  Check it out!

Business Card Box

Tribute to the Butt Hinge

It may seem odd to some, but the truth is that one of my greatest inspirational sources is Lee Valley’s hardware catalog.  Many hours I have spent poring over the pages – mainly the Specialty Hardware and Small Box Hardware, but also the knobs, pulls, and other assorted hardware.

This was the case about a year-and-a-half ago.  I flipped the catalog open to a page and found myself looking at a page of finely made butt hinges made by Brusso.  Brusso Hardware is a company which has dedicated itself to creating high quality brass hardware for the woodworker who demands the absolute best.  As I marveled over the classic design of the butt hinge I began to think.  The hinge is a truly classy piece of hardware.  When installed, with the door closed, only the barrel (the pivot) is visible.  If the right finish is chosen, the barrel will either blend right into the woodwork or provide contrast, thus drawing attention to itself.

We must go back to the sixteenth century to fully appreciate the butt hinge.  According to Witold Rybczynski, in his book One Good Turn, he estimates that butt hinges were first used around this time.  At that time, strap hinges were the more common hinge.  They are usually mounted to the surface of the door and can simply be nailed in place.  This would be sufficient to resist any forces applied by the door.

However, because butt hinges are mounted to the edge of the door, all the weight of the door is pulling in the same direction as the fasteners used to secure the hinges.  For this reason, nails simply would not hold.  Remember, at this time, screws were not mass produced.  Each screw had to be made by hand, one at a time.  This meant that the quality of screws was very inconsistent and each screw was expensive.  As a result, they were only used where they were absolutely necessary – where a nail simply would not do the job.  So as butt hinges gained popularity, demand for screws increased.  Soon, inventors began coming up with ways to produce screws faster and of better quality.

Butt hinges represent a certain level of quality.  Not only does the quality of the hinge have to be good, the craftsperson must precisely mark the location of the hinges, cut the mortises to the correct depth, and mount the hinges squarely.  I wanted to make something that would bring attention to what many people know as just “a hinge”.

Then it struck me.  What if I were to make a butt hinge, say, 1″ thick.  For the proportions to look right, it should be, say, 2-1/2″ wide and… say, 3-1/2″ to 4″ long.  For the next year and a half, I ran this through my head hundreds and thousands of times, each time refining the proportions and the process of how to make it.  I also spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what is should contain.  A deck of cards?  A stack of business cards?  That thought is still playing over and over in my head as I write, for I still don’t know.

But last night, all that thinking and virtual rehearsing paid off.  In less that 2 hours, I had converted a vision into reality.  The result:  the Tribute to the Butt Hinge.  It’s just a mock-up – I’m sure to modify it somehow.  For now, the dimensions are 3-3/4″ by 2-1/2″ by 3/4″ thick.  What do you think?  I think this just might be the ticket.  The ticket for what, you ask?  Perhaps the ticket to millions…