Made by Hand

Shaker Oval Box Workshop and Resources

For the past two weeks I’ve been teaching a 4 part workshop on bending Shaker Oval Boxes. It’s been so much fun and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to learn how to make these elegant, smart and simple vessels along with my students at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA. I’m not saying the process is simple, there are a lot of steps and a lot that can go weird but like all Shaker design, its genius lays in its simplicity.

John Wilson the author of our text book,  Shaker Oval Boxes, Volume II.

John Wilson the author of our text book, Shaker Oval Boxes, Volume II.

All of what we have been learning over the past two weeks comes from the master box maker John Wilson. He and his family can provide you with all you will need to continue making Shaker Oval Boxes from their family home shop in Charlotte, Michigan. They do not take credit cards! Personal checks can be mailed once your order is delivered to your satisfaction.

The Home Shop

Materials and tools can also be found at Lee Valley at this LINK

A great source for local hardwoods like the cherry you have been using is Aura Hardwoods off 41st.

A good resource for milk paint if you’d like to add some color is at of course! Another family business. Their products are available locally at many area vendors. Here’s a list of California resources.

Lee Valley is also great for other tools but the Home Shop has everything you need to make many more boxes from cherry wood bands to water trays, tacks, templates and books!

FINISHING Once your top and bottoms fit and you have pinned them in you can use 150 to sand the pin stubs flush then 220 grit sandpaper to sand the entire box. Finally sand with mineral oil and 400 grit wet sandpaper creating a slurry of oil and cherry wood saw dust which will settle into the surface of your box to create a lovely smooth surface. Wipe off surplus oil and let dry 2 - 3 days. You can continue to oil and sand and call it complete or you can let the oil dry for a week, wipe it clean and apply either an oil based polyurethane or my preference Shellac, an alcohol based finish with an ancient past. It’s made from the secretion of the female lac bug. What’s not to love!

Finally, after a clear coat, or just oil, rub the surface of your box with a crumpled piece of paper shopping bag. It knocks down the gloss of shellac and gives the finish a softer more natural look.

Thank you so much for this past few weeks. Here are links to the handouts if you would like to refer to them in the future. And please feel free to contact me on my contact page. I hope to be back down next summer to teach more fun stuff with wood!

Some of our work. Looking good first-timers!

Some of our work. Looking good first-timers!