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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Treasure Boxes

Segmented Mahogany & Bigleaf Maple Burl Box

Small, round lidded boxes have been popular for probably as long as woodturners have spun wood. They're favored by many who want or need an attractive container to protect their smaller "treasures", such as jewelry. They can be more than just functional, and often are cherished as a treasure themselves, being passed down as heirlooms through the generations. In days gone by, grandpa may have kept his cuff links (remember those?), or maybe his spare change (remember that?!), in one. Maybe grandma saved buttons in a wooden box, or lovingly kept her special ring in it. In either case, the box was probably worn smooth, like a banister post polished by hands that pivot about its top on every trip down the stairs.

Today, people still stash their keepsakes in turned wooden boxes, and still clink their spare change into one, but they also buy them just because they value them as art pieces that happen to have functionality to boot. There's no other substance like wood, with its infinite variability of color, texture, warmth, figure, lustre, and feel. It's one of life's little pleasures to see a piece of finely turned wood on your dresser each day, and to lift its lid off to peek inside. It even smells good.

The box pictured below is especially distinctive because it was turned from a remnant chunk of the once-mighty American Chestnut, which had been the dominant tree of America's eastern hardwood forests, but was virtually wiped out by the chestnut blight some 70 years ago. Chestnut built America. It framed our barns, our houses, factories, churches and schools. It provided crops of sweet nuts for man and beast. Chestnut posts fenced millions of acres of land, and bedded thousands of miles of railroad.

American Chestnut & Kingwood Box
Although there are millions of Chestnuts still sprouting from unseen root systems, they quickly succumb to the blight, rarely growing to more than perhaps 6 or 7 inches in diameter before they die. Scientists and enthusiasts are busily cross breeding blight resistant specimens of American Chestnut with other resistant species, such as the Oriental Chestnut, to hopefully re-introduce a resistant American Chestnut into the forests someday, but we will never see a mature American Chestnut forest in our lifetimes. So, this box represents a lot of history, a reminder of the huge role that Chestnut played in the building of America.

Camphor Laurel & Ebony Box
When a lidded box is made from a fragrant wood, it can be a delight to open for many years ... each time you pop off the lid, the aroma wafts up to brighten your mood, and you can't help but smile as you purposefully lift the box to your nose. Who'd guess that such a simple thing could change your outlook on life?

One such fragrant wood is camphor laurel. Its aroma never fades, and can easily fill a small room each time a box made of it is opened. And, it's a really pretty wood too. The photo at left is a camphor laurel box with ebony pull. What striking grain! You never forget the name of this wood- it instantly comes to mind each time you open the box.

These and other turned boxes are available for purchase at www.timberturner.com, and at www.bowlwood.com .

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