Beauty

I recently saw a bit of a talk show program on television. I don’t normally watch TV but I happened to be in a room where it was on. All in all, it was amusing and entertaining but one small and innocent comment caught my attention. One of the show’s guests, speaking about her new-born son said, “… unfortunately, he will be short like his father and me.”.

I am a little under five feet six inches. I am, truly, a short man. I do not, nor have ever, felt that my height is “unfortunate”. Why would a new mother find fault in her son’s body so soon and for such stupid reason. I assume she didn’t mean anything by it and was, most likely, just repeating a standard that she does not share that was given to her by the media. The truth is, there is no such bodily standards of beauty whether in media or reality. As far as Media is concerned there is only the too fat, too skinny, big ears, too short, too tall, big nose, small nose and so on. In reality, everyone and all of nature is beauty perfected. Still, these self-absorbed lies that we somehow fall short of the all illusive “standard” are present in every aspect of mainstream media. The reason for this? There is far less to sell to someone who is content, and more deeply, it destroys true concepts of humanity and beauty and confuses the viewer.

Are there such arbitrary standards for woodworking as well? Trends and preferences soon become standards for us as craftsman to live up to. I wanted to make a project that broke down, if only in a small way, some of these so-called “standards” so, I decided to make a dovetailed box from a humble, discarded 2×4. This box is simple, meek and uses no measurements.

First, I ripped the 2×4 in half, stopping just before cutting all the way through.

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I then cut the sides of the box. Because I didn’t rip it all the way though, I can cut the sides two at a time. One cut is measured from the width of the board (the four in the ‘two by four”). The next cut does not need to be measured at all. I cut it at about six inches. Next, I used the “six-inch” sides to measure the final cut for the lid and bottom. This saves time making six sides with only three cuts.

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The factory planed side of each board is flat and smooth enough for this simple box. The inside should be smooth enough, if I ripped it carefully, so no planning is required. Next, I set my gauge to the width of the boards and mark the stop lines for the dovetails. Clamping the sides together allows me to cut the tails two at a time.

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No need to measure the angles for the dovetails, since I will mark the pins from the tails. For this box, I chose to make just one large tail on each side. From there, I marked and cut the pins and shaped the lid. After the glue up, I used the box to mark out and cut the bottom to fit inside. This box is small enough not to swell and shrink a whole lot so butt joints with pins works just fine. One brass hinge holds the lid on.

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So that’s it. I don’t suppose this box will expand the parameters of what is considered Beautiful, but hopefully, it says something about the role and value of the discarded, used up, and “ugly”.

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About Anthony Wilder

I am an artisan woodworker from Grand Rapids, MI. Woodworking is my passion and I do all my work with hand tools. We can learn a lot from past methods and mindsets and I am working towards teaching the lost art of working wood.
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