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Bent-Wood Box Making

A rewarding woodworking project steeped in tradition.

Tuition: $825

Materials: $159

Wood carving photo

Note: This is a five-day course ending Friday evening.

Before modern kitchen and household storage systems, there were bentwood boxes. Colonials readily adapted local wood to the design and construction of bentwood boxes, and New England whalers fashioned round boxes out of materials at hand. The Shaker communities of the early 1800s elevated box making to a whole new level fashioning oval, painted pre-Tupperware utilitarian storage containers. Today, the bentwood box is a beautifully fashioned and finished keepsake box ranging in size from small ring boxes to ones that can be used as coffee tables.

Instructor Bill Jordan will begin the week with a history of bentwood boxes in America. Bill will then demonstrate the various hand tools and stationary shop equipment that students will use during the course. Over the five days, each participant will complete a set of five nesting Shaker-style boxes, one small serving tray, and a special 2019 WoodenBoat School Class Box with a hand-carved whale on the lid. In addition, students will see examples of Colonial-style boxes and, time permitting, build one. Students will also make their own forms and templates to continue box making in their home workshops.

Wood carving photo

Box making can be a gateway to boatbuilding. Bending wood is typically a part of wooden boat construction. Bentwood boxes are held together with small tacks and clench-nailed, much like small lapstrake boats. Handles can be attached to boxes with the same rivets and techniques used in small-boat construction. Small hardwood pegs secure the bottoms and tops of bentwood boxes just as trunnels do in certain wooden boat construction, and boxes can be finished in spar varnishes and paints to give them a nautical feel and look.

“Thank you for giving so many people the opportunity to learn and enjoy themselves in such a beautiful setting.”
N.M., São Paulo, Brazil
“The thought that I could bend wood was intriguing. The realization that I could bend wood into a beautiful gift was rewarding. But when I started making boxes and experienced how relaxing it was, that sealed the deal.”
Bill Jordan