Friday, April 24, 2009

The Rusling Box, Critical Evaluation...

One thing I loved about my studio art classes in college was that we learned really good peer- and self-evaluation skills. Having a critical review of my work is something I really miss, so I'm going to try and perform them on myself after each project.

Lessons Learned:
  • Carefully consider accepting a job when it involves a short time frame and your shop is completely dismantled.
  • Use the steel roller to press the fabric to the double-stick tape when making the lining.
  • Cheap locks are cheap for a reason - with a more expensive lock, you get easier installation.
  • Cut the lock mortise before gluing up the box.
  • Finish the inside of the box before gluing it up (I usually do this, but I was so rushed this time I forgot about it. I paid for it trying to get a good finish on the inside after it was assembled).
  • Mortise the hinges with a mortising pattern bit and my new hinge jig!
  • See if I can find some #1 screws so I don't have to use the round-headed pins to attach the catch on the lock.

Opportunities for Improvement:
  • I'm still not quite happy with my miter joints. I need to figure out how I can get them a little bit tighter.
  • Allow more time for the finishing process; I would have liked to give it a day or two to fully cure before rubbing it out, but I was under severe time constraints with this box.
  • Sharpen your damn chisels and plane blades, Ethan! I was ashamed at how poorly some of them were cutting. I need to develop the habit of sharpening my tools immediately after a project is done so they are ready for the next project.
  • As you can see in the picture below, the divider is not equally spaced. It wasn't meant to be. I laid out the space based on the average size of a sgian dubh. What I didn't count on was that it is close enough to the center of the box that it might look like I was trying to center it and failed. I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Final Statement:

I'm quite pleased with how this box turned out, all things said and done. I didn't like rushing through it; since woodworking is a hobby for me, I like to take my time and enjoy the process of creation and I wasn't able to feel that in every part of the process. I like the combination of the green suede cloth and the oak. I also like the bog oak escutcheon. I will probably use both of those ideas in future boxes. And I'll make sure my divider sections aren't too close to center of the box.

While it felt good to carry a camera around with me most of the time I was building this box, I think I spent an awfully long time writing every little step down. In the future, I'll try to take a good number of pictures but do a bit less typing when I talk about the project.

By the way... I'm always open to receiving constructive criticism on my projects and techniques. Honestly, I'll even politely listen if you have non-constructive criticism, but the constructive kind is more helpful.

Thanks to everyone who read through my sometimes extensive writing as I worked my way through this project! I promise future projects won't have as much "content". And thanks much to Jim Malcolm, former lead singer for Old Blind Dogs, whose music kept me company while I was writing my entries. If you're at all interested in hearing some really good traditional Scottish Folk music, please check him out.


The Village Carpenter said...

Ethan, the box looks great! And while having the courage to be self-critical is important and helps us improve, don't forget to pat yourself on the back for a job well-done. I guarantee you that the recipient will never notice the "mistakes".

I made a little miter jack for a small box-it helped immeasurably with making the joints tight. I'll send you a link in case it might help you in future.

Ethan said...

Thanks for the comments (and the link), Kari! I'll look into the miter jack.

I do the little 'pats' on the back as I'm building the box, usually. I'll make a comment like, "Oh that was a nice fit there, then, wasn't it?" or "you got that one dead on, didn't you?".

Weird. As I write it out, it looks like I end each statement in a question. Either I'm expecting myself to answer or I've been watching entirely too much Antiques Road Show on BBC America...

I think the important thing for me is to try and learn from my mistakes. That said, documenting the critical assessment makes me put them down to paper, as it were, and it always help me to remember something when I write it down.

mdx3mom said...


The box is beautiful. I must come by and see it in person.

Maybe I should get youto make me something for Mike. He really appreciates well made things like this. Besides he needs something for his small personal items.

But I think Dana would shoot me if I took up more of your precious time with her.

Ethan said...


Unfortunately (well, for you), the box is already en site in Scotland.

I'll try to make sure I'm not as rushed for the next couple of boxes so you can see a finished one before it gets shipped off.

Lately, though, I've had to mail them off within just days of finishing it.