Make a Book Box

A few years ago, I made a shrink pot for my daughter in the the form of a book (photo below). I think I had first seen an example made by Jögge Sundqvist. It is simply a shrink pot with a rectangular bottom and a sliding dovetailed lid. Wonderful fun.

Wanting to make one for my son, I experimented with a different construction technique using dry wood and multiple pieces.

Emma’s shrink book made from three pieces.

Here are the six pieces for Noah’s book. The wood is butternut. The joinery is a simply a combination of dadoes and rabbets cut with a knife, chisel, and rabbet plane. I made sure all was square and such by following the sawing with some work with a sharp plane and a shooting board. The overall finished box dimensions are 9 3/4″ x 7 1/2″ x 2 3/8″, but anything is possible. The dadoes are 3/16″ wide and the bottom panel is trapped in them. I made the front and back covers 7/16″ thick to allow for the depth of carving. The spine is 3/4″ thick and the opposite side is 3/8″.

I made tapered square pegs to secure the glued rabbet joints, first splitting square pieces from dry walnut stock, then shaving them down with a chisel against a stop. Something like 3/16 square at the fat end.

I drilled holes — maybe 5/32″ diameter — through the rabbet joint and hammered in the pins along with some glue. The corners of the pegs had no problem cutting into the softer butternut wood.

Of course, the sky’s the limit as for decoration. I was inspired by a photograph of Noah from a hike we had taken. After outlining the foreground silhouette in black India ink with a brush, I cut grooves around the border with a V-tool.

I also did some carved texturing of the background and sky. In the photo above, I had begun to add some color to the background fields with thinned artist oil paint.

Then I went nuts. Color is daunting for me, but why not give it a shot? Play around. Experiment. Make mistakes and learn. There are advantages to being a woodworker rather than a heart surgeon.

One of Noah’s favorite authors is Hermann Hesse. Hesse’s book Wandering: Notes and Sketches is a commentary on the author’s re-exploration of a land from his youth. Considering Noah’s love for the book, I carved a quote emphasized in Wandering into the back cover.

Here’s a shot of the spine.

I used a toothing plane iron like a scraper to make grooves in this surface to suggest pages.

The rabbeted lid slides in grooves made up of dadoes cut into the covers and spine. After all of the carving was finished, I put a coat of linseed oil over the book box, paint and all.

Whether made like a shrink pot or through joinery, these book boxes are a lot of fun to make and provide a special place to stash special stuff.

Trees have long thoughts, long—breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is.

Hermann Hesse, Wandering: Notes and Sketches (1920), [translation by James Wright, 1972]

This entry was posted in books, Lettering, quotes and excerpts, shrink box, trees, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Make a Book Box

  1. Skip Florey says:

    Dave, What a wonderful treasure. Combining some things that Noah loves show a father’s love.
    I haven’t seen an idea like this before, so thank you for the instruction!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Emil Dahl says:

    These really made me smile. Really fantastic work!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Richard HETRICK says:

    Wow Dave!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is fantastic. I love the finished product so much!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Steve Downs says:

    What artistry! I can’t imagine a gift that would be more treasured by a son from his father.


  6. Dave, The work you share is consistently beautiful but this book box is just exceptional! Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. William Auld says:

    Amazing, as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Scott Thomas says:

    I hope Emma and Noah know how blessed they are to have such a skilled and talented father who obviously loves them very much. These boxes, like your bowls and other items, are just beautiful and I’m sure they will be cherished for years to come and passed, one day, down the line.


  9. francedozois says:

    just fabulous, lucky son and daughter–

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thomas B. Goodman says:

    You have inspired me, sir. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your gift.
    Do you have any updates on in-person classes?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dave Fisher says:

      I haven’t scheduled anything at this point, Thomas. Thank you for asking. Only so much time now and lots to fill it, but I hope a class won’t be too far off. We’ll see.


  11. MRodgers says:

    Very cool! As a book lover in a family of book lovers, I sense some Christmas presents in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Frances Courtenay Huff says:

    What an amazing treasure. Wish I had the skill to create something like this. I am in awe.


  13. 25LTuesday says:

    What an amazing treasure. Wish I had the skill to create something like this. I am in awe.

    On Tue, Jul 13, 2021 at 11:00 AM David Fisher, Carving Explorations wrote:

    > Dave Fisher posted: ” A few years ago, I made a shrink pot for my daughter > in the the form of a book (photo below). I think I had first seen an > example made by Jögge Sundqvist. It is simply a shrink pot with a > rectangular bottom and a sliding dovetailed lid. Wonderful ” >


  14. Bobs Email says:

    It is so nice to read the ruminations of a romantic!

    Bob Simmons

    Sent from my iPad



  15. Drew Knowland says:

    Dave, what a fabulous gift and yet another spectacular creation by you. You never cease to amaze and inspire me with your creativity and sense of design, not to mention the exquisite craftsmanship. Thank you for sharing your work and thoughts through these blog posts. They always make a special part of my day when you post them.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Steve D says:

    Your color experiment was a huge success. No reason to be daunted.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Scott Kinsey says:

    Outta the park. Thank you for sharing such love.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Barry Gordon says:

    MARVELOUS gift!


    Liked by 2 people

  19. Alison says:

    This is so beautiful! You are such an artist.

    Liked by 2 people

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