Japanese Inspired Jewellery Box

Monday 9 July 2018

Many of you by now will have guessed that I enjoy and gain much inspiration for my work from Japanese culture.

Not only is this source rich in simple forms, but the Japanese have a great ability to take a simple everyday utility item and turn it into an item of aesthetic beauty.

For this project I wanted to make a simple box from beech (Fagus sylvatica) inspired by a Japanese tea caddy. These are used predominantly today within the tea ceremony and are produced in many simple and elaborate forms. The caddies can retain the natural beauty of the wood or be highly lacquered and embellished with symbols, such as the crane, or as in this project, a cherry blossom decoration.

I wanted to make both types so I produced two boxes with the second being painted and embellished. The first, which is fully detailed within this article, shows how to make the box to include a simple beaded profile, which is intended to hide the join of the lid.

The second box is made in exactly the same way as the first with the exception that the exterior is sprayed to give the appearance of a faux lacquer. The traditional method of lacquering is very involved and highly skilled, but a good effect can be achieved using acrylic car sprays, if you strictly adhere to a few rules.

Both of these projects make very elegant jewellery boxes.

Tools used: 25mm (1in) spindle roughing gouge, 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge, 6mm (1/4in) spindle gouge, 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 3mm (1/8in) parting tool, 25mm (1in) round-nosed scraper and 6mm (1/4in) point tool

Step 1

Take a parallel beech (Fagus sylvatica) blank that measures 100mm (4in) square x 110mm (4 1/4in) long, place it between centres and rough down to round

Step 2

Using a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, parallel both faces and produce a spigot to suit your chuck jaws. If required, refine the profile of this with a skew held horizontally on the toolrest in the trailing mode

[sb>step 3

With a pencil, mark the position where the lid joins the base – this is approximately one third down from the top face of the blank

Step 4

Profile the outside shape of the box using a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge

Step 5

Refine the finish you have achieved with a 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel

Step 6

Part in with a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool centrally over the pencil mark to a depth of approximately 4mm (5/32in). Open this out to a width of approximately 8mm (5/16in) by removing equal material from both sides of the groove, this being the spigot onto which the lid will now fit

Step 7

Using a 3mm (1/8in) parting tool, part in within the groove previously produced closest to the lid. Leave about .5mm of the parted groove on the face of the lid – this will be the register line that is opened up to fit over the base spigot

Step 8

Part in with the 3mm (1/8in) parting tool to leaving approximately 10mm (3/8in) of material. Stop the lathe and use a saw blade to cut the lid from the base

Step 9

Using a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge, hollow out the inside of the box leaving the wall thickness around 6mm (1/4in), remembering not to remove the box spigot previously made with the parting tool. In this instance, the internal base profile is left curved

Step 10

Using a 25mm (1in) round-nosed scraper, refine the inside profile and make sure the tool is trailing

Step 11

Finish the inside with abrasive, either by hand or by power, using a 25mm (1in) sanding arbor from 120-400 grit

Step 12

Finish the front face and spigot down to 400 grit, by hand. Be careful not to alter the profile of the spigot. Next, seal the inside of the box with acrylic sanding sealer. Allow to dry and cut back the surface using '0000' wire wool with the lathe running at around 500rpm. Finally, apply several coats of spray acrylic satin lacquer to the inside. Allow to dry and cut back to smooth, as before, with fresh '0000' wire wool – this will give a protective satin sheen to the box's interior

Step 13

Place the lid into the chuck and use a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge to profile the inside, stopping short of the registration material left when you have parted off

Step 14

Use a 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel held horizontally and trailing on the toolrest to slowly open out the internal shoulder. Slightly taper this inward and regularly check the fit with the base. Once the base starts to fit into the lid, gently parallel the internal shoulder until you get a tight fit. Finish this shoulder off gently with 320 grit abrasive

Step 15

Use a 25mm (1in) round-nosed scraper to refine the lid interior. Finish by hand down to 400 grit abrasive, but be careful not to abrade the internal shoulder. Apply acrylic sanding sealer and lacquer to finish. Place the base of the box back into the chuck and fit the lid, bringing up the tailcentre. Using a 6mm (1/4in) spindle gouge, profile the remainder of the top and refine the base. Here you need to leave around 10mm (3/8in) at the tailcentre end

Step 16

Use a 6mm (1/4in) point tool to produce 2mm (5/64in) beads all over the box. Use the tip of the tool at the join line to ensure that the join is hidden within the base of one side of the bead. Finish the beads by hand

Step 17

Use a fine saw blade to remove the waste material from the top of the lid. Tape the lid to the base with masking tape and refine the profile with a 6mm (1/4in) spindle gouge. Continue the beads to the centre of the lid with the 6mm (1/4in) point tool. Remove the masking tape and finish the beads by hand, then apply spray acrylic sanding sealer and allow to dry. Cut back with '0000' wire wool and apply 2-3 coats of acrylic spray satin lacquer, cutting back between each coat

Step 18

Use burnishing cream on a piece of kitchen towel to produce a highly finished piece. Set your lathe speed to around 300rpm here. Use a clean piece of towel to polish the outside, check the finish and continue until you achieve the desired gloss build

Step 19

Make a jam chuck out of scrap wood to fit the base of the box. Place the base over this and bring the tailcentre up. Remove the waste down to around 6mm (1/4in) on the base and produce a concave profile so the box will sit properly. Continue the beads around into the base using the 6mm (1/4in) point tool

Step 20

Cut the remaining waste from the base using a fine saw blade while holding the base onto the jam chuck. Refine the base with a 6mm (1/4in) spindle gouge. Finish the base and beads by hand with abrasive down to 400 grit. Apply acrylic sanding sealer and lacquer then burnish to blend together

Step 21

All you need to do now is fit the lid and then the first project is complete

Step 22

The second box is made in exactly the same way as the first, with the exception of beads, which are excluded from this design. Start by placing masking tape around the spigot – this fits inside of the lid and the base is placed onto a friction chuck made from waste wood. Finish the base down to 400 grit and apply acrylic spray sanding sealer. As before, cut this back to smooth using '0000' wire wool. Use acrylic deep red car spray to coat the base. Apply fine coats then allow to dry

Creating a decorated piece

Step 23

To speed up the drying process, use a hair dryer on the cool setting. Do not try to rush by using hot air or the acrylic spray will bubble. Once dry, gently rub back the paint using 320 grit abrasive to smooth. Then set the lathe to around 300rpm and use '0000' wire wool to refine the surface further. Keep applying the paint in fine layers, allow to dry and cut back with the wire wool until you have a good coverage and fine/smooth surface. Your patience and attention to detail here will dictate the quality of the final finish

Step 24

Once fully dry, affix your design to the box using masking tape

Step 25

Using a ball point pen, carefully draw over your design

Step 26

Remove the masking tape and drawing – an impression will be left. Use a fine paintbrush and gold leaf paint to fill in this impression. Take your time here

Step 27

Place on a jam chuck and apply several coats of acrylic satin lacquer. Cut back with wire wool to smooth and burnish – as per the first natural box – using burnishing cream. Be careful not to cut back too hard or you may start to remove the gold detailing. Burnish with burnishing cream, as before. With the lathe stationary buff gently by hand with a soft cloth. The completed Japanese inspired jewellery box is now complete