Christmas. For some, it’s a time of family gatherings and joyous celebration, while rosy-cheeked children laugh and cavort before a roaring fire. For others, it’s a time to see those jerk-faced in-laws, while their rotten brats scream and shriek for more damn presents under the rickety old fake tree that Uncle Fred fixed with duct tape last year.
For me, Christmas means catalogs. And catalogs. And more catalogs. An endless stream of glossy capitalism from every Ronnie Retailer and Sally Superstore that starts before Halloween and doesn’t end until the new year puckers up people’s wallets and slams the populace with a vicious hangover of buyer’s remorse.
But it’s not so much the tsunami of fake smiles and overpriced Chinese junk that gets me. No, that’s what fireplaces are for. Catalog season is when Handan takes a keen interest in the arrival of the daily post. Because catalog season is knockoff season: that time of year when Handan gets it in her head that we should be DiYing the entire stock and inventory of stores like Pottery Barn and Grandin Road. You can be sure that catalog season means that yours truly will never see the last southbound goose or the first snowfall, as I’ll be chained to my basement lair, working like an elf on overtime.
With the arrival of Grandin Road’s first Christmas catalog (they feed them into the mail system throughout the holiday season like an intravenous drip to the economy), Handan’s eyeballs pounced on the following “Artisan Packages with Bows.”
Each box is lovingly crafted from the finest scrap wood by starving artisans in the remotest regions of the Guangdong Province on the outskirts of Hong Kong. The price for this artistry: $90 for the small one, $130 for the medium one and $180 for the big one. $180! For a bunch of scrap wood! Jeezum H Crow on a Popsicle Stick! Who buys this stuff?
Handan wanted them. She wanted them NOW. And she wanted them FREE!
Well, if there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s scrap wood. I think I could make one hundred of them without spending a dime. She would make the bows from metal scraps she had leftover from previous projects. It was time to build.
I started by gathering some pallet scraps. Among them, I had some scraps with old red paint. Perfect.
Months ago, I had glued some of the red ones together to make some rustic thing or other. I can’t remember, because I never finished whatever the heck it was I had started. I ran those boards through the table saw to separate the pieces. I did this because I needed to cut all those boards in half by halving the thickness. This isn’t a necessary step with boards of this thickness, but I did it for two reasons:
- The resulting box would be half the weight.
- I didn’t have enough red boards to make one box, so I needed to double the wood by slicing them in half.
I ran the boards through my band saw to create new boards of equal length and width, but with half the thickness.
Once I had all my lumber resawed (the term for cutting them in half through the thickness), I cut them to 15 inches. This would be the height of the small box. I played around with the pieces and settled on a width of about 11 1/2 inches.
I arranged the pieces so I would have four equal sides, then glued them together using parallel clamps. Since the pieces were so thin, they wanted to buckle when I applied pressure with the clamps. To fix this, I employed my Gigantic Iron Pulley Hook. I bought this at a weird warehouse sale. Why? Who the hell knows! But from the same warehouse sale, I also bought an old green doorish thing from which I would make the big box. More on that later. Anyway, my Gigantic Iron Pulley Hook comes in handy when I need to apply pressure, but a clamp won’t fit. This thing must weigh about 60 or 70 pounds. After gluing these first pieces, I actually did figure out a way to use a clamp to accomplish the job. Clamps are way easier to deal with than the Gigantic Iron Pulley Hook.
I had enough red wood to make four sides, as long as I judiciously mixed in some regular old pallet wood. But I think that the mixed colors make it even more Authentic and Rustic. You can never be too Authentic and Rustic. I’d have to make the top from plain pallet wood, but that’s okay, since it would be mostly covered by the bow and ribbon, anyway.
Good lord, that face! Why didn’t anyone tell me I looked like a Wookie with that facial hair? (Not that I would have cared.)
I used a speed square to keep things, uhh, square.
More glue and brad nails.
For the last face, I put a bead of glue on the edge of one side of the frame and a bead of glue on the edge of the fourth panel.
And then I brad-nailed the piece in place.
The box had a shape. Now it needed a top.
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