One of the greatest things about being a woodworker is the fact that you can build things that will make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s a comfortable chair for your living room, a cutting board for your kitchen, or toy box for a child, we all have the power to bring great joy to other people by making things with our hands, some wood, and a few choice tools.
Never has this “power” been so palpable as when I was asked recently to make a memorial box for my Uncle Tom. I’ll admit that I found the task very difficult, not only for emotional reasons but because I had a time constraint of only two days.
I quickly sketched a few ideas on paper, worked out the dimensions in SketchUp, grabbed my best stock (highly figured quilted maple and bubinga) off the shelf, and got to making sawdust. The box was “designing on the fly” in the purest sense. There were more than a few occasions when I thought I might be going down the wrong path but there was no time to course-adjust. Instead, I kept moving forward and somehow ended up with something I was really proud of.
While I was able to film the process of building this box, mostly out of instinct and habit, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to turn this into an official plan. That would just be weird. So I hope you can still get something out of the video by simply watching over my shoulder.
While the box could be used as a cremation urn, it’s actually intended to hold a small urn plus whatever else my Aunt Robin wants to put in there. The idea is that the box will actually be opened in the future whenever someone wants to reminisce.
When left to my own devices, with no design restrictions, this is where my brain goes. I wanted something that looked elegant, unique, special, and most importantly something that didn’t look like an urn. I mean no offense to anyone who keeps a traditional urn in their home, but I personally find them off-putting (most likely a deep-rooted psychological issue). I also wanted it to include some shaping and power carving. There’s something about the shaping process that makes me feel like I’m putting more of my heart into the project.
There’s no great way to wrap this up so I’ll just say thank you to my Uncle Tom for the great memories I have of baseball games, camping trips, and watching Wrestlemania. And if you ever get the opportunity to make something like this for a loved one, take it. It won’t be easy, but it just might be the most important woodworking you ever do!
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