Bear Inlay Keepsake Box

Viewer Project - By Brian Benham from Elbert, CO
Added on June 4, 2014

This keepsake box was made for a special girl who passed away from epilepsy earlier this year—just before her 4th birthday. The inspiration for the bear inlay came from her nickname “Claire Bear”, a nickname that quickly became popular around the hospital as all the doctors and nurses used it during her frequent visits.

To create the inlay I used a similar technique that Marc used in his Video #115 “Router Based Inlay”. I found his technique to work really well. The first few pieces took longer than expected, but as I continued I started to refine the technique and each piece went in better than the one before it. I suppose it’s like anything else, it just takes practice.

I used seven different woods on this project. For the box I used walnut. The top and mitered corner keys are made from hard maple. The tree is walnut, and the leaves are African Cerejeira. The bear’s legs, arms, and head are made of quarter sawn African Mahogany. The belly and face are made from quarter sawn African Makore, and the ears and eyes are European Pear Wood. The bottom of the box is Mahogany ply.

The finish is a three step combination of finishes. I first rubbed on a coat of Danish oil to bring out the colors of the woods used for the inlay. Then I sealed the oil with a coat of shellac. I didn’t want the inside of the box to have a strong chemical smell so I did two more coats of shellac on the inside. To give the outside of the box the sheen I wanted and a bit more durability, I sprayed on 3 coats of lacquer.

I created a time-lapse progress video of the inlay as I installed it, which you can find on my blog along with further details and progress photos of the box.

If anybody is interested in getting involved and helping kids with epilepsy, you can do so at where you will find links to the Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital charity that helped Claire Bear as well as a link to help the family out directly with their medical bills, which accumulated over Claire’s life.