Jewelry Box Contest
January 1, 2005

to view the rest of the entries.

ere are the results of our second craftsmanship awards competition, the WoodCentral Jewelry Box Contest. The deadline for entries was midnight on December 15, 2004. There were a total of 20 entries for this contest.

The Contest

    Entrants were asked to design and build a jewelry box, which was defined as a container that would normally sit on a dresser or makeup table, with compartments and/or storage devices for various types of jewelry. Entries were limited to jewelry boxes completed within the 2004 calendar year. Floor-standing jewelry boxes or cases were not eligible.
    Contestants entered the contest by submitting photos of their jewelry boxes along with written descriptions of dimensions, materials, construction techniques, design notes and anything else that would help to inform the judges' decisions.

Judges & Judging Criteria

    Our panel of judges for this contest included Lee Grindinger (furnituremaker, Livingston, MT), Richard Jones (designer-craftsman, woodworking instructor, Aylesbury, U.K.), David Marks (designer-craftsman, star of DIY network's "Wood Works," Santa Rosa, CA) and Ellis Walentine (designer-craftsman, webmaster, Springtown, PA).
    The three primary judging criteria were design, craftsmanship and degree of difficulty. Design considerations include function, originality, choice of materials, engineering and appearance. Craftsmanship includes how well the piece is made and finished, with attention paid to tight joints and tolerances, fair curves, surface preparation, appropriate and well-executed finishes, etc. Degree of difficulty includes the scale and scope of the piece, as well as the relative difficulty of constructing it.
    When the judging was complete, there were three clear winners, shown here with some of the judges comments. The rest of the contestants' entries appear on page two of our contest results.
    I am confident that you will enjoy the amazing variety of talent and inspired workmanship on these pages. Thanks again to our contestants for a job well done!

... Ellis Walentine, Webmaster


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Bloomington, IN
FIRST PLACE: Jon-Paul Herron
    This jewelry box was inspired by the proportions derived from the Fibonacci sequence (0,1,1,2,3,5,8...) as the "Golden Spiral." The Golden Spiral (or Golden Rectangle) is derived by arranging squares with dimensions of the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (i.e. 1x1, 2x2, 3x3, 5x5, 8x8, etc) in a spiral pattern. The result is a spiral seen in everything from Nautilus shells to spiral galaxies.
    This jewelry box was designed with a modified version of the Golden Spiral dictating the drawer dimensions. Rather than using squares derived from the Fibonacci sequence, it has drawers with dimensions corresponding to a set of Fibonacci numbers. So, the drawers are 1x1, 1x2, 2x3, 3x5, 5x8, and 8x13. The last two are divided into two drawers each for added functionality, but remain visually united since they are not divided by a true drawer divider, and since the divisions were made by simply bandsawing a wide board in half. The result of modifying the Golden Spiral is that in addition to having pleasant proportions to the piece as a whole, each drawer ends up having dimensions corresponding to the Golden Mean (the ratio of each Fibonacci number to the previous approaches the ratio called the Golden Mean: ~1.61).

    The box is constructed using Jarrah (8/4, 4/4, and thin stock) for the carcass, with Canarywood for the drawer fronts and the side and back panels. The drawer sides and backs are hard maple. The entire box is about 17" wide, 17.5" tall, and 13" deep.

    The drawers were constructed using handcut dovetails (my first attempt) and are lined in red velour. The top compartment is divided into 70 shallow square compartments for earring storage, and ringbars fill another drawer for ring storage. The medium-sized drawers are perfectly sized for bracelets, while the large drawers work well for watches and ringboxes. The tiny drawers are pretty much useless, except for storing a cufflink or earring stud.

    The side compartments are lined with matching Russian Walnut Burl veneered panels, and hinged using hidden Soss hinges. The compartments have hooks installed in the top for hanging necklaces. A false bottom in the box conceals a velour-lined secret compartment.
    The Jarrah and Walnut Burl sections of the box were finished with garnet shellac to bring out the figure and to warm and even out the generally pinkish color of the Jarrah. The entire piece was then given three topcoats of water-based polyurethane to tone down the strong yellow of the Canarywood and to provide better protection to the piece. Finally, the finish was rubbed out using very fine synthetic steel wool and wax to give it a warm glow and to reduce the somewhat "plastic" look of the polyurethane.
...Jon-Paul Herron

Judges Comments
DM: Jon Paul did well in all three areas which are design, craftsmanship and degree of difficulty. The piece is reminiscent of a Tanzu chest while the scale and proportions work well for a jewelry chest. I like the use of Jarrah for the frame and the light colored canary wood for the panels. There is no shortage of storage space as Jon Paul even incorporated earring compartments in the top and necklace hooks in the sides which are concealed by doors. I would like to have seen slimmer proportions on the drawer sides of the small drawers relative to the drawer fronts. All in all, I think Jon Paul did an excellent job and I like the fact that he rubbed out the finish to soften the sheen.
LG: This is a simply lovely box. The design is well thought out and the box has all the features a jewelry box should have. The outward design is simple, relying on the contrasting woods for its main appeal; the selection of woods creates an eye catching image. The function of this box is where it comes into its own. There is ample storage space for all sorts of jewelry, and the felt liners and dividers make this a very usable box. The woodworking is beautiful.
RJ: Although the piece is inspired by age-old design principles -- the Fibonacci series and the Golden section, the look is contemporary. The eye is naturally drawn to the centre of the spiral, and the cabinet as a whole is very inviting with lots of functionality.The timbers selected are jarrah and canarywood. Regardless of what some might consider the constraints imposed by the proportioning system, the end result is imaginative. An element I would like to see changed would be the selection of pulls. Contemporary pulls of some sort I believe are better suited. I wonder if the pulls used were selected after the piece was made? This brings to mind the useful maxim, "Design from the handles back." I also find drawer sides that are as thick as drawer fronts visually uncomfortable-- thinner sides provide a better visual balance, e.g 18 mm thick drawer fronts go well with 8 to 11 mm thick drawer sides in traditional hand cut dovetail work.
EW: This piece exhibits a beautiful combination of originality, craftsmanship and functionality. The creative application of the Golden Spiral rationale produces a visual arrangement that is serene and pleasant. And, the resulting variety of compartments is ideally suited to a jewelry box, which must organize and store many sizes and shapes of contents.

Church Hill, TN
SECOND PLACE: Bill Tindall
The inspiration for this piece came from a picture of a spice box. I was smitten by the attractive shape and proportions of the box but the problem was what to do with this box in a 21st-century home. It seemed a nice concept for a jewelry box, but spice boxes are normally about 18" high and that is too large to sit upon a dresser.
    Shrinking the dimensions led to some problems. The multitude of drawers became very small -- not too small for jewels, but too small for conventional drawer bottom construction. To solve this problem, I made up some thin, three-ply walnut plywood and glued it into a rabbit in the bottom of the drawer. I expect the panel will be sufficiently stable to not stress the dovetailed drawer joints. This thin panel plus the velvet lining only consumes 1/4" of drawer height, leaving plenty of height for jewelry.
    Spice boxes have a "secret" drawer hidden behind the top molding and accessed from a sliding panel in the rear. (Actually, spice boxes have many secret drawers and this one is no exception. The others will remain secret.) The large molding necessary to conceal this drawer gives spice boxes a top-heavy look, at least to my eye. So, instead of the traditional crown type molding, I designed a molding that would lay more flat against the case side.

A design difficulty of this molding was that it had to be an exact height to just cover the drawer and most of the thin divider. I chose the profile of the top and bottom moldings to blend and compliment the molding that hides the drawer. I also experimented with an arched panel door. It looked too formal on this piece so I abandoned the idea.

    The box is made of walnut except for knobs which are Blackwood. I used sapwood as the secondary wood in places where it would not show. In this way, the sapwood finds a use and is not wasted. The sides are bookmatched from a 6/4 quartersawn plank. I had saved this plank for many years and it turned out just right for this project. The drawer fronts were resawed from a somewhat figured part of this plank. By resawing, I was able to match grain across the array of drawers which blended the array into a unified attractive presentation.
    The drawers are all dovetailed, by hand obviously, for no machine could accommodate the delicate 3/16" sides. The top came from an interesting end trimming from a previous table project. It didn't go well in the table but the grain swirl centered in this piece added a nice touch to this box top.
    The drawer dividers are solid panels set into stopped dadoes in the case sides. The vertical dividers are inlet into vee shaped dadoes which gives a "mitered" look to these joints. The complex assembly of dividers was the most difficult part of the piece to get just right. The drawers are too thin to accommodate much fitting so the openings had to be near perfectly square to yield a good drawer fit.
    The door is set into the left side to accommodate a lock, and butt hinged onto the right side so that it swings out of the way of the drawers. This classic spice box arrangement could be modernized with knife hinges but I chose to keep the traditional style. So long as the door fits well, this arrangement looks okay, but certainly different from most cases with a door. The door panel is a resawed veneer on a lumber core. To look right, the grain of the veneer and lumber core must run the same way and it was a job to get it all glued up and not warped. I will post the tip for accomplishing this feat for the Articles soon. I could have made the panel from a single board. However, a very good sawmill friend, who has since died, gave me the highly figured piece that I resawed for veneering the raised part of the panel. The board was only large enough for the raised portion and not the whole panel. Hence the complication to accommodate a fond memory.

    To line the drawers, I wrapped velvet around fitted pieces of poster board and glued the tucks to the back of the poster board with hot-melt glue. My daughter showed me a way to cut away a portion of the tuck such that it didn't create a lump. The ring drawer accommodates my wife's grandmother's rings. It was made by Z-folding velvet among rectangles of firm foam. This velvet is held in place with spray adhesive.
    Moldings, rough planing and some sawing was done with power tools, but for the most part the box was made with hand tools, my first ever attempt at a largely hand tool project.
    The wood was stained with a homemade mix of oil and burnt umber pigment. Then, many coats of garnet shellac were applied. I intended to rub out the finish but for now I like the bright look and will probably leave it this way. The Blackwood knobs were only waxed as their contrasting dullness seemed to go better with the bright walnut.
...Bill Tindall

Judges Comments
LG: This is a very nice piece of woodwork. Your joints are tight and the entire piece is very well executed. Your attention to detail is apparent. The proportion of the mouldings are the only distractions in this piece. To my eye the door would have benefited from a narrow center stile, this would split the panel in half and helped offset the squarish appearance of the front. It\92s really lovely, Bill.
RJ: A tour-de-force in traditional style. I was very impressed with the effort, skill, attention to detail and thought Bill put into this work. So much of it is right and in keeping with the style and period. I spotted one or two discrepancies in the gaps around the drawers as a nit-picking fault. As the design is a copy I judged heavily on skill demonstrated. You should be rightly proud of your work. Excellent.
DM: Bill did a fine job of taking on a very challenging piece. He demonstrated a good understanding of the craft right down to making his own walnut plywood for the drawer bottoms along with resawing a walnut plank to match the grain in the drawer fronts. I really appreciate his attention to detail. The dovetails, the blackwood knobs, and the hidden drawers all add to the feel of the piece. Bill lost some points with me on design as this is not an original design, but his interpretation of a traditional spice box scaled down into a jewelry chest was successfully executed. I really liked the vee shaped dadoes for the vertical dividers. Outstanding job, Bill.
EW: The spice box form is a well-known and popular traditional furniture form, and Bill has coopted it nicely in this jewelry box incarnation. Obviously, this was a labor of loving craftsmanship as well as an exercise in adaptive design, and certainly it was a very involved project. I would love to see how the hidden drawers and compartments look and operate. My only aesthetic concerns are with the disproportionate visual weight of the top molding, as Bill himself has recognized, and the proportions of the feet.

Bothell, WA
THIRD PLACE: Sharon Monroe Jones

This jewelry box is 15" W x 13" H x 6" D and is made of padauk, curly maple and walnut. The secondary wood in the drawers is cherry. I designed the box around the two pieces of maple in the doors. They are not bookmatched, but I thought they would look great as door panels. Everything else just fell into place around them. I didn't have any plans or drawings, which was nice because I could just change things as I went along. I have only been woodworking for two years and I don't have much time to get out to the shop so this is only the second thing I have designed from the ground up.

    I used padauk for the frames and carcass because it really sets off the maple. I raised the panels on the router table with a cove bit, because I didn't want too much of a raised profile -- just enough to provide a shadow around the panel. About halfway through the project I decided to name the box "Sunset" because of the colors and pattern in the maple. That is what made me choose the setting sun shape for the pulls.
    I was going to use curly maple for the drawer fronts when I started, but then I decided that would be too predictable so I used the walnut instead. I got the idea for the drawer pulls from one of Dave Knipfer's boxes; he used an oval-shaped pull. I used the same technique with the half-circle shape.

    The drawer fronts are consecutive slices from the same board, which caused me great stress as I was routing the drawer pulls. I was convinced I would slip and ruin the last one. Luckily I didn't, but I was so relieved after finishing them that I quit for the day. The pulls are routed with a template. Three passes at different depths and widths -- did I mention it was stressful?

    It took me a long time to decide on the necklace racks. I wasn't sure if I wanted brass or wood. As you can see, I chose wood and made simple sliding dovetail racks with dowels to hold chains. I also played with the idea of feet or a base of some sort but I couldn't think of anything that would add to the design so I left it as it was. The wood is so pretty, I didn't want to detract from it. I am pretty obsessive about grain matching and using the natural patterns and colors of the wood. All the miters are cut so they have a four-corner grain match and all the pieces were cut from the same board.

    The box is finished with boiled linseed oil and brown wax. The maple also has a coat of sanding sealer. I wanted a real natural look and feel for it. The padauk has great open grain and stripes. I can't get it to photograph as true as I would like. It has a very low sheen, and the maple has a lot of depth to it.
    This was a lot of fun to build and I learned quite a bit. This is the first time I have made wooden runner drawers. They are very slick once you get them aligned and waxed. Also, I learned that it pays to plan your hardware selection ahead of time. It took me a while to find hinges small enough. I went with some nice Brusso hinges that luckily worked out great.
    I am not sure what I am going to do with this box, everyone wants it. My sister wants an armoire-sized version to go with it. For now, it is decorating my mantle.
...Sharon Monroe Jones

Judges Comments

DM: Sharon did a fine job overall. She came up with her own design that is visually striking while simultaneously addressing the functional issues of storage for jewelry. I like the curly maple door panels and extra distance she went to raise the panels. I think the mitered padauk frames and carcass are a rich contrast to the maple, although unless the padauk is Andaman or Burmese it will eventually lose its rich red color and fade to brown. The proportions of the drawer sides and handles are a little heavy. The necklace racks display an innovative solution that works well. Sharon obviously put a lot of hard work into this piece and should be rewarded for her effort.
LG: This is another box spare of lines but rich in the choice of woods. Contrasting woods catch the eye with visual interest and the curly maple will hold the viewer's interest. Angling the door panels outward gives the sense that the box is wider at the top than the bottom but a suitable base would defeat this illusion. The padauk will get quite muddy in color as time goes on but the contrast between the maple and the padauk will always be there. The interior has wonderful visual interest.
RJ: A very attractive mix of woods, and pleasing proportions contributing to a neat and spare exterior. Sharon worked around the maple available and designed other parts to suit. Excellent problem solving. The fiddle-back maple is set off beautifully by the padauk and the interior has an Art-Deco feel with its stylised geometrical rising sun motif. Neatly constructed with no obvious manufacturing faults, except that Sharon too uses rather visually thick drawer box sides. Sharon has not used a film finish with good UV blockers to preserve the colour of the padauk as long as possible, meaning it will probably quite quickly fade to brown, which is a shame.
EW: Contemporary styling and dramatic wood selection make this box eye-catching, and, while Spartan, the design incorporates plenty of storage space for a typical jewelry collection. The sliding-dovetail necklace racks are a nice touch as are the recessed pulls on the drawer fronts.


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    Each entrant to this contest receives a complementary one-year subscription to Popular Woodworking magazine (a $19.95 value!).

    Thanks to everyone who participated!
    Watch for announcements of upcoming WoodCentral craftsmanship awards competitions.