Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Holiday Gift #1: Ebonized Oak Kleenex Box

Back in 2010 during my power tool days I made a few boxes that fit over Kleenex containers.  They were joined at the corners with table sawn box joints and the tops were glued on and flushed with the sides.

Two oak boxes
A redwood box

I wanted to make another Kleenex box, but using only hand tools this time and using wood that has been laying around the shop for too long.  When we had a bathroom renovated a few years ago, I kept all the oak face frame wood.  It had a profile on it, but I was able to get some useful wood.
Original 3/4" face frame board on left, resawn and semi-squared useful ~5/16" boards on right
I glued up boards to make the panels for the box.
Two long panels in clamps
After squaring them up, the dovetails were laid out and cut.
Removing the waste between tails
Using the David Barron-inspired dovetail marking board to transfer tails to pin board
Knifing the pin locations
After a little fitting, the parts were glued up.
In the clamps
One corner after a little clean up
For the top, I cut an oval shape for the tissue opening.  I made a template using Sketchup, printed it out, transferred the shape to the top, then cut and smoothed the shape.
Template on the top piece - centerlines on both the template and wood are key to alignment
Starting the hole with two circles that match the shape of the oval ends
Cutting out the waste - later smoothed and rounded with rasps, files and sandpaper
After leveling the top edges of the box, the top was glued on with the aid of two "I-beam" shop helpers.
Gluing the top on
And here is the box all smoothed over, ready for finishing.
Looks a little bland - needs some finish
The recipient likes black things, so I'm going to ebonize this.  I started a week before this with the ol' steel wool in vinegar trick.  I meant to wash any oils out of the steel wool like a commenter on Ralph's blog mentioned, but forgot.  This time I used apple cider vinegar.  The solution looked much the same as when I used distilled white vinegar, except I didn't get the disgusting reddish brown glop this time.
Steel wool and vinegar after about 5 days
When I was ready to ebonize, I brewed up some oak shavings and gave the box a couple coats of hot tannin broth.  I'm using Richard McGuire's method from his Side Table video series.
I think this was after coating with tannin broth
After a few alternate coats of tannin broth and steel wool / vinegar, this is what it looked like.
Part way done
When the coats had dried, I buffed with a clean cloth and the color turns a bit grayish / purplish.  But a wipe of fresh broth brings out the black again.
Buffed finish on right, new brushing of broth on left
And here is what the box looks like after three coats of boiled linseed oil.
BLO curing
It has been chilly in the garage lately, so the oil is taking a while to cure.  But in a couple days I'll add a coat or two of wax to shine it up.  I'm happy with the way this looks, even though some oak color still shows up in the deeper pores.


  1. Great project. Perfect for using up some of the bits and pieces that we all accumulate and generate a nice stash for gift giving.

    The color looks really good. I'm going to have to look into this technique.

    1. Thanks Greg. Ebonizing is easier than is sounds - it just takes a little patience. Ralph's been writing about his experiences, too - some good info there. I'm staying true to Richard M's recipe and it seems to work fine.

  2. Thank you for this! I saw you used oak shavings in another post- which do you think works best for the tannin wash, tea or the shavings?

    Take care and I appreciate the effort you put into your blogging. I get too tired with my 3 year old to keep on on mine!

    1. Sorry, Jonathan - I'm now sure what you mean by using "tea" versus shavings. But the shavings work just fine. It's funny how fast the boiled shaving water turns black when I dip a brush that has the vinegar/steel wool water in it. The technique really works well.