A Carved Box in Two Weeks . . . Is It Possible?

A Wine Ceremony is a beautiful idea. It's part of a wedding ceremony were the couple places a bottle of wine and a letter written by each of them about the other into a box and then they nail the box closed until some future occasion, like a silver anniversary, comes around and the box is pried open, the letters are read and the wine is sipped and a long marriage is celebrated.

Even my cynical self can admit its a pretty cool idea although I would cringe to think what crap my nineteen year old mind would have committed to paper seventeen years ago.

I had a good man I used to work with give me a call a week ago and told me about the custom made wine ceremony box he had ordered online. I was plywood and stapled together at the corners and sure it had the bride and groom's names burned onto it but to me it didn't sound like an object that would symbolize strength and long lasting commitment. He'd seen some of my work online and wanted to know if I could help by building something that was more special than what he had.

Oh . . . and he was going to be married in two weeks.

How could I say no. Needless to say it's been a busy week.

I started by picking some stock. I don't know a whole lot about wine but one of the bottles I borrowed to check size said "oak barrels" on the label. The best stock I could find was of the red oak variety, probably highly inaccurate, but one of my favorites anyway. After cutting my panels to size I ran a groove for the bottom using my new, old plow plane. (I know I was complaining about not having one a while back and I have managed to remedy that)

I was trying to get as much done as possible every time I got to work on the box, that being said I didn't take the time to set up as many photos as I usually do. This makes the story telling process behind this box a little abbreviated.

Next I measured and cut some dovetail joinery for the corners. With that finished I dry fit the box together and test fit a bottle of wine inside. The client asked for enough room for two bottles of wine so they could include some wine glasses inside.

The only request other than size was that he wanted something similar on the lid as I had recently carved on the Mahogany Bible Box. The two hearts design is what had caught his eye. The rest of the decisions he left completely in my hands, a perfect client if I've ever worked with one. Carving the sides of the box were to be gravy, something if I had time.

Of course I made time.

I sawed some 1/4" birch plywood for the bottom. I often dislike plywood but decided for the sake of speed and stability I would use it in this instance. The good birch plywood is very nice stuff anyway.

It was time to start on the lid, I laid out the pattern and did my initial mark out with V chisel and gouges.

Some more time with the carving tools and I had the lid finished.

A couple of hinges and we have a box. It needed some cleaning up of course but it was done, a box carved and ready for finish in a week. I even kind of impressed myself with the feat considering I've taken more time to accomplish them in the past.

Some clean up of the dovetails and some sanding and the first coat of Fruitwood Danish Oil went on this evening. A couple more coats over the next few days and I will be able to deliver this piece ahead of schedule. and that lets me breath a sigh of relief because I pressured myself at every step and cut that I couldn't afford the time to remake a part or repair a big mistake if I made one. I'm happy it worked out and I hope the client likes it as well.

Ratione et Passionis


  1. Very impressive! I made a box this week as well, not nearly as pretty as yours, but it always feels really good to start a finish a project in a short time frame. I'm feeling particularly productive and accomplished :0)

    Also, I was told a few years ago that wine barrels must be white oak, because red oak a) doesn't deal with moisture well, like white does and b) because white oak improves the flavor, while red oak makes it taste awful.


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