Holding back

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When you typically go all-out for your own projects, it’s sometimes difficult to do only what’s been requested for someone else.

A friend asked if I could fix a small jewelry box her grandfather made for her when she was young. The simple box is about 6" x 8" and 3-1/2" high, with two narrow compartments inside, one of which contains a music box movement. There are routed lid and corner details, plus purpleheart inlay on the lid.

She didn’t elaborate how it happened, but the entire back had broken off. The outer finish was worn in spots and scratched in others, so she also wondered if I could refinish it. I was happy to take care of both issues, plus get rid of some leftover router burn marks.

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The repair was straightforward – after cleaning the broken joints, glue and clamps did the trick – as was stripping the outer finish and removing the router burns. After I apply a new finish and it’ll be just what she wanted.

But I was tempted to do more. The hinges were face-mounted, and I thought about mortising them in for a nicer look. I also contemplated refinishing the inside and adding new flocking. Lastly, I considered replacing the stained pine panel hiding the music box movement with cherry. 

While it might have been a nice gesture to go that extra mile, it was clear I shouldn’t. For one thing, it’s simply not what she asked me to do. Even if she had, I think I would have talked her out of it.

This was a hand-made gift from her grandfather. A simple external repair and refinish is one thing, but reworking the box – even with my “improvements” – would have made it more mine, and less his. In fact, in this instance the less I did, the better. I left the inside of the box untouched and, in the end, it wasn’t a difficult decision at all.

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