Little project, big reward

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I love big, involved projects, but the smaller ones around this time of year are often the most rewarding.

Cabinets, furniture, complete remodeling tasks, built-ins and the like are among the biggest, most demanding projects you can do. They take a long time, require a lot of work and expense, test your skills to the max, and are very rewarding accomplishments when you’re through. But this time of year has the opportunity to do projects on a smaller scale that, although requiring less time and effort, make this woodworker just plain “feel good.”

My Christmas to-do list is small this year, consisting of just three gifts I need to make – two of them are for gift exchanges we’re a part of, and the other something for my daughter. I’ve finished the first of these, a small oak keepsake box for the friend whose name I drew in one of the exchanges.

The box is very simple, measuring 3" x 4" x 5" with mitered construction and continuous grain at the corners, and thin inset cherry panels for the top and bottom for contrasting color. Making the box took only a small part of an afternoon to resaw the oak, cut the miters, and glue everything up. When dry, I cut the top off to create the lid, so the grain is continuous top to bottom, too. Not including the initial glue drying, total work time was maybe an hour or two to create the box, followed by a few days to give it three coats of finish, allowing drying time between coats.

The effort was obviously minor, but I have to say that it’s one of my favorite projects I’ve made this year. The oak/cherry contrast came out perfect, the finish is smooth with just the right sheen, and the little box just feels good in your hands.

There’s no comparison between this little box and my wife’s glass studio I worked on throughout the year. One took only a few hours, while the other was a project that spanned several months. But despite the difference in the amount of effort expended, the satisfaction is the same for both. And the best part is that I have two more little projects to do.

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