“How I wish someone gets married!” was a line often heard in my house for the past two years. Therefore, when a wedding invitation did finally arrive, it was received with much excitement and love. My cousin is getting married! I was thrilled for her, more so because even though it has been a while since we met, she has always been quite close to my heart.
An answered prayer, wedding of a dear cousin, this definitely calls for a special gift. The darling girl had specified that she’d much rather have us donate the gift money to a charitable and noted hospital, which I will; but there was no way I was not sending her a gift. And the gift itself had to be special, it had to mean something, to me as well as to her.
Off I went to the local Wood Craft store here in Birmingham, hoping for inspiration. Who am I kidding? A dear friend who also happens to be an expert woodworker works there. I sought her advice, told her some of the ideas I had in mind. She, along with her colleague, showed some of the most beautiful wood I had ever seen. The store manager walked in just as she and I were hashing out some more ideas, and gossiping loving about members of the guild. He got interested in the constructive conversation, and soon, my friend was encouraging me to share my ideas with him.
Bang! Like a gavel hitting the table, he slammed the price of the slab of wood I’d originally fallen in love with but cancelled because of the steep hit to my wallet. That was it, too dumbstruck to talk, I meekly accepted the very generous gift of discount, and paid the rest of the amount. Once home, it took me a good three hours to muster up the courage to draw my plans with chalk on that beautiful blue mahoe.
The husband gave me a brilliant suggestion – intertwined hearts. I loved it. Once the design was finalised, I took some measurements, and soon enough, the blue mahoe had chalk marks on it as it got loaded again into the trunk of trusty Rogue, ready to be taken to the guild for cutting.
At the guild, it was another matter of an hour, where all members present stopped doing whatever magic they were creating to go gaga and run their hands over the gorgeous blue mahoe. I admit I was mean in bragging the price cut, and I hope that Andy isn’t angry with me for diverting a huge number of wood workers to his shop in hopes of getting beautiful wood at beautiful prices.
I did two trial runs of the design on scrap wood, and only when I was convinced that I could get it exactly as I wanted, did I dare to run the wood through the jointer and planer. A few deep breaths later, my hands were rock steady when I used the scroll saw on the wood.
Three hours later, the glue was dry, the pivots were in, the ring holder was drilled in, and the box was ready to be taken home for sanding. “Smooth as a baby’s butt,” is the term any wood worker knows, and often dreads, because it means hours and hours of sanding in just the right direction, at just the right spots. Two days later, the ring box was indeed ‘smooth as a baby’s butt’ even when I did the ‘blind test,’ in which the eyes remain closed, and the hands are clean and dry as you run first the index and middle finger, and then only the index finger, all over the wooden piece. The test helps you find any missed spots, bumps, ridges that need to be sanded.
After much deliberation, research, discussion with wood workers I know and trust, I decided to finish the piece with lacquer without using any sealant first. It was a risk, but a calculated one, for I knew several people who promised me that lacquer, when dry, would seal effectively. The people at wood craft were thrilled to see pictures of the box, and I felt like a fool for not thinking to carry the box itself with me. Fortunately, they are all too kind, and no one voice my feelings.
Back home, armed with the can of spray lacquer, with my respirator snapped on and my hands covered with leather gloves, I tested it on three pieces of scrap wood, to ensure that I wouldn’t damaged the box. After the standard eight hours of curing, I sanded, then resprayed. Repeating the process over the next several days, I was convinced that my decision about lacquer was indeed the right one.
It was well over a week after I had crafted the box did I finish the lacquer process, allowing it due time between sprays and sanding to make sure it did not leave any bubbles of off-gassing. Each time I used the lacquer, the respirator and gloves went on, and the garage door stayed open. Lacquer stinks, and the fumes are harmful!!
I sent a picture of the finished box to my cousin, who seemed quite touched by the effort I’d put into it. I wish I had better words to tell her that it is a labor of love. Mailing the box was a funny story, for it was too tiny to warrant a box, and too big to fit into an envelop. We finally found a bubble wrap envelop that was perfect for the task.
To those that are still with me, reading the story, here are some pictures of the box. The lids are made of the marvellous blue mahoe, which grows only in Jamaica, and the box base is made of Ambrosia Maple, a steady, sturdy, gorgeous wood, the pivots are made of birch. The blue mahoe made perfect sense to me because of its rare dual shade, as rare and special as my cousin and her fiance, and to me, it symbolises the harmony amidst individuality. I cut the lids in that shape to signify that the two hearts are whole only when together, and each has a piece missing when apart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55-AyxjBU0I