Traditional Box Projects: A Book Review
by J. Norman Reid
Recently, Strother Purdy's fine book, Traditional Box Projects, arrived in my mailbox. As is my custom, I immediately flipped through its pages to see what would catch my eye. Several things did, which prompted me to read through the whole book in quick order. I liked what I read.
Purdy presents eight box projects, each with detailed steps, a cut list, an exploded drawing and copious photos that illustrate the entire construction and assembly process. Several of these projects reached out to me with a not-so-subtle "build me" cry. First was the Shaker lap desk, not something that comes to mind as a traditional box, though a box it is. I've wanted to build one for a long while and Purdy's plan is just the ticket. The cherry book boxes with mitered dovetails are based on a design used by Thomas Jefferson and would serve equally well for shipping or when stacked as a bookcase. The Shaker candle box and the oval bandsaw box look like great holiday gift projects. Not to be overlooked are the fumed oak humidor, walnut display case, simple dovetailed box and elegant jewelry box. Whether or not I decide to build all of them, I found the descriptions of these projects informative and interesting.
What pleases me most about this collection are the step-by-step instructions, Purdy's encouragement to modify his plans to create the builder's own design and his helpful advice about potential pitfalls, such as the tendency for maple to warp after it has been rough dimensioned. Also useful are the "work smart" tips placed strategically throughout the book and his discussion of such techniques as carving finger pulls and building bench hooks to assist with box construction.
This is a book that will not retire to a back corner of my bookshelf. It has already found a place front and center in my woodshop where it is guiding me through several enjoyable projects.
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Traditional Box Projects
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The author is a woodworker, writer and photographer living in Delaplane, Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with his wife, four cats and a woodshop full of power and hand tools.
He can be reached by email at