For those of you who follow my adventures, you know that I spent some time in Sweden last fall, but for those that that are new here, last September I traveled to Sweden to teach spoon carving and to visit museums. Sweden is a land of wooden objects and the land of my forefathers and mothers. My family came from Sweden in the late 1800's and settled here in northern Wisconsin. Much of my woodworking inspiration and influence comes from the traditions there. They were a wood culture. Most of the object for everyday use were made from wood. It's amazing to think about today when most of the objects we use comes from metal, plastic and clay. Wood is an amazing in so many ways. I'm always discovering new things about it and how it can be used. I believe this is very important to explore as we move into a new era. Some of my friends in the traditional craft world are calling it 'the wood culture renaissance' but lately I've been calling the 'the new wood culture'. Either term fits. I can't help but notice it when I see growing interest in green wood spoon carving and other wood handcrafts. More on that subject some other day. It deserves to be explored in more detail as it's own.
I've been reseaching a certain type of turned wooden box with a locking lid for some time. Mostly looking at the few boxes that can be found here in my area. Many folks don't realize this but there are more Scandinavian descendants here in Northern Wisconsin and in Minnesota than anywhere else in the entire US. So I've seen quite a few wooden spoons and varies wooden objects folks brought with them when they moved here. This type of box is not that common to see, but they are around and expensive if they are for sale. The thing is they were turned green, mostly. How? I've turned about 5 over in the past out semi dry birch. Tangential, just like the bowls I turn. The lids warp too much and they don't work out so well. How were these made? I traveled to Sweden to find out. If I could see hundred's of them I would hopefully find out.
I've learned that a large percentage of these boxes come from the area near and around Borås, which in close Götborg, in the southwest. The Borås area was a very busy place in terms of the production of wooden spoons, baskets, woven sashes, and these turned boxes and was so for a hundreds of years. The customs records show that over 40,000 of these boxes left Borås annually. That's a lot of boxes. This is also a similar number with the other hand crafts that were being produced there. The region was really poor for farming and thus folks needed a way to make a living. The families were peddlers and traveled around selling and trading their goods. These objects were and are still very common all over Sweden. So it makes sense to see the same boxes turned in Borås here in Wisconsin.
Most of the boxes I saw were made from beech, very large beech. The rims of the boxes were parallel to the radial plane of the tree. This makes very stable wood. It's the same a quarter sawn lumber, slit or milled, doesn't matter. but to make a box thats 8-10" diameter you would need a pretty large tree. After looking at hundreds of boxes I found what I was looking for.
I did find and purchase two very nice antiques while on my travels. One was a box made in the 1750's and the other with the locking lid made 100 years later. So I had two great examples to use as reference. The lids actually twist and lock on the boxes, this is what makes them unique.
A few weeks ago I found suitable timber to start production.
I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in the world turning these at the moment, definitely on a pole lathe. I know my friend Robin Wood has as made them in the past as well as Roger Abrahamson, the only other professional pole lathe turner in the US that I know of. Sometimes I think I'm a little off my rocker, to travel across the world to see this stuff and then make it and sell it, or try to. There are more astronauts than professional pole lathe turners.
Rare craft objects