The Romance of Small Containers

unstained box front view

(ed: Written in January 2009)
This may be another aspect of my unfortunate materialism, but I think that people (me) like small containers and packages out of proportion to their value.  Improbably small water bottles?  A few chocolates sold for much money in a small tin?  Tiny permanent marker?

Perhaps it is because small packages are cute, or that well-made small items attract consideration simply because they are stronger than their cheaper, less well-designed cousins.  Having an item (or experience) that is better than you first thought it would be is always pleasant, one of the minor happinesses of life.

Packaging matters, it seems.  However, I don’t own a manufacturing plant, and cannot hire a designer for my stationery box, or the bin I throw my pocket items into.

One of the quickest, cheapest projects I have done still makes me smile a bit.  Most big craft stores carry a line of small wooden boxes, ranging from the uselessly small up into the humidor sizes, though a cigar aficionado would likely advise you against using the latter to store cigars in.  They are called “trinket boxes” or the like.  They are made of cheap wood, machine cut, and are usually joined decently, though the hinges and latch are often indifferently fitted and of iffy quality.  They run between $4 and $12.  I’ve purchased a few of the plain (cheaper) ones, which look, well, like this:

unstained box ortho view

I should have put a ruler in the picture; it’s about 6″ long, and rather plain looking, no?
A paper towel, rubber glove, and $.40 worth of stain later:

small box stained ortho view

You want to know what is inside.  A gentleman’s pocketwatch?  A lady’s favorite day-to-day necklace?  A lucky Krugerrand?  A Brasher Dubloon?  (paging P. Marlowe…).
The cherry color here is Zar Cherry 116.  I removed the hinges and latch, and then I just rubbed on the stain with the paper towel, with no surface prep and no subsequent finishing.  The unsealed wood soaks up the stain, and the grain hides minor imperfections in the surface and gives an impression of patina.

As a note, I think I favor the results I got with Minwax Red Mahagony stain:


Wooden boxes benefit from looking at least a few years old.

Comments are closed.