craftslesson4 solomon

The subject today has to do with finding the correct storage units to protect and safely store your props. What we are talking about is ornamental and utilitarian boxes but first I must share a little background information.

I have this fetish for unique wooden boxes. It is more than a passion you must understand. When I see an unusual box it becomes an obsession for me and I am not satisfied until I have opened it and explored inside. It matters not what the contents are or were, I must open the box and examine it minutely. This is a life long obsession and started when I was but a child exploring the closets and dresser drawers in my grandparent's home. I had more curiosity than good sense and it didn't help matters much that my grandfather was a packrat. He saved bottles, boxes cans and lead foil from old cigarette packages. Early on I found his storage places and became infected with the Solomon curse and I too became a packrat. It started with old chalk boxes and wooden cigar boxes. 

This obsession has lasted well over 60 years and to this day when I go adventuring I am always on the lookout for unique boxes. Now oddly enough I have a rather large collection of boxes and most of them contain some magical prop that just happened to fit when I got home with the box. 

It is a "knowing" of some sort. The flea market people see me coming and always have a box for me to see. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I end up with another box and when I get home I am always greeted with, "Well, Did you find another box?" And by the way, "Yes I did." 

If the truth were known, I usually carry a small tape measure with me so that I can check the dimensions of what I might find against the dimensions of what ever prop I am working on at the time. The next step is to decide if it is necessary to refinish the box or distress it to make it looked even more decrepit. Sometimes it only requires a good cleaning with a quality furniture polish to bring out the hidden finish. I hate to have to sand away the finish and start over but sometimes it is necessary. A good scratch remover (wax type pencil) can fill deep scratches and a coating of clear acrylic will preserve many existing finishes. 

There are times when the finish is so bad that the best thing to do is strip the really bad surfaces and start over. I have used a butane torch to scorch wooden surfaces to make them really distressed. The story often determines the finish and there are many options at that point. 

Sometimes a rough box is needed so finish is not an exacting thing. Some old wooden cigar boxes lend themselves to story magic better than fancy jewelry boxes. Wood burning tools and carving gouges are a part of the design work that goes into the preparation of a good prop box. 

Quite often a suitable lining can be made with self-adhesive felt. It comes in a multitude of colors and can be cut and shaped in some cases to fit cupped indentions or pre-folded to cover flaps. If you are going to place a box on someone's dining room table it is a good idea to place this felt material on the bottom of the box so as not to scratch the table. 

One box that I use  needed added weight so that when the lid magically sprang open it wouldn't tip over the box (see lesson # 5). A couple of  flattened fishing weights  glued inside the box took care of that problem. Another needed to have some rubber backing  that would grip the table as the clockwork mechanism, which drew in a line of monofilament , was noisy and  helped silence the whirring sound of the governor  on the mechanism. 

I take a lot of pride in the looks of the boxes and often line them with plush or velvet material to give them that look of elegance. I cut pieces of cardboard to fit the inside top and bottom and strips for the sides and cover them with the material. I cut each piece of material 1/2 inch larger than the perimeter of the cardboard and fold the edges over what then becomes the back of the covered piece. These are placed inside the box using a hot glue gun and with care, the box can be an exquisite addition to your props. 

I think everyone probably has an affinity to beautiful woodworking and when one of these many boxes is displayed, my audiences know that they are going to see something special. 

When reporting on the presentations of DeNomolos there is a symbiotic relationship when it comes to the collection of boxes, which we share. Once the thinking process is begun, the ability to spot these treasures becomes second nature and you will find yourself saying to yourself, "That looks like magic." As you visit the market place or curio shops quite often a box will catch your eye and almost jump off the shelf and into your arms. The older I get, the worse the obsession becomes. Some one told me that it was wishful thinking and that I am obviously looking for the perfect box in which to have my ashes stored away. If that is the case, I'm still looking, for I have not found it yet. 

As you look at the pictures on the pages listed below, you will discover some of the boxes have been treated with epoxy putty. That stuff covers up a multitude of flaws and creates some pretty wild looking boxes. Use your imagination and see if you can guess what is in each of the boxes.

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In the Craft,
Ed Solomon +++ Collector of the weird, unusual and maker of messes.


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All the material in this lecture is copyrighted with all rights reserved to Ed Solomon, 2002.