Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jewelry Box from Repurposed Cigar Box

We don't always make housewares that are un-geek-related, but when we do, they are classy as can be. This is the end result of having procured some cigar boxes at a yard sale (and another few for free at a cigar store!) and planning a jewelry box with the stated goal of keeping the design as related to the box as possible with minimal flourishes. We started with such a handsome box that it seemed a shame to decoupage crap all over it or cover it with Ninja Turtle stickers. Sometimes, we surprise ourselves with our restraint.

What You'll Need:
  • Classy cigar box. This is a gloss black Cohiba Behike BHK box knock-off
  • Small wooden feet
  • Decorative jewelry chain (maybe 10")
  • Ornate mirror
  • Gold leather fabric
  • Spade bit to match small wooden feet
  • Small brass screws
  • Razor saw (that's my brand, get whatever you like)
  • Pin vise
  • The usual suspects: Drill bits, Xacto blade, spray adhesive, hot glue, wood glue

 NOTE: It has come to our attention that the box we are using did not contain Cigar Aficionado's 2010 Cigar of the Year. Apparently, there is a robust market in fakes and ours is most definitely a fake. But we didn't buy the couple hundred dollar's worth of counterfeit cigars, just the box. For a few bucks. At a yard sale. Still looks really nice.

So you have this nice (fake) cigar box and you want to make something classy. We wanted to lift it up a little on wooden feet, but a really secure connection would have to be step one. We accomplished this by a lengthy but accurate process. Rather than screw through the bottom of the box (which is quite thin), we opted to drill out a hole for the entire stem of the foot to come through the bottom of the box. We carefully measured the hole centers and used a spade bit to cut out the hole. Pro tip for cutting out clean, large holes with either a spade bit or a hole saw: Start from the side you measured from, and go as straight vertical as you can. A straight hole means straight legs. Go until the tip of the bit just pokes through the other side. Flip your project over and use the hole from the center of the bit as the new mark to drill from the other side. This way, both faces of the project have the drill cut the hole cleanly rather than starting from one side and having a ragged exit wound on the other. If anything blows out, it's the middle of the hole and you can sand it smooth.

Start from here...
End over here.
Once those holes are in, test fit your legs. The hole should be snug enough that the feet mostly stay in from the pressure of the hole. Otherwise, you ask a lot of your glue joint to make up the difference. Using your razor blade, hold it flat to the bottom of the box (like you're going to shave the inside of the cigar box) and bring the blade to the edge of the foot. Spin the foot and use the razor to mark how much of the stem you need to cut off. Imagine my other hand spinning the foot to make the mark in the following photo.

Sorry, no animated gif of this one.
Very clean marks. Your pen leaves a much wider margin of error.
Once you've marked all the feet (and maybe wrote down on the bottom of each foot which corner it was cut to fit, in case they're different) grab the razor saw and give a shallow cut all along the line you cut with the Xacto earlier. Once you've started the whole line with the razor saw, keep gradually deepening the cut until the end pops off.

Still no animated gif.
We did our paint job with a gentle sanding of the feet (they were glossy and glossy=no good paint grip) and then attached them through a piece of cardboard with thumbtacks so they would stay upright and together. I pinned them to a piece of foamcore and sprayed them with a can of primer, let it dry, and then two coats of gloss black. Let it all dry, and then run a bit of wood
glue along the edge of the leg and twist it into place. Clean up and excess glue that squeezes out and make sure it all works. If the nub of the leg sits up a little from the bottom, gently sand it down flush to the bottom interior once it's dry.

Meanwhile, A was cutting the gold leather to fit the interior of the box. Careful measurements of the upper and lower lids let her cut little rectangular pieces of gold leather to lay smoothly along the inside of the box. The gold leather for the bottom of the box was a simple rectangle, cut precisely, dry fit, and spray glued into place. The upper piece was harder, because of our mirror. A laid the mirror on top, and traced the back of the mirror onto the leather. Careful razor work cut out a hollow for the mirror so that we could glue the mirror directly to the wooden lid and not sag from the leather, slowly peeling it down.

Trace, cut, check, trim, check, nudge, trim, check, groan, trim, and eventually it fits. Glue to the upper fabric into place. We next turned to the question of holding the lid open. The teeny cigar hinges are enough for the lid, but not with the additional weight of the mirror, so we need to hold it open like the lid of a toy chest. This is where the pin vise and drill bits come in. Measure a short length of jewelry chain that will do the job but not get in the way of using the box. Mark the two points on the inside of the box, drill out a pilot hole, and screw the small brass screws through the jewelry chain to hold it open. We found that our edge of the cigar box interacted with the screws holding the chain, and so used a Dremel sanding drum to open a round hole in the lip to let the lid close all the way. Marking that was easy: Close the box, press the lid down and see where the screw marked the inside edge. Sand there.

Once all this interior stuff with tools and screw drivers is done, then glue the mirror in. Hot glue is enough for our purposes, just don't drop it down a flight of stairs.

While we will offer as much advice as we can on making one of these for yourself (as always), if it all seems a bit much I will add that this item is available on our Etsy shop.

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