Black Poplar Bureau Box

On the same sawmill trip that scored the quilted Bubinga, my daughter spotted this amazing piece of wood. It was unlike anything I'd seen before. Mostly black and charcoal grey running through the center, it had streaks of cream colored wood in parts. Occasional tinges of green should have given it away, but I asked the mill owner what wood it was and he said "Poplar". The black color was from minerals absorbed by the growing tree. Well, it had to go home with me.

The joints on this box are splined miter joints, sometimes called mock box joints. The splines in this piece are made from hard maple. I think this style gives a box a more contemporary look than dovetails that is still attractive and very clean looking. I cut these joints on a table saw; in fact this style box can be done pretty much entirely on a table saw. The front, back, and sides of the box are cut from a single long board so that the grain matches at three of the box corners. The miter joints highlight this nicely.

This box is a little larger than most jewelry boxes measuring about 7" high by 11" long and 9" wide. To preserve the contrast between the light and dark colors, I used a clear non-yellow lacquer finish. I rubbed this down to a satin lustre to avoid a thick plastic look that surface finishes can get.

After struggling with all sorts of wildly grained woods, the relatively soft, straight grained poplar was a joy to plane. Long, thin shavings glided effortlessly out of the mouth of the plane leaving behind surface that no amount of sanding could approach. Were it only always so easy.

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