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"Wooden Boxes" by Dennis Zongker

(The following is a Stumpy Nubs review of “Wooden Boxes”, written by Dennis Zongker, published by The Taunton Press.)


When I first saw Dennis Zongker’s new book I thought, MAN that sucker’s shiny! I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but we all do. If I don’t see some fancy colors and a snappy title, I’m not wasting my energy pulling a book off the shelf. Reading’s hard and I’ve got television to watch, so if you want my attention you have to catch it. “Wooden Boxes” spared no expense when it comes to quality- it lured me in with its glossy pages and vivid photos despite its ho-hum title. Before I knew it I was hooked like a trout and eager to stretch out on a bed of tartar sauce for a good long read.


Now, I say “read”, but nobody actually reads books like this the first time through. How could you? With every page you’re enticed by crisp photographs and handy little margin notes calling out their tips and tricks. It’s overwhelming, but in a good kind of way, like one of those Chinese buffets. Dennis Zongker’s spread is truly all you can pack in, and he won’t give you dirty looks for unbuttoning your pants.


Think I’m being a little over the top? Perhaps, but you haven’t seen the boxes yet! Let’s just say Dennis knows his way around a box. It’s rumored that he was raised by one of the finest box-making families in the old country, who discovered him as a baby floating among the reeds in a box he crafted himself, swaddled among rolls of rare veneers. I have it on good authority that he grew up as a dovetailer’s apprentice, devoting as many as thirty hours a day to his craft. His first shoes were adorable little boxes, made from boxwood with flawless box joints. It’s said he trained as a boxer, and never saw defeat. But his book doesn’t mention any of this- he’d rather let his work speak for itself. And it speaks loud and clear, with a classy foreign accent. From the “Serpentine Coin Box” with its burl veneers to the “Traditional Jewelry Box” with its delicate marquetry, every project is a masterpiece of design and craftsmanship.


It’s true that, after skimming the 233 heavily illustrated pages, some may feel a bit intimidated. There are seven projects, and I couldn’t find a single one that I wouldn’t want to keep my grandmother’s ashes in. Even the “simple” boxes shouldn’t be called “boxes” at all. They should be called something like “compartmentalized dream cubes” and filled with delicate Faberge Eggs. Six of them feature some sort of complex inlay work, and the seventh is topped with a carved motif. There’s the “Serpentine Box” with its distinctive shapes and burl veneers; the “Playing Card Box” with poker themed marquetry and diamond banding; “The Artist’s Sketch Box” which opens into a lap desk; “The Music Box” with a lid you must see to believe; the “Rose Box” covered in relief carvings; the “Cameo Jewelry Box” with delicate inlaid ribbons of veneer; and the “Traditional Jewelry Box” which is anything but ordinary, to say the least. Can a regular woodworker ever hope to actually build one of these beauties? Of course you can! What do you think all those nice glossy pages are for? Dennis has filled them with details, walking you through, cut by cut, joint by joint, box by box. With top quality, full color images and easy to follow instructions, he shows you how to select your materials, lay out your joinery, apply veneers and inlays, even how to achieve a flawless finish. It’s like he’s standing in your shop, looking over your shoulder as you work. Except he’s not actually looking over your shoulder, because that would be irritating- especially if he’s one of those heavy breathers.


The point I’m making is this: “Wooden Boxes” is unlike any box making book I’ve ever seen. The projects are advanced, but the instruction is top notch. The skills you’ll learn will make you a vastly better woodworker. I am definitely going to build some of these in the Stumpy Nubs Workshop, and if I can do it, anybody can!



Click here to purchase Dennis' book on the publisher's website.

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