The Story of a Box Outside the Box

Blog post by Jenna Close

My dad and the Moose Creek gang restoring The Old Stone Mill in Middlebury, Vermont, circa 1976.

My dad and the Moose Creek gang restoring The Old Stone Mill in Middlebury, Vermont, circa 1976.

My dad smells like fresh sawdust. When it’s cold - as it often is in northern Vermont - the scent is mixed with the sharp tang of winter. One of my favorite childhood memories is my dad picking me up from dance class; NPR on the truck radio, Snickers wrappers crammed into the cup holder, sawdust in the chilly air.

Wood has always been in my family, from the early years when my dad was building our house, to the scraps of cedar, mahogany, maple and birch that he saved from job sites and stored in our barn. While he worked in the shop, my brother and I would practice pounding nails, always struggling to avoid “donkey tracks” with the hammer. A donkey track is irrefutable evidence you need to practice your aim.


In adulthood, I am my father’s daughter. He bucked the cubicle long before I was born, and we share many experiences in small business life - including the desire for perfection that comes with making a living doing what you love. And so, when Buck the Cubicle needed some very special boxes to hold our portfolios, I asked my dad to make them.


I was greeted in Vermont by single digit temperatures and plenty of glare ice. My dad heated up the shop and pulled down a selection of wood from the attic. Bird’s Eye Maple, Birch, Oak…all were beautiful, but the Pommele Sapele Mahogany was best.


As a kid I used to watch my dad crack open walnut shells with his bare hands. For a long time I thought it was some kind of magic trick, but later I realized it was the result of 30 years of swinging a hammer in all types of weather.


Before this project, I had never really paid attention to the way he worked. The similarities to my own craft were not lost on me; particularly how he knew the character of the wood, how it would respond to the tools, and how he solved problems by finding different ways to get the desired result. Good enough is not an option. Ever.

Big thanks to whomever didn’t want that leftover mahogany, to the fine folks at Aubuchon and Ace Hardware who happily fulfilled our last minute requests, and most of all, to my dad.