Friday, September 26, 2014

Taubman Scholarship Box

Taubman College hosts an annual event called "Taubman Scholars". They honor the college benefactor, Alfred Taubman, as well as the recipients of the scholarships he provides.

Mr. Taubman is given a box each year with photos and biographies of all the recipients. I was asked to design and fabricate the box this year.


I wanted to make the box from CNC cut hardwood. I wanted a clean design that showed off the beauty of the wood.

Here's a screen capture of the design. Subtle curvature is used to give the box some interest. The top extends beyond the sides to allow it to be easily lifted.

This version has chamfers planed into the edge of the lid. This echos the curves on the sides and provides some variation to the thickness along the lid edge. The curving chamfer also reflects the light in appealing ways. 

I wasn't sure which would look nicer so I produced both.

The cards are 7.25" x 5.25" and sit in the pocket. The lid sits on the upper pocket. The sides of the box have indentations for finger to allow the cards to be more easily removed.

The box is milled from a single piece of Honduras Mahogany. It was cut on the 3-axis router. You can see the inside to outside toolpath used to route the pocket. This was easily sanded out.

Logo Etching

I needed to laser etch the logo "M Taubman College" logo into the top. Because the top is curved it was interesting to try to find settings which would even out the depth of cut. I employed Taubman student and laser cutting expert Ric Foley to get the settings just right.

The laser cutter used to etch the logo into the box top:

I bandsaw cut some maple samples to test with - much quicker than routing them:

We began with a laser Z height of 0.75" for the cut. The laser first etches horizontal lines to burn inside the letter, then outlines them.

Here are the test cuts. The power setting and speed remained the same. We changed the Z height of the laser - lowering it in the final version.


I used some of my favorite finishes - Minwax Golden Oak stain for the curly maple, and Minwax Wipe-on Polyurethane. Here's the top stained and the bottom with a single coat of finish. The stain really makes the curl in the maple pop. It also nicely unified the color with the mahogany.

The other lid design I left the natural color and only used polyurethane. This is much more subtle.

In the end I preferred the chamfered edge top.

In sunlight the chatoyance of the maple really shimmers:

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