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notes from the desk of Lord Ihone Munro

Scribe’s Box

Etched, Burned, and Weathered Wooden Box, based on decorating practices of the 14th through 16th centuries

Project Completed June 17, 2004

Of Hawks and Wood

I had the utmost pleasure of dwelling within Hawkwood’s borders for a brief stint.  In those two years, I discovered much about myself and about the people that dwell in her mountains.  Above all else, the loyalty and friendship that the people of Hawkwood show each other is astounding.  This is the first reason that I thought this arts competition was so appropriate in nature.  Braids and knots are bound tightly together and are quite hard to tear apart.

Another thing that struck me as both appropriate and just is that the folks that dwell within Hawkwood’s borders decided to put pen to paper and name Duncan and Eyrick MacGregor as the newly invested baron and baroness.  Helping to form the canton, and now seeing it grow to a barony must be a great honor, and vivats to them upon their accomplishments.  Best wishes and godspeed to the both as well, as they know that my blade and pen are both at their service should they need either.

With these things in mind, and hearing that the competition for the investeture would be “best braid in any medium”, how could I resist pulling the deep Scot persona out and putting something into knotwork to commemorate such occasion?  Not only did I want to “think outside the box” but within it too, in hopes that this gift serves purpose to them as they start on this new journey – perhaps helping to mask the mundane nature of scrolls and gifts until given out to those who might deserve them.

Form Follows Function

Let me begin by stating that this box is NOT something fully from my hands.  Instead, I have faced and decorated the box in a baronial theme for Hawkwood.  The reason behind this is that I had 2 silver boxes from the later end of the 1950’s sitting around for a while with no clue what I wanted to do with them.  The box is quite water resistant (as long as it’s not dunked in the tub, it does fairly well) and should be suitable for storage of notebooks, stationary, pens and the like.  I’ve seen many baronial and kingdom scribes scramble to keep their documents from getting wet in those nice storms that come from nowhere, and I didn’t want this to be the case for the folks of Hawkwood.

I first designed the layout that I wanted to use for the box, utilizing a traditional style 2/4 cord braid.  I put circles in the centers of some of the areas to make it look more like eyes peering out.  I capped off the corners also with large leaves.  This way I could incorporate the “hawk” element of eyes, and the leaves for “wood”, before placing the Hawkwood badge in the center.  Granted, this design is not quite ready for the book of Kells, but I’m pleased with it.

Of Methods and Mayhem

To start the project, I gutted the cloth and glue that was holding in the place setting holders for the silverware.  I then masked off the areas of the box that were to be carved using simple painter’s tape.  I then drew the design onto the painter’s tape and cut it out with an Exacto knife.  This helped me to mark the box off where I wanted, but still leave the bulk of it without ink staining too deeply into the wood. 

After I had my patterns mocked up, I roughed out the areas marked in black above with my Dremel.  After realizing that the paneling was entirely too thin to engrave deeply enough to make an impact by itself, I test burned a section of the knot to see if it would give me the caramel color that I wanted for the background of the knots.  I can’t stand burning, unless it will give a decent texture and color to contrast with etching or carving, so it really was a last resort.  Seeing that my test “swatch” was pretty good with contrasting color and quality, I “roughed” out the rest of the braids with the Dremel.

I believe it was dead center in the middle of the project that I was dealing with hardwood paneling, and had to replace the bit that I was using.  Hoping to not use up my second bit, I went very light on the remainder of the braids and corners, then utilized a wood burning tool to give me the remainder of the depth that I was looking for.  It was very important to do so, as the panel is very thin and I did not want to punch through by using a heavier Dremel bit.

Once the etching and burning process was complete, I sanded and buffed out the original finish in spots, giving it a more sporadic look.  I then took the box and dropped it repeatedly from a shallow height onto my driveway in order to give the box a few more dents, scrapes, and dings.  After this “weathering” process of beating the piece up a bit was complete, I removed all of the dust that I could, and gave it a light rub down with a damp cloth.  I then put on a coat of golden oak finish to give a more caramel appearance to the piece.  Once the stain set and was dry, I buffed out the shine so that it looked more weathered.

Thoughts in Retrospect

This is not the first decorative box that I have worked on, but it is one of the more intricately designed.  I’m pleased that I didn’t punch through (as that was one of my greatest concerns), and that I was able to incorporate elements that remind me of Hawkwood into the piece itself through the design – not just with a badge or device.

Knowing fully that this piece isn’t truly period, due to its modern construction and purpose, this doesn’t dissuade me from creating pieces such as this.  With the push that has come through the kingdom as of late to make mundane items appear to be more period, I think that subtleties such as this are a good step in the right direction.

I do have a companion piece that I will work on in the near future for Baroness Kisiaya of Sacred Stone, and I hope that I am able to use some of the techniques that I used with this piece.  I also hope that everyone will find some joy in the work that I’ve done.

Constructive feedback is both welcome and appreciated, please let me know if I missed some pertinent information or if there's somewhere I can improve. As always, thanks for reading!