Woodworking Students Think Outside of the Box

The box project will be on display in Main Lobby until Friday, December 15. (Photo by Katharine Sipio)

The box project has been a staple in Carter Sio’s ’76 Beginning Woodworking and Design course for over thirty years. The cardinal rule? No power tools allowed. Since 1984, students have been learning to construct these boxes using only hand tools.

Students begin the course by learning the basics of hand tools and how to use them. Construction on the boxes usually begins about five weeks into Term 1, and takes the remainder of the term to complete. From start to finish, the students do it all—the joinery, the dimensioning of the wood, the installation of the hinges, and the application of finish.

The box project and the use of only hand tools mirrors Carter’s experience of studying with Master Woodworker Ian Kirby from England. His school was modeled after a traditional British apprenticeship program where they spent the first year using only hand tools.

“Life slows down when you work this way, and you have to be extremely focused. The box project is the result of the focus that each of my students needed to complete the box,” said Carter. “In a world where just about anything one could want can be had with the swipe of a card, I’m teaching these young people to appreciate hand crafted work when they see it, and to support the people trying to make a living doing it.”

The annual showing of the boxes is a moment of great pride for the hardworking students, who get to learn the satisfaction of creating something entirely by hand. Carter estimates that approximately 850 boxes have been built in his class to date.

The box project will be on display in Main Lobby until Friday, December 15. After the display, the boxes will be returned to their owners for personal keepsakes, or potentially homemade holiday gifts for loved ones.

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