Boxes and Spills

Have you any idea of what a spill plane is? I didn’t either until I received one a couple of years ago. It was my fault. After being asked what I wanted for Christmas, I handed over the Lee Valley tool catalog that I had been browsing and marking up. Somehow the spill plane was selected and subsequently opened on Christmas morning. It was rather fussy to set up, so it got relegated to a drawer with other rarely used planes.

But I know. You are asking what does the darned thing do? It makes spills. Satisfied, no? -OK, sorry. Spills are what people would use to light lamps, candles, and fires with before they had matches. Creating a proper curly spill in quantity was best done with the spilling plane.

Three weeks ago, I was in the middle of another shop reorganization and came across the plane. As a way of avoiding otherwise useful work, I set the plane up and commenced making a handful of spills. It was easier than I thought, and I came up with an idea for making a series of handmade boxes containing spills as presents. The boxes would be simple with a sliding top. 

The top would have a chip carved design on them. Inside would be an assortment of spills and a note explaining their use. After you used the spills or discarded them, the box owner can repurpose the box. Simple, yes?

Nothing is simple in my shop. Instead of just making the little boxes with mitered joints, I decided that a box joint would be great and attractive. So out comes the box joint jig I bought two years ago but never set up. Two weeks into the project, I’ve stowed the jig away for later- like the plane, it is fiddly to set up. I realized that the building of these boxes was becoming a major thing rather than a side project. In the meantime, three portraits of ships and another project lay abandoned, back to making the boxes with miter joints.

I don’t know how many others of you get sidetracked like this. Mine relates to my abiding ability to become distracted. A hyper-focus on details accompanies the distraction. 

Most of the time, I work this to my advantage. I get to explore new techniques and areas of knowledge. I don’t get stale. 

An old saying says, “Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole.” Well, this time, I was deep into hole territory. A simple build turned major construction.

Still, I think the project will work out, and friends will get some pretty boxes. I may use milk paint on the boxes (pine), but make the tops from cherry for contrast.

5 Replies to “Boxes and Spills”

    1. I bet that everyone who read the post wondered, but didn’t ask. Great question! Before matches, each household would have had either a dedicated fire source ( stove or fire) or fire starter of some kind. The spills would have been lite that way. If something like pine is used the darn things burn up fast. The ones I used in the photo are about three inches shorter than what normally gets produced. sometimes technology is nice.


      1. Ah, so I guess a lighter is our dedicated fire source these days. The spills surely seem handy, especially for fire pits and such, where matches just won’t do.


  1. I’d like to see the end results of the boxes. Sounds super interesting!

    As for getting sidetracked, I think I may be the owner of that distinct club in which case, I should say, “Welcome, Lou.”

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