A Classic (and Cheap!) Holiday Gift Done Right
With the holidays right around the corner, we set off to buy a relatively cheap, but meaningful gift for a friend. What we found was classic flask designed by the same guys who made your grandfather’s thermos, and filled it with a little holiday spirit. This awesome flask is encased in a handmade, fire-charred box for a custom touch that will likely find another life as a dresser-top catch-all.
This was the first project I’ve done the charred finish, and I’m really a fan. It’s important to note here that fire safety is really necessary, so have a fire extinguisher close at hand, keep the work area clear with flammable materials moved a safe distance away. The area should be well vented to keep fumes from building up as well. I used a plank of wood under the box to protect my metal worksurface, which I know is a bit misleading, but the heat source is very focused and the base never even started smoking.
- 20″ of 1 1/2″ wide by 1/4″ thick pine board
- 7″ x 5″ (approximately) piece of 1/4″ plywood for back
- Nail gun (18 gauge, 3/4″ nails)
- Wood glue
- Blow Torch
- Sandpaper/Steel Wool
- Finish Wax
- Measure the flask – I laid out the flask and measured it along the wood to make the sides of the box. Make it about 1/8″ taller and wider than the flask to make it easy to get out. The sides should be tall enough to be flush with the flask.
- Cut the pieces – I cut pieces for the sides, making sure to be careful cutting small pieces. If you need additional support for small pieces, hot glue them to a larger backing board for safe cutting.
- Glue and nail – I adding a bit of glue and nailed the sides together in a rectangle. I made sure the box was square while nailing by measuring from corner to corner to make sure the measurements matched up.
- Cut and attach back – The 1/4″ plywood back is easiest to measure by setting the box on top and tracing around the edge with a marking knife. Once it is cut out, put a thin bead of glue on the edge, line it up to the corners, and tack it on with a few nails. The nails are really only necessary to hold it together until the glue dries, so don’t put too many into the piece.
- Sand and smooth – I used a stationary belt sander to smooth edges and sides, then finished rubbing smooth with steel wool. It’s important at this point to get the box as smooth as you want, because after charring it’s a bit messier to sand it.
- Char it – Using a simple propane torch, I slowly and evenly heater the edges until they were just starting to discolor, trying to keep the wood from actually flaming up as much as possible. The key to that is a slow and steady heating while moving the torch back and forth until the wood starts to change color. The amount to burn is a personal preference, but if you burn it too much past the char phase the ash will get messy when handled.
- Final sand – After the piece was sufficiently charred and the finish was a consistent dark color with the grain really featured, I let it cool then polished it again with some fine steel wool. The final step was a thin coat of furniture wax to keep the black from getting on hands when handling the box.
After the box was completed, I put a thin layer of shredded bark in the bottom to support the flask. This simple gift cost about $20, but it really comes across as a thoughtful package. With the custom touches, it is going be something they’ll enjoy well past this holiday season.