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JOEL Joel's Blog

A Toolbox is Missing!!


A Toolbox is Missing!! 4The high point of a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a small exhibit called Thinking Outside the Box: European Cabinets, Caskets, and Cases from the Permanent Collection (1500-1900). The centerpiece was a giant steel strong box. The rest of the exhibit was smaller cases for various toiletries, food services, and portable this and that. The only case that came even close to something woody was a small set of drafting tools in a sharkskin case.
What made the exhibit such a treat was the exquisite workmanship. There are a lot of modern articles and books on making a box but these examples take the art of a box and bring it to colossal new heights. A large ebony box of men's toiletries which was covered with ivory inlay(see picture) is just one example of how good inlay can be. Not to garish, not boring, superbly executed. I'm sorry I don't have better pictures of it. There was a satinwood box full of curves that was made using parquetry. Thousands of cubes of wood were glued together like a floor except in miniature. Then the exterior was shaped with complex curves. It was really something.

I also like the form fitting interiors of the cases. We aren't talking random boxes that you cram full of stuff. These cases have ingenious fitted, lift out, and swing out compartments to hold all sorts of stuff. The exhibit is open until August 21th, 2011. It's a small exhibit but well worth the look.

What's missing from the exhibit, and I noticed it within seconds of walking into the hall, and it's possible that Met doesn't have one in their collection, is a tool box. A simple on the outside, fancy on the inside, traditional craftsman's tool box. I loved the exhibit and it gave me some great ideas but I would have loved it even more if it included some fitted tool boxes of various crafts.
Join the conversation
02/15/2011 Lew Ward
Did you speak with a curator? They have rooms filled with art and antiques. They may actually have what you wanted to see. Great project for a book or small exhibit. I'm sure you don't need more projects though.
02/16/2011 Bruce Wedlock
The Met should have borrowed H. O. Studley's tool case for display. Though in a private collection, it is loaned to the Smithsonian and other museums for display.

If you haven't seen it, Google "H. O. Studley" for many links and photos.
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