Okay, so I discovered these things called writing boxes a few months back. Basically, they were used back in the 18th and 19th century to house your paper, inkwells, and quills/pens. The boxes divide in half at a sloped angle so when it’s open it creates a large sloped writing surface. They are made by a few people in modern days, but obviously the demand for them has wained over the years. They’re much bigger in the UK and Europe than the US. They range from relatively simple, made of domestic woods and purely functional, to extremely ornate, showcasing the highest level of craftsmanship in an era gone by.
Many of you know that I got my start in woodworking. I actually didn’t know anything about pens, paper, ink, writing, or any of that stuff when I first got into all of this 3 years ago. I was inspired by Norm Abram and the New Yankee Workshop (which after 21 years is regretfully ending) and David Marks with his show Wood Works (also ended years ago). I have a passion for beautiful wood, and that’s what got me into making pens in the first place. Pens led me to fountain pens, which led me to paper and ink, and here I am.
As a daily user of various fountain pens, I find myself needing a way to house and organize the writing materials I use on a daily basis. Right now I have a velvet roll with my pens (over 100 of them), random cardboard boxes filled with paper, and all of my inks sitting in a half-open USPS small flat rate box (it’s been used, don’t worry I’m not using the boxes inappropriately!).
I’ve had a great interest in the writing boxes ever since their existence came to my awareness. I think about them constantly, to the point where I’m starting to annoy my wife with all the “ooooh! Look at that one! That’s so cool!”. The coolest and most intricate ones I’ve seen so far are at a British site called Hygra.com. Thank you Hyrga for the great pictures (no affiliation). Click around their site for a while and check out some of those boxes!! Some of my favorites are the Tunbridge with its micro mosaics, the Masonic box with marquetry, and the ebony with mother of pearl inlayed box. Mind-blowing!!! To think that there were craftsman working at this level at one point in time, it’s so entirely inspiring for an individual like myself. There are different variations of the boxes based on their purpose, whether they’re meant to be kept on a desk, or used for traveling (known as a lap desk or traveling desk). Here’s an example of a lap desk, no affiliation. And here’s a traveling desk, no affiliation. A writing slope is like a writing box, but is slanted when closed, sort of like a writing box but with the top half missing. Whatever your flavor, they’re all very, very cool
Seeing how I am in love with these boxes, I have a passion and talent for wood working (not to mention a shop full of tools), and the inability to afford these incredible antique writing boxes, I find myself inspired to try building one. I have many obscure and ornate woodworking talents that I can integrate into the designs of a writing box, and all of the functionality and hidden compartments within the box would be so much fun to design and build. I have access to a laser engraving machine, experience casting and dying resins, I’ve done inlaying, gilding, and air brushing. I think I could come up with some really neat looking boxes! Undoubtedly if I do decide to go past the ‘wishing’ phase of this venture, I’ll blog about it (with videos too, of course). For the time being though, just revel in the magnificence of the finely crafted antique boxes that continue to be an inspiration to writers and craftsman today.
***Update to this post: There’s no way I can build my own! It was something that really piqued my interest, but as soon as I began to look into it, I very quickly discovered that I had no where near the craftsmanship or time to do the kind of work you see here. These types of boxes appear to be representative of an era gone by, and the exorbitant prices you see for antique boxes are fair because boxes like these will never be made again.