Pencil Box
(Tony Lydgate,
circa 1984)
Box 1
Box 3
Box 4
Box 6
Way back in the fall of 1985, I flew with some friends from the Boston area down to Nantucket island to spend a day. At a small shop there, I found a very nice little birds-eye maple pencil box.

It was all maple, except for a stripe, in darker woods (rosewood & ...?) comprising two thin lines around a thicker one, running the length of the top; the bottom, in a darker wood; and distinctive dark "featherslips", two to a mitred corner. The top was a lift top, that is, was a separate piece - not hinged - fitting nicely into the body.

Having always had a weak spot for nice wood and quality craftsmanship, I couldn't resist buying that box, and later sent it West, as a Christmas present to an old high-school friend.

Years passed... the old high school friend and I got married, and had kids. Life...

In February of 1996, Janet and I were on vacation in Kauai. One evening, in the small town of Hanalei on the north side of the island, we dropped in to a small shop/gallery called Ola's. Inside, among the many art objects for sale, I was delighted to find some small wooden boxes that evoked the same "I've gotta have one" urge that had struck more than a decade before on Nantucket. It was hard to choose, but we finally settled on a mainly-mango box, with a nice diagonal pattern of laminated stripes of koa and rosewood on the top. This box became my prized souveneir of the trip. The card and signature engraved on the inside of the box said it was made by one Timothy Lydgate.

As time went by, we eventually came to realize the many similarities between the two boxes: both had the lift-tops, and mitred corners with contrasting slipfeathers. There were some differences, too; the newer box had more involved detail work, including contrasting wood along the top edge (where the top makes contact with the body), and a lining of what appeared to be suede leather on both the inner and outer surfaces of the bottom. But they were enough alike to prompt us to wonder whether they'd been made by the same hands.

We later (fall 1997) purchased another Timothy Lydgate box, from a gallery in Monterey, Ca... (it was the only one they had). But this only made be hungry for more.

After so much wondering, and wanting, I decided to try and find out where I might go to buy more of these wonderful boxes. Through the wonders of the Web, I found an email address for Mr. Timothy Lydgate. Contacting him, I was delighted to learn that his studio was in nearby Santa Cruz, and that he would be having an open studio a few weeks in the future.

Visiting during the open studio satisfied both my curiosity about the first box, and my desire buy more. I described the earlier box to him, and he guessed that it might have been made by his brother, Tony, who had long been making boxes he calls "pencil boxes". Timothy show me a picture of one of these, and I was convinced that, indeed, that first maple box had been a Lydgate - but Tony, not a Timothy.

I was also delighted to be able to buy a few more boxes - four that day - directly out of the studio (it was wonderful, and difficult, to select from among so many boxes, each so unique).

By now, I'm completely hooked. Another trip to the studio and I again came away with four new boxes. Janet has made me pledge to take a breather before buying more.

These pages are an attempt to both share the pleasure I get from the beauty in the wood, design, and craftsmanship of the boxes, and to try and better understand and express what it is I find so compelling in them.

I hope to tinker with both the collection (i.e., buy more boxes!), and these web pages from time to time, so please feel free to check back in when you're in the neighborhood.