Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not Getting Much Shop Time

It is a weird phenomenon, at least for me, how I can get so excited about working a project that every spare second is spent in the shop. Conversely, there are times where it seems weeks go by without my tool chest even being opened.

Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of the latter, rather than the former. However, it isn't for lack of enthusiasm or something to do. I have about a million projects in line. Many of them have already even been started.

Between three weeks vacation, and a household renovation, it seems I am not getting my butt in the shop. The renovation we are working on is re-painting doors and door frames. Not exactly exciting, but once started, this project needs to be on the fast track until it is done. One of those things that disrupts everything about life until it is over. Sadly, if I do it right, no one will ever really see it unless I point it out.

If you are like me, then you will understand that the lack of movement in my shop doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it. This liquor box has been occupying a whole lot of my grey matter lately. If you didn't see the photos in my last post, then here they are again:

Here is where I am at with this project: Before I can even select wood for this project, I need two things. First, decanters. I have been looking on the internet to purchase some, but have yet to find anything appropriate. I want smallish decanters for this project, as I really like the size of the finished piece in the photo, only 6 3/4 inches wide. Besides that they are all too big, they are all fairly expensive. Not really too expensive, until multiplied by four.

I think I have solved this problem, but unfortunately I can't tell you about it yet until it works out.

The second thing I need, is a lock. As you can see in the photo, this isn't any lock that you could buy at the local Borg. If I want a lock that is just like this, my guess is I'll have to have one custom made. My impression is this will cost several hundred dollars. I'll go out on a limb and say that SWMBO won't be thrilled about that idea just for a box to hold booze.

The reason I get this impression, is because the folks at Horton Brasses say so. Let me plug these guys for a second. I sent a link to the photo to ask them what they thought of this lock, and I got a prompt response. After checking with their lockmaker in England, an adjustment of one of their stock locks was determined to be unfeasible. They actually told me what to look for if I went somewhere else, and offered to have it made (around $300). This is still an option, but not if I have to make two of these boxes. The English lock maker actually gave me some more info about this box, which I will get to in a minute.

I think that another option might be to make a wooden lock. Or perhaps some kind of puzzle joint that will keep the lid secure and not be obvious as how to open it. Right now this is the path that looks most promising.

Any ideas?

One thing that the English lockmaker noted about this photo is that the proper term for this type of liquor cabinet is a tantalus. I googled the term, and found that a tantalus is basically any kind of contraption that can be locked to keep the hired help out of your best single malt. Most of them are an open tote that decanters sit in, with a bar that slides in over the lids and locks to keep everything secure. Some others look like regular boxes with bottles in them. Some also hold glasses and cocktail accoutrements. One thing is common to all, though, a lock for security. Although I usually leave the lock off of a box, I think it is necessary in this case.

Another bit about the tantalus in the photo is that I think it is campaign furniture. In other words, intended for a military officer.  I think this because it is small and easily transported. Even so, this one is fine with a cool gizmocity factor that I like.

Wish me luck in my search for suitably awesome decanters and a suitably awesome lock. My guess is that if I can easily find what I need, I'll start this project sometime next spring or summer.

What do you do when you can't get in the shop?


  1. When I don't have much shop time (like when I'm overhauling a bathroom...) I spend time reading wworking blogs, or sketching project ideas that I may or may not get to.

    In regards to your tardis, er tantalus (great, now I have another project idea...) perhaps a lock that only engages one door would be an option, with the other door retained by a lip. Maybe some sort of ornate padlock but given how clean the lines are on this design, it might be a mistake. I have a carved trick lock box, with a rather simple mechanisim that you might be able to integrate. or use Quaker locks with a hidden button(s)?

  2. The scale of this thing threw me off... I was imagining it twice as big as you need (standard american assumption) You might look at something like perfume bottles or apothecary bottles. I think this is close to the size needed, and affordable, of course some artisan made stoppers would be in order and potentially cut or etch the glass to be more decorative (my neighbor does some glass work with diamond tile saws that looks fairly straightforward.)

    1. The price is right for your bottles. I'll keep that in mind if my other plan doesn't work out. I think the small scale of this thing is really cool. Regardless, I'll build it to suit what ever decanters I wind up with.

      I have been thinking of ways to get regular locks to work on this, but with the three-door design, I haven't been able to get my head around it yet. I think it may be a good excuse for a prototype.

  3. Try Ball and Ball or Horton Brass - they both have a good selection of locks.

  4. Look for
    Extra-Narrow Jewellery-Box Lock
    except that you would have to cut the little plate in two or make other ones to fit the two doors; or maybe buy two of them , cut and fold as necessary.

  5. For the decanters, at Christmas give the same perfume to your wife, your mother, your step-mother and a fourth one; than ask to have the bottles back.
    More seriously, Ikea once selled empty perfume bottles (Yngaren). Similar product must be avilable in perfumery. Or, try the flea market.

  6. Thanks, Ralph. I contacted Ball and Ball on your recomendation, we'll see what they say.

    Sylvain, I appreciate the comments. I'm nearly positive that a lock like this isn't manufactured today. I will either have to do surgery to one, such as you say, have a custom one built, or come up with a totally different approach. Great idea with the perfume bottles, though.