View Full Version : URGENT Helping a wonderful woodworker in his 80's to help a family whose husband is dying

28th Mar 2019, 05:09 PM
I am so hoping someone can help us with this question.

A dear friend of ours who is still creating the most magic jewellery boxes in his 80's has been asked to help a local family whose husband/father is dying and the dying man really wants an old wooden automatically opening match-box of his fixed. I imagine he wants to gift it to someone special.

The carved wooden matchbox has a hole in the two pieces that slide over each other, the drawer and the base of the box 451569451568and the drawer has a little metal piece a bit like a paperclip at the back which pushes the draw out once it is released. We think the hole must be meant to hold a ball bearing in someway held in place by a tiny spring through the hole which goes through the drawer to the back.

We really need to be able to work out how to fix this and make the drawer automatically move in and out. Can you help us? Any ideas would be so welcome.

Thanks Trypheyna

28th Mar 2019, 06:22 PM
look at the tongue and rebate on the front of that drawer! They are teeeeeeny tiny!

Any chance of a shot of underneath the drawer?

One can see how the spring has worn on the back and the indentation of the bearing in the hole in the drawer.... but no match or mark on the inside of the box.... curious.

Its as you say. A small spring and ball bearing fit into the hole... but that wont work as there is no "release" mechanism. (nor a corresponding mark on the inside of the box where one would expect the bearing to have slid while forced upwards).

edit: fixed formatting caused by https stuff up

Chief Tiff
28th Mar 2019, 06:36 PM
I don't think it's a spring loaded bearing; I think it's more of a puzzle box, but my hypothesis depends on that hole in the drawer drilled all the way through...

The wear marks from the spring on the box carcase show that the box is assembled exactly as shown in the first picture; what isn't shown anywhere is any sort of catch. If a spring loaded ball bearing is used then how is it retracted to allow the drawer to open?

I reckon a simple short bar (with softened ends) is dropped into that hole. Then, when the drawer is closed against the spring the bar drops into the hole. Spring tension acting on the drawer locks the bar in place so even if the box is rotated upside down and knocked friction should keep it locked.

To open the drawer, slight pressure is put on the drawer to push it back into the carcase; and the box either gently shook or turned upside down. That would allow the bar to move out of the hole and free the drawer. Finger on the drawer, a quick flick of the wrist and out it pops. There is an obvious stop on the carcase 'lid" which would prevent the drawer from flying out.

The bar may not need to be made from metal either; a bit of hardwood dowel turned to be a loose fit and just short enough to clear the recess would work I reckon.


28th Mar 2019, 06:38 PM
Unfortunately I don't have the box with me, so I can't take any more photos until we go back to town next week. The underneath only had the hole come through to the other side and didn't seem to give any other clues. We took the photos and I said I would post this and see what I could find out for him. It is a beautifully made little box. It would be magic to be able to fix this for a family who are under a lot of pressure at the moment.

Chief Tiff
28th Mar 2019, 06:41 PM
So the hole does go all the way through?

28th Mar 2019, 06:44 PM
There is a bit missing.

In the drawer, at the rear, below the hole, is a mark in the timber where a small bar lay. Is there a small bit of metal on the inside of the drawer where it may have snapped off?

Ive highlighted the area crudely.

Could have a small spring (perhaps also bearing above it) forced a bar (shaped like the yellow highlight) been pushed up against the roof? The bars end has worn the inside top of the lid where the end has scratched it... pic 2.

??? perhaps....

451574 451573

28th Mar 2019, 07:11 PM
Wow that makes a lot of sense 'Chief Tiff - Butcher of wood' . I will have to talk with my husband about that and how we might be able to create "a simple short bar" that will do that. Do you suggest that it is also made of wood or would it need to be a little metal bar? I imagine it needs to be smaller than the hole so it can slip through easily, is that correct?

Chief Tiff
28th Mar 2019, 07:39 PM
Judging by the scale of the box to the fingers I’m thinking the bar could be almost as thin as a bit of cut up toothpick (if wood) or a bit of coat hanger wire (if metal). It would definitely need to be a slack fit. Maybe ask the old boy to try putting it together with a bit of toothpick the same height of the drawer in the hole and the box held together with a couple of elastic bands, and try the finger-on-drawer-with-a-flick-of-the-wrist.

Woodpixel’s thoughts are intriguing too, could there be a snapped off bit sticking out of the drawer rear?

Skew ChiDAMN!!
28th Mar 2019, 08:14 PM
I suspect that it is just what it seems... a puzzle box.

If a dowel is cut to the same height as drawer, of a loose enough fit to freely slide in and out, then that's all that is needed. A latch and/or spring would be unnecessary,

Closing the box when in the upright position, you need to apply enough force to compress the spring at the back of the drawer until the dowel drops into the engagement under it's own weight. Releasing the finger pressure, the spring tries to open the drawer but the dowel is engaged, effectively "locking" it.

Opening the drawer would be simply a matter of turning the box upside-down, finger-pressure on the face of the drawer until the dowel drops fully back into the drawer, and release. (Turning the box back over the right way up before letting it open fully, of course. :D)

In use I imagine there may be an audible "tick" when the dowel moves position, but maybe not. It is only small, after all...

So, no spring is missing: gravity does the work. No catch is missing, as the spring that pops the drawer out pretty much IS the catch.

I also suspect that the broken joint on the back edge of the box-top is from where the spring has been pushing against it... perhaps someone got a bit over-enthusiastic when opening and closing it?

28th Mar 2019, 10:36 PM
100% agree with Chief Tiff

Loose dowel, just the right length, kept in place by supporting pressure. So very simple!

29th Mar 2019, 04:04 PM
Thank you all so much for your input. I spoke with our woodworking friend last night about this and he was thrilled that you had all given such wise advice. He was really happy. Now to see how it pans out. Cheers Trypheyna