Miter Boxes and Making Do

Miter boxThis is a picture of the miter box I use to slice my soaps. I slide the long cylinder of soap  into the box, and cut each bar by hand with a wire cutter that slides in the groove on the short side.

A completely unremarkable construction, except for the fact that it’s remarkably ugly. It’s spattered, bent and…is a thing dirty if it’s covered in soap?

Except there’s this: I built this box more than a decade ago. I had been slicing my soaps with a sharp knife, and the pressure I needed to use was hurting my wrists. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time. I used a hacksaw and wood scraps from the shop, some leftover screws.

I created this funny little box on a sunny day, hanging out outside with my daughter and my neighbor Erika, while my son was napping. I had no idea what I was doing, only an image in my mind and whatever tools and bits I could pull together.

I still have no carpentry skills, and I don’t usually pay any attention to the box. It sits on the shelf in my soap shop, ready to do its job whenever I need it. It’s held thousands of bars of soap. It still functions perfectly.

I don’t have a warm homily about tools, or the lasting nature of things, or how we don’t need to be experts in order to create something with lasting value. I was just remembering that day, and trying to calculate how many soaps I must have sliced, how many wire tools I’ve gone through (they always fray and break at Christmas, right after my printer freezes up or I realize I’m out of labels).

I make my soaps on the countertop of an old Beauty Queen metal cabinet unit. It’s not a fancy set-up, but I love it and I’m grateful.

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