Shaker Bentwood Box

Presented by Matt Stonehouse

‘Shaker Oval Boxes’ are recognized artifacts of Shaker life and work. First made over two hundred years ago, these containers were made for community use and for sale to the ‘world’s people’ until well into the 20th Century. They were used to hold food stuffs in the pantry, buttons for the seamstress and tacks in the shop. Graceful, well made and of widespread utility, they represent virtues of the Shaker order itself.

These beautiful boxes were first made from hard maple and white pine. In an age before machines, thin wood strips were rived from a straight billet of wood and made ready for bending by hand planes and scrapers. Hot water soaking makes this sturdy wood pliable, and bending gives us a complete oval shape in a single motion. Tacked and made secure by oval shapers, this efficient process will impress you every time.

Students will learn to bevel, steam and bend Shaker Box bands and fit and tack them to lids and bottoms. It will be possible to make up to three boxes per class. Discussion topics will include re-sawing wood into box bands, making templates, cutting finger patterns, making oval cores for shaping boxes and sources for box materials. Time permitting, we will also cover finishing with shellac, milk paint and/or wax.


Just a short note to thank Alastair for the Shaker bent wood box making course on 28AUG2016. Alastair’s infectious enthusiasm and ability to share knowledge made the course a thoroughly satisfying way to spend the day. Now that I have started making these historic boxes I will never buy Tupperware again!
Bradley van Luyt, Sydney NSW

Thank you Alastair for sharing your knowledge and passion, it puts an added layer on to what we were doing…..I went home and googled the heck out of anything ‘shaker box’ related. A few weeks ago I had no idea that a shaker box existed let alone what it was used for in ye olde days!
Julie Bartling

Coming from Canberra, I thought it was a big call to attend a course in Melbourne but the sound of the Shaker Box course sounded so good I decided to give it a go. What a decision! I have already chosen more courses I wish to attend, and am juggling work to get to them!! Thank you Alastair (and family) for a great day - I cant wait to come back!!”
Damian Wardle

‘I had a great day attending the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking to do a Shaker Bentwood Box course. The workshops were a good space to work in and the course was very well prepared for with all the materials and tools ready to go. Alistair’s passion for his craft is strongly evident and inspirational, particularly to those of us who only dream of making woodworking our life’s work. Working with likeminded people was a pleasure and the technical details of making these beautiful boxes were a valuable insight into the Shaker traditions. I came away with a beautiful graduated set of three shaker boxes and a strong motivation to develop the skills I learnt further. MGFW is a great place to imerse yourself in the simple pleasures of working with wood and creating something with basic hand skills. I will come again!”
Jon Grant

Matt Stonehouse

Shaker Box Numbers 1, 2 & 3 - $340 (Inclusive of GST)
All materials included


Sunday 3rd March 2019
9:00am to 5:00pm

Sunday 8th December 2019
9:00am to 5:00pm

1 day

Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking.
14 Cottage St, Blackburn.

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About the Instructor
Matt Stonehouse is a Melbourne based musician, composer and instrument maker currently living on the Dunmoochin Artist Colony in Cottles Bridge, Victoria. He lives there as an artist-in-resident. Matt Stonehouse is Australia’s foremost percussionist of Arabic and Turkish styles of drumming and is featured on more than forty albums of both local and international artists. In addition to percussion, Matt is a highly regarded guitarist, mandolin and mandocello player and uses these instruments when composing. This can be heard on his 2016 vinyl album release, ‘Rosie’s point of view.ʼ

His recording credits as percussionist are both impressive and extensive. Internationally notable artists he has performed/ recorded with are: The Ross Daly quartet (Crete), The Tea Party (Canada), Coleman Barks (USA). In Australia his credits include the ARIA nominated album ‘Empires‘ by Latidtude 37, Bashka, Mista Savona, Alwan, Yair Dalal ,My friend the chocolate cake, Zulya and the children of the underground, Kozmik County and surf rock group, The Reefers.

Matt first discovered MGFW in 2014 whilst attending the Shaker Bentwood Box course and became a student of Alastairʼs ever since. Other than the occasional fine furniture build, Matt focuses on crafting high end frame drums for musicians around the world and is currently designing a large set of 25 tunable drums to be performed by his frame drum ensemble here in Melbourne. When heʼs not playing or making drums…heʼs making Shaker Bentwood Boxes!

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