Sailors Valentine Boxes – Styles

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craft frame (no glass – unfinished)
“Good Value” (competitively Priced)
Front/Back Loading
Front Loading
Hinged Top - No longer Available
Rectangular Shadow Boxes
ULTRA DEEP Boxes Available On Request. 
Standard depth box vs
Traditional display cases for Sailors Valentines are typically octagonal is shape with all eight sides of equal length; however, a small number of antique Sailors Valentines were made in boxes with two or four of the eight sides longer than the others, resulting in an elongated octagon.  Most of the antique cases had a glass front that was held in place with eight pieces of removable molding.  The more finely crafted cases were sometimes made with a hinged lid held in position with a hook latch or a mortise lock. 
Our solid wood display cases and display tables are crafted from a wide variety of domestic and imported woods. In addition to precision construction, we incorporate a superior type of joinery, mortise and tenon, in our tables and Premium Quality Boxes that virtually eliminates the possibility of glue joint failure and provides superior strength to resist breakage if the case is dropped.   Our Commercial Quality Boxes are similar to most boxes on the market today.  They feature the same precision construction as our Premium Quality Boxes, but utilize simple butt joints instead of mortise and tenon joinery for the sides of the box.  

All of our Sailors Valentine boxes come with picture glass that is held in place with 8 pieces of wood molding.  Our value priced boxes (”Good Value” boxes) have the glass molding recessed from the top edge of the box; whereas the other styles have the glass molding sanded flush with the top edge of the box.  In addition, the value priced boxes have back panels made of relatively low priced plywood which is fixed into the box with clear flexible caulk and brads.  All of our other styles of boxes utilize cabinet grade plywood back panels held in place with brass screws for front/back loading boxes, or inserted into dados cut into the sides of the box during assembly.

Mortise and Tenon Joints vs simple butt joints

Box sides prepared for a
front/back loading box with
Mortise and Tenon joints.
Box sides prepared for a
front/back loading box with
simple butt joints.
Mortise and tenon joinery is great insurance against glue joint failure due to poor gluing technique or differential expansion and contraction between the sides of a box and a back panel that has been glued into a box with glue that is inflexible when it dries.  Mortise and tenon joinery can also help resist glue joint failure due to wood that may warp due to the expansion and contraction of wood that occurs when the moisture content of the wood changes.  Mortise and tenon joinery can also keep the box from breaking if it is accidentally dropped onto a hard surface.  I recently looked carefully at a group of Sailors Valentines on display at a gallery.  Every Sailors Valentine on display had at least one of the eight joints in the box that was at least partially separated.  That's the sign of glue joint failure.  

The strength of a simple butt joint depends entirely on the strength of the glue and the use of good gluing technique.  I have purchased several inexpensive Sailors Valentine boxes sold on eBay and other venues over the years and tested their strength by dropping them on my shop floor.  Every one of them broke in at least one of their joints on the first drop.  The same would be true for the boxes I make with simple butt joints.  They may survive a fall onto a plush carpet, but falling onto a hard surface is another story.

I visited a local frame shop to test the strength of simple butt joints fortified with V-nails. V-nails are commonly used by framers to strengthen the joints in rectangular picture frames. We tested three octagonal frames that I had made for the purpose of the test. One box was given a single V-nail in each joint; one box was given two V-nails in each joint; and the third box was given three V-nails in each joint. Each box was dropped onto the concrete floor from a height of about five feet. At least one joint in each of the three boxes broke the first time the box was dropped. V-nails might keep joints from separating due to changes in humidity; but, they do not provide the strength of mortise and tenon joinery from impact loads.

In contrast, the much superior strength of a mortise and tenon joint is due to the added strength of the wood tenon which spans across the glue line between two adjacent box sides.  For a mortise and tenon joint to break, not only does the glue line have to break, but the tenon has to break.  Considering that the grain in the tenon runs perpendicular to the glue joint, it is very, very unlikely that the tenon would break unless the box were being deliberately abused.  I tested the strength of my mortise and tenon joints by dropping four different boxes three times each from a height of about five feet so that a corner of the box hit the concrete floor of my workshop.  Not once did a joint break during these tests.  
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