An American Indian friend of mine has asked me to make a box for an eagle wing. The box will be made using 5/8-in.-thick Spanish cedar. I am looking for a suggestion on how to finish it. – Bob Neff
Tim Inman: For a box like this, be sure to finish the inside and the outside. Other than that, it is purely an aesthetic choice. However, whatever you do, do not touch that eagle wing! Don’t even have it in your shop. It is against the law, and possessing it carries huge legal consequences. My father was an accomplished carver of early American experiences. He was a master at carving horses, wagons and buggies. One of his most cherished carvings is an American Indian on horseback. He made everything from the harness to the saddles and the clothing. He collected roadkill birds to get their feathers. The bright red downy feathers from the wings of a red-winged blackbird were used to make the feathery headdress for the Indian carving. At a National Carver’s Show, he was chastened and politely but frankly informed that the carving could be confiscated and he could be fined for having it. Since he had been invited to display this carving and others at the show, somehow things never got to the “jail” part. But he put the carving away, and it was never shown again. Hence my advice: Don’t have anything to do with that eagle wing.
Chris Marshall: With Spanish cedar, you’ve landed on a favorite choice for humidors. The wood has a spicy, pleasant smell, and for that reason it’s almost a shame to finish the inside of the box you’re making. In many ways, this wood has similar working characteristics for me to African mahogany: it’s soft, easy to cut, plane and sand and holds details well. If I were choosing a finish for that keepsake box, I’d probably dye the wood a rich, brown color and then topcoat it with lacquer. Have fun building your project!