Making Things

This Mercury retrograde has been hitting me pretty hard. In addition to the typical mishaps and miscommunication, it’s been hard for me to think. Just putting thoughts together, in a coherent order has been challenging.

So, I figure – when the head isn’t working, try the hands.

One of the things that I was able to get done this week was painting and setting up an altar box for my Ancestor Altar for items that need to be stored out of sight while not in use. I wanted to make a box that would do this with some reverence and also aid my goals.

My nature is a crafty one, but I only discovered this in my twenties when I took up knitting and crochet. In my years of crafting with many different materials I’ve learned a few simple truths.

  • It always takes longer than expected.
  • I’ll rarely complete the project in one go. Start to finish is usually days (maybe weeks. OK, months).
  • It will be different than what I envision when I start.
  • When it’s done, I’ll forever know it and will recall the pieces in their original forms. I can see the skeins in the shawl.
  • If I don’t finish it, it will haunt me until I do. I once printed a pattern for fingerless mittens, and it was over 10 years before I completed them. The date I printed the pattern was on the paper.
  • Making things makes me look at things differently. I empathize with the creator of that long and intricate scarf because I know the time and decisions that went into making it.
  • Making things (even if it’s just putting on a decal) makes them your own.

Enjoy this step by step of decorating the altar box. It’s easy to do, too, if you ever want to tackle something similar. Mine is pretty simple, but you can make it as elaborate as you like.

Once you have an idea in mind,

img_20200223_131934613Step 1: Get and prepare an unfinished wooden box. Or any box you want.

Starting in appropriate hour and /or day for the box’s purpose, give the box a good dusting and smooth any surfaces that are rough with light sandpaper, if needed. The rough scrubbing side of a sponge will often do for soft wood if you don’t have sandpaper.

Remove the hardware and note how your box is assembled as you do it. Photos are good for this. Put the hardware in a ziplock bag and set aside.

This is the perfect time to draw lightly in pencil any symbols, intentions, glyphs or anything else you want the paint to cover up.

Note: I started in the hour and day for the box’s purpose, but finished days later. For me, the start time is most important. If you want to complete the box in a single planetary hour, I suggest that you have all materials gathered set up beforehand, so you can work as quickly as possible within your time constraints.

Step 2: Prep your paint area.

Boxes or newspapers on top of a drop cloth are good for this. You want a place that’s well ventilated, but also protected from the wind.

img_20200223_133849580_hdrStep 3: Spray Paint

I love spray paint! It’s quick and easy. Get the paint that is right for your materials, and follow the instructions on the can. Lots of light coats are better than one heavy coat. Keep the can moving and watch for overspray.

When it’s dry check that the top and bottom matches and the sides, too.

It’s best to check this in sunlight. I found that I ended up having more coats on the bottom than the top, and it took a couple more coats to even this out.

img_20200223_171721465Step 4: After it’s completely dry. Cut out & attach your inner lining material. Re-attach the hardware.

Lining the inside of the box with cloth or heavy paper is a nice touch. I opted for heavy scrapbook paper that has a little texture. I cut out the rectangles a little larger than the space, which allowed me to wedge it in and have it stay without needing to glue it in place.

I like the option of sticking something behind the paper lining or even writing something on the paper. Plus it’s easy cleanup if an oil or something spills. If you’re using cloth, you’ll need to glue it in to secure it, especially at the top. Depending on the type of fabric, tacky glue or even a drop of hot glue may work.

If you are going to do a lot of decoration on the box, it might be easier to decorate before re-attaching the hardware, but just make sure you keep track of which sides are the front and back.

img_20200227_144829999Step 5: Stencil time

I decided on putting a fleur de lis in silver on the top of the box using a stencil. After securing the stencil it its proper position, mask the rest of the box, so there are no mishaps. Make sure the tape you use to secure the stencil won’t pull up the paint on the box when you remove the stencil.

Using craft paint and a stencil brush, apply the paint over the stencil in an up and down tapping motion starting from the center of the stencil and moving outward.

Do a few coats, and make sure the stencil doesn’t move around when you are doing this. After waiting a few minutes for the paint to dry, carefully remove the stencil and masking.


Mine came out OK. Not as crisp as I’d like, but I’m happy with it.

Resist the urge to touch what you just painted to check if it’s dry. Wait at least overnight before you go poking at it.



Here’s the finished product! It definitely has the look and feel that I wanted for an Ancestor Altar box. Writing it up is actually harder than doing it. I can’t wait to make more.


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