J.P. Uranker
Master Woodcarver

Martha's Vineyard, MA

Studio: 508-693-5871
Cell: 508-939-1447
jpuranker@jpuwoodcarver.com

Sea Chests

The sea chests that I produce are authentic maritime reproductions, evolving after extensive research in the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The meticulous detail on the chest assures the owner that time and quality have gone into building the chest before the carving takes place. These sea chests are not painted boxes or mass produced overseas and sold as authentic sea chests. They are individually hand made and hand carved here in my studio on Martha’s Vineyard.

Sea Chests were traditionally built by sailors to transport and store their possessions while aboard ship. They would hold naval instruments, journals and clothing. Usually the sea chests were constructed out of pine using dovetail joinery. This form of joinery was developed in the early 1500’s and is considered to be the strongest method of building chests. In the 1700 and 1800’s, old growth forests allowed the milling of very wide boards so the sea chests were able to be constructed without laminating the wood. The inside of the lids on the old chests where usually painted with images of harbors, whales, mermaids, even game boards.

The chests often were constructed with a sloping design to keep them from being topheavy and also to save the sailor’s shins in a seaway. The handles or beckets made for the chests, by the sailors, represented the highest level of marlinespike seamanship. During the heyday of whaling, chests could be purchased from merchants fully outfitted. The sea chests that I build and carve continue this early seafaring tradition and heritage. They are constructed out of pine or mahogany using very wide boards, eliminating the need for lamination. The dovetail joinery I use assures a strongly built chest that will last for generations. The top of the chest is attached with iron chest hinges. The hinges are hand forged on Martha’s Vineyard by Whit Hanschka. They are reproduced from original hinges found on the chests in the collection at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. My wife, Francesca, makes the decorative beckets out of cotton cord for the chests. Both mahogany and pine chests are finished with multiple coats of high quality tung oil , making them extremely durable while creating a rich patina. The stains for the pine sea chests are available in many color choices. You can have the chests carved with a traditional maritime scene or a carving of your choice. This could be your yacht club burgee, family crest, your boat, the choices are endless.

Some of the options available on both mahogany and pine chests are glass top, aromatic cedar lining and personal inscriptions. Every chest is signed and dated. Every sea chest I make is heirloom quality using quality workmanship, which will be enjoyed for years to come. You can use the chest as a coffee table in your home or office, seasonal storage for clothing, a special gift, aboard your boat, or just about anywhere.

Blanket Chests

A blanket chest is a functional yet beautiful piece of furniture. It can be used as a hope chest or to store linens throughout the different seasons or even a coffee table. The chests that I make are the same high quality as the sea chests. They are individually hand made and hand carved. I use dovetail joinery and either wide sugar pine or mahogany, eliminating the need for lamination. Both mahogany and pine chests are finished with multiple coats of high quality tung oil, making them extremely durable while creating a rich patina. The stains for the pine chests are available in many color choices. The top of the chest is attached with iron hinges. These hinges are hand forged on Martha’s Vineyard by Whit Hanschka. The handles on the blanket chests are traditional brass handles. Some of the options available on both mahogany and pine chests are glass top, aromatic cedar lining, hand made beckets and personal inscriptions. Every chest is signed and dated.

Ditty Boxes

While sea chests were relatively common aboard ship and carried by most sailors in the sea faring days, it is interesting that miniature chests or ditty boxes were often used to hold ships’ papers, sextant and navigation aids. Many sea captains built ditty boxes for their personal possessions including journals, pocket watches and letters. The boxes were usually constructed from pine and used dovetail joinery. Often the boxes were painted with maritime images. The ditty boxes that I build and carve continue this seafaring tradition and heritage. They are constructed out of sugar pine or mahogany using wide boards, eliminating the need for lamination. The boxes are dovetailed and hand carved. Both mahogany and pine boxes are finished with multiple coats of high quality tung oil, making them extremely durable while creating a rich patina. The stains for the pine boxes are available in many color choices. The handles on the boxes are handmade cotton cord grommets, also made by my wife Francesca. The top of the box is attached with iron hinges. The hinges are hand forged on Martha’s Vineyard by Whit Hanschka. Some of the options available on both mahogany and pine boxes are velvet lining, aromatic cedar, locks and personal inscriptions. Each box comes signed and dated. Because of the smaller size of the traditional ditty box, it lends itself to different uses than the sea chest or blanket chest. It can be handsomely displayed on top of a desk to store important documents, on a dresser as a beautiful jewelry box or to hold your ship papers. Ditty boxes can easily be moved and carried around like a small piece of luggage.

Mahogany Sea Chest
Sugarpine Sea Chest
Blanket Chest
Ditty Boxes