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V0J 1Y0


Hummingbird design by Marie Smith

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The 'Smudge-box' Tutorial

Materials List

The base supplies needed for fixing a bentboxThe materials needed to begin making a smudge-box are few and inexpensive. For this exercise we have provided a list of supplies that our artisans prefer using.

  1. B. C. D - use 100, 220, 280 and 400 Grit Sandpaper
  2. Johnson's Paste Wax
  3. Masking Tape
  4. Weldbond Glue
  5. Dust Mask & Safety Glasses
  6. Sanding Block
  7. Mechanical Pencil & Eraser
  8. Red & Black Paint (Acrylic) Paint
  9. #000 & #6 size Paint Brushes
  10. Ruler
  11. Tracing Paper
Assembling the Smudge-box

In this section, you will be provided instructions on how to create a smudge-box based on the 'Gitxsan Toolkit' Smudge-box.

1. Before you begin, dry fit all smudge-box pieces together and wrap with an elastic band (so you will know how all pieces are to be glued together).
Next, pull apart the smudge-box pieces and lay the pieces out in the order you will glue them.

2. Apply a bead of glue around the base; and on the 4 side pieces. With your finger spread glue evenly on the 45 degree angled cuts. Begin assembly by adhering 1 side piece to the base and continue until all side pieces are attached. As you assemble, press pieces together and wipe off excess glue.

3. When the smudge-box is assembled, compress all pieces snugly while keeping the box squared. Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth.
Finally, stretch masking tape to band around the smudge-box top and then tape the bottom. Let smudge-box cure for 24 hours before sanding and painting.






When attaching hinges, line up where you want to place the hinges and mark a dot where the screws will be placed.

Drill pilot holes where you have placed your dots - this will make attaching the screws easier and protect against the wood splitting.


If you are using a Smudge-box kit, predrilled pilot holes are prepared.

With the screw-driver, attach accompanying hinges to the smudge-box lid.


This method is the 'wet sand method' popular with native artists. Essentially you start sanding using coarse sandpaper, graduating to finer sand paper until your wood product feels like silk. Then you apply a damp rag to your smudge-box to 'raise the grain' of the wood; sand this down again and you will have a super smooth surface.

Very important: When sanding cedar, always protect yourself by using dust masks and protective eye glasses.

1. Begin by sanding with 100 grit paper and sand all imperfections off the surface of the wood. Check to see if you are done by running your finger along the surface of the cedar and check for roughness. When the cedar is perfectly sanded, graduate to the 240 grit, the 280 grit, then the 400 grit sandpaper. Take care not to rush the sanding process and you will notice the cedar getting smoother as you progress.

2. When you are done the 400 grit sanding, take a moment and feel how silky smooth the cedar feels. Now you are ready to wet the bentbox by wiping the sanded cedar down with a damp rag; allow the cedar to dry completely (1/2 hour). Don't panic if your cedar feels very rough when dry, you will sand the surface again with 400 grit sandpaper only until your cedar is back to feeling like silk. The wet-sand method is done to prepare cedar surfaces for painting by raising the grain before you paint (avoids the wet paint raising the grain and leaving a rough surface on your finished project.

A photo showing how sandpaper is divided.Tip: tear your 7 by 11 inch sandpaper into 4 pieces using the straight edge of a ruler. Don't wreck your scissors.

Tip: use a piece of wood as a sanding block. Wrap a piece of sandpaper around the sanding block and start sanding.


Please, for the purposes of this tutorial - you must provide your own design. If you are using one of the YHY Smudge-box kits you can use the design provided.

1. Begin by tracing your design onto tracing paper. When tracing move your pencil in short strokes back and forth. The objective is to build up a nice layer of lead from the pencil for a good transfer.

2. Flip tracing paper over so that your pencil lines are face down against the cedar - make sure the design is centered before you tape securely to the surface. Commence tracing.

When tracing, do not press heavily with the pencil as you do not want grooves indented into the cedar. Instead, use short pencil strokes, back and forth.

3. When you have traced a small section. Peel back a corner of the tracing paper so you can check the quality of tracing. If you can see the design easily, continue. If the design is hard to see, you may have to retrace your template with heavier lead lines.



  • The better you can see your traced design, the easier it is to paint.
  • When tracing is done, but before you remove our template - peel back a corner of the template and double check that you have traced all portions of the design. It is better to catch this now, otherwise you will be trying to line your template back up to traced design; or having to sketch in the missing section.


1. Before painting, ensure that you are clear on what you are painting red and what you are painting black.

Use scrap paper to cover portions of the bentbox design so your hand does not rub off or smudge existing pencil lines.

2. Paint the red parts first; then black.

Tip: it is difficult to paint projects that are elevated - use wooden blocks or books to raise you arm up to the same level as your painting surface.

3. We strongly recommend investing in a set of nice quality brushes as inferior brushes will impact negatively on your work. The two sizes #000 and #6 work well for all our painting projects. Also, the acrylic paint from a tube comes in the consistency of toothpaste. You will need to mix paint with water.

If the paint bleeds out while painting, then you have added too much water. However, if your painting is lumpy, then it is too thick and needs more water.


1. We like using either Johnson's Paste Wax or Blue Label Paste Wax. Follow the directions on the can.

Essentially, you smear on a nice coating - wait until dry (2 hours minimum) then buff your bentbox to a nice shine.

2. Although it is tempting, avoid using varathanes. Gitxsan artists like to use as natural a material as possible.

Please remember your safety gear. At all times, read the safety labels and take precautions.

Congratulations! You now have a beautifully crafted bentbox made by you.