Oak Mailbox

For years we’ve had this cheap aluminum mailbox on our front porch and I finally got around to replacing it. I saw a nice mailbox design in an Arts & Crafts Style furniture book and modified that. The square holes were tricky, as I had never cut a square hole before.

To cut the holes, I started by drilling round holes, which were later shaped with a chisel and triangular file. Oak’s a hard wood to cut and I had to be careful, because chiseling along the grain can split the whole piece, which I learned on a test piece.

I wanted aged copper for the magazine hooks hanging off the bottom, so I bought some copper pipe and flattened it out with a hammer:


Next I needed to oxidize the copper to make it look old. I began by trying for a nice verdigris, like the Statue of Liberty. I didn’t want to mess with serious chemicals but read that Miracle Grow can be used to produce a patina. Before and after photos:

That’s an overnight transformation. But the Miracle Grow produced too¬†green a patina, less a Statue of Liberty hue than an ugly fertilizer color. So I scrubbed it off and used something called Liver of Sulfur, which comes in a gel and smells like, well, powerful sulfur. You mix it with hot water (not boiling, or it emits toxic vapors), dip the copper, and instantly darken the surface. I decided to go with brown/black and dipped it repeatedly until I was satisfied, then arrested the sulfur’s work with a baking soda/water solution. To preserve the patina for daily mailbox usage, I coated the metal with clear paint.

The mailbox itself was stained with Minwax Ebony and finished with two coats of polyurethane. Here’s the finished box, ready for today’s mail: