Nowadays, snuff boxes are mainly
manufactured using precious wood and more specifically "rosewood", a
hard and more or less dark wood, smooth to the touch and with a nice
Of concave shape, with straight endings,
its usual dimensions are: 85x45x20 mm.
Its decoration, consists of a graining of
its extremities using "coques" and of an insertion under heat of
maillechort on its top.
The decoration usually represents simple
subjects such as coat of arms, four-leaf clover , flowers, hunting
scenes, sports or even counryside scenes, all of them made using a
mould put on a wheel press.
The maillechort is a an alloy of zinc and
nickel which has the same properties (whiteness and malleability) as
The manufacturing of such a snuffbox,
requires in between 60 to 80 passes (different working phases made on
the same object) depending on the model.
First of all, rosewood sheets, sold by
the weight, arrive at the harbour of the "Havre" by road carriers.
Then, they are cut with a circular chainsaw in "ebauchons"
(calculated dimension of pieces made according to the estimated
drying process, corresponding to the box or its top). "Ebauchons" dry
during 6 months, away from the sun and drafts before going over to
The making of the box starts with the
"OVALISAGE"(ovalizing) made thanks to a
"varlope" (vertical tray equipped with knives and rotating at a speed
of 1500 t/mn). The "ébauchon" being kept by claws and
presented to the cutting tool via a metal support and
The "CREUSAGE" (digging) is made by a bit
specially made to correspond to the right dimension of the cavity to
be dug. The piece is fixed between 2 "twins" which move horizontaly
on a support securing the positionning and the limits of the
The "DEFONCAGE"(also digging) is aimed to
increase the capacity by removing the sides of the cavity.
It is also made using a bit bulged at the
extremity, fixed to the tour.
The piece therefore moves with an
identical system as the previous one, using guides, levers and
Through "l'EQUARISSAGE" we get a rectangular opening
by removing the rounded parts left from the digging with the bit. The
tool has a double milling-cutter of the size of a 10 cents coin,
rotating horizontally at high speed . This operation must be
meticulous because it conditions the air/watertightness of the
The lid also needs various operations to
get a curved shape.
The "EMBOITAGE" enables to gather the two
parts together thanks to a carved nikel silver hinge, bent and
adjusted around a rod before the lid and the box can finally be
assembled through the "AJUSTAGE".
The tight closing enables to assess the
degree of air/watertightness of the mounting which needs a certain
pressure while enabling an easy opening at the same time.
The "PONCAGE", "POLISSAGE" (polishing) and sometimes
give the precious wood its shiny aspect that a friendly hand will
appreciate. The decoration made of nikel silver will enhance the
gloss while personalizing this object which has now become a snuff
It is now necessary to handle your snuff
box with great care and to know how to open it correctly not to
damage the hinge when opening it. (See example here below)