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The wood box

Woodworking has been a life long hobby and interest of mine for many years now. My father first introduced me to the craft when I was 12 years old. He started up a woodshop at the Redlands Boy Club where we spent many hours creating wooden toys to be given out at Christmas time. I was immediately drawn to the challenges of creating something out of nothing (or from a piece of wood for that matter). I was 12 years old when I made my first project - a crude wooden box made out of plywood. I held it together with nails that were too long and they had to be bent over after piercing the opposite side, the lid did not fit quite right, and to doctor it up I placed "STP" oil stickers all over the lid.

I used this box to store various items that, for whatever reason, I thought would be keepsakes later on in life. For example, my dad had a 1972 Ford Pinto (remember those – the cars that would blow up?) He promised the Pinto would be mine once I was old enough to drive. Well, in a Pinto vs. Cadillac collision, the Pinto will lose (it didn’t blow up though!). It was worth nothing more than a trip to the junkyard. The only relic that was saved from this classic vehicle was the shift knob which, you guessed it, was placed in my little wooden box. So much for my first car. . .

My box would later on have other items added to it that, today, would make no sense in keeping. My ballpoint pen that I used to write my Thomas Jefferson report in 5th grade would fall in that category. However, I have yet to see a ballpoint pen that looks like it. So, maybe it is unique in that respect. In my box I also have my AC/DC concert ticket stub from when I was 16, and a napkin with a hand-written love message that my then 5-year-old daughter had slipped in my lunch box before I went to work. In fact, all the items in my box all have a little story attached to them. The only commonality between them is that I placed an inexplicable value on them.

It has been 35 years since I made that box (stop doing the math. . . ) and that same box sits in my shop with the same relics that I had placed in them over a 20 year period. To an outsider, the box would hardly qualify as firewood. For me, it represents the simplicity of life when I was young. It was ugly with nothing attractive (except for the stickers!). But, what made that box unique was that it was designed and crafted by me. So unique, I never got rid of it. I have never seen another like it.

Throughout my junior high and high school years, woodshop was always my chosen elective. I excelled in class and was always anxious and motivated to complete my projects so I could move on to the next one. My final project during my senior year in high school was a 9-drawer solid oak dresser. This was my first attempt at a large project and, all things considered, turned out very nice. Today (almost 30 years later), that same dresser sits in my room adjacent to where I am sitting writing this blog.

In fact, most of the projects I made during those early years are still hanging around the home - a well worn cutting board, a baseball bat that I turned myself, a shark that was carved from a piece of scrap wood.

Over the years I continued with woodworking as just a part-time hobby since my regular job interfered with doing it full-time! But now, as I see retirement on the horizon, I also see an opportunity. Primarily I see an opportunity to be more involved with my church and to serve more. But I also see an opportunity to share my passion and devote more of my energy to the art of woodworking.

Heirlooms Etc. is the start of that opportunity. I hope that through the web site and through my attendance at local art festivals, I will be able lay a foundation that allows me to share more of my work and make it available to those with an appreciation for fine woodworking.

You can view my work at

​This is a relatively new site that is still evolving as I explore the best means in which to share my work and passion. Please visit and let me know what you think!

Have a happy and blessed 2014

David Ortega

December 2013

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