"My Soft Underbelly"

I received an email through my website requesting a commissioned urn. She wanted an urn to hold the ashes of her departed son. When asked what aspects she was looking for in the urn she said that he liked working with metal. She also liked angles over curved surfaces. Early on she sent me a picture of him as a very young boy. She stated how peaceful those times were…that really struck me emotionally and the design work for “My Soft Underbelly” started.


The body of the urn is made from a piece of figured Claro Walnut I picked up on a trip out to San Francisco. The grain wraps around the box. The entire body is made using mortise and tenon construction. A lot of careful cutting and routing took place to get all the angles perfect. I made three routing fixtures to add the machined out detail to all four sides. The silver you see is aluminum tubing. I cut 55 pieces of tubing and filled them with a mixture of two-part epoxy tinted with India ink. I made two fixtures to sand them down to the same length and polish the ends. I made them flush on the body of the box. They strengthen the miter joint. The angled “bottom” of the box has eight tee nuts in it to attach the Claro Walnut Picture frame (that has Wenge splines to strengthen it). Behind the frame is the access to the ash chamber. The bottom is lined in black velvet. I wanted the urn to be something that is touched and shown. I made the inside accessible so it can hold memories and not just be put on a shelf to stare at. The inside is lined in red velvet.


The legs and the majority of the lid are made from the Claro Walnut also. The two panels in the lid are veneered with Amboyna Burl and Curly Maple. The brackets that hold the feet are made from African Blackwood and carved to look like hammered steel. Almost all the edges of the brackets, legs and lid have a .1” rebate on the edges to amplify the “machined” look. That took another three custom routing fixtures. I left the aluminum dowels proud of the bracket surfaces to represent rivets. You can see in the pictures how the legs are only mounted using the brackets. This gives them a floating look.


The key to the urn is to expose its “soft underbelly”. To do this you place the urn onto a mirror and a reflection of her son is shown. “My Soft Underbelly” was created to represent the vulnerability one has with love.


The twist to this story is the new owner shared the same last name as me…and her departed son and I have the same name…Jeff Baenen. This made it a very special build. The picture of him on the tractor was taken at a Baenen family reunion that happened almost 30 years ago..and I remember being there. It turns out we are distantly related cousins. She found me by Goggling her sons name. The world works in mysterious ways.  Thank you Sue for the honor of creating this for you and Jeff.


“My Soft Underbelly” is 12” x 8.5” x 7.5”. It was finished with four soakings of Danish Oil followed by two buffings of BriWax.

Jeff Baenen Boxes

Kenosha, WI



Tel: 847 331 0756