Cheese Boxes

cheese boxes photo 1

Back in the 1930’s and 40’s when my Dad was a kid, before the days of shrink wrap and disposable plastic containers, processed cheese like Velveeta came in wooden boxes of approximately the same size as the extra large (5 lb) carton that Velveeta cheese comes in today.

cheese boxes photo 2

The 4x4x12 inch wooden boxes were saved and used to store stuff in. My Dad had a couple of shelves below his work bench with his cheese boxes lined up like a row of small drawers. The ends were painted black and a short piece of wooden dowel mounted horizontally served as the drawer pull.

In my Dad’s wood shop when you were looking for something he just might say “look in the cheese boxes.” Bolts, large nails, drill bits, just about anything too long to fit in one of the many glass jars on the wall shelf went into a cheese box.

These cheese boxes now sell in antique shops as collector items for $12 to $15.00. I have a couple.

cheese boxes photo 1
cheese boxes photo 1

The first pair of photos show a cabinet I found in an antique shop selling for $125.00 using cheese boxes as storage drawers. The photos show the various brand names of the cheeses.

I have built the new generation of cheese boxes.

The top row is dark mahogany, the 2nd row is a lighter mahogany, the 3rd row is Spanish cedar, the bottom row is maple.

Note that the grain runs continuously from box to box across the small boxes and then again across the large boxes. The grain is also continuous across all of the handle pulls which are made from Poplar.

The boxes are finished with one coat of boiled linseed oil and two coats of MinWax wipe on polyurethane.

READER COMMENTS:

From Larry J:
    Peter, I enjoyed reading about the cheese box sides. I also enjoyed reading about your father, the trolley man. My grandfather came from East Germany in 1933, similar to your father’s emigration. He was a shoe cobbler by trade, but there was no work. He winding up working in the famous South St. Paul Minnesota meat packing plant, as a slaughterhouse worker. Not a very enjoyable job I am sure, but it was good honest work. My father (who is 72) is winding up a lifetime of working in the sand casting foundry pattern business. He is a very skilled woodworker. I admire your skills (I snooped around on your site a bit) Reminds me of my dad. I never learned to be a good woodworker, I got too busy at an early age hunting for old junk! I am an antiques dealer by occupation. My cheese box story takes too long to tell, the short version is, bought 15,000 sides from a guy who was a true hoarder. All the bottoms were steel banded together in bricks, and there were three layers of them deep that covered a concrete floor in a small room attached to a garage. The Swifts boxes were fun, that is the company my grandfather worked for. I just came up with an idea. I have my grandpa's old grungy wood box that he kept his shoe cobbling tools in. It laid around in his garage and got all greasy and grimy. I am going to cover it with Swifts cheese boxes! By the way, one of the larger areas of antiques I deal in is transportation items, especially railroad. My mentor in this business, was a guy who was a railroad dealer for 40 years, one of the bigger dealers in the Midwest. LLvintage Your boxes are being sent out tomorrow.

Thanks,
Larry

Peter's Reply:
    Note: Larry was selling, new-old-stock cheese box sides on eBay and I purchased some from him.

    The cheese box sides arrived yesterday. They look great. I plan to take one of each and put them in a single frame and hang it in the kitchen. I also plan to take a few and make something with drawers using the box sides for the fronts of the drawers.

Best wishes,
Peter

Click here for a related article on building the cheese boxes