Making: A One-Hour Shoeshine Box

Saturday – Peoplenomics done.  Good week in the market.  Time to make something.

My eye has come to rest on the Hangerworld Premium Cedar Wood Shoe Shine Care Box Kit with Foot Rest while cruising shoe polish boxes on Amazon.

Fine unit.  But, at $29.95, I wondered “What could I make in under an hour from scrap materials on hand?  My times gotta be worth $30 an hour, even on weekends….”

(Continues below)


Off to the well-appointed (but occasionally messy) shop.

As long-time readers know, there is very little to actually “making” anything.

That’s because in our process-oriented view of the World, there are only a few simple operations involved.  Namely?


This part was spread out over a day, or so.  Started when I wrote up how good Lincoln shoe polish was and how people today have mostly become absolute slobs.

But then the plan evolved.  This is what treadmill and weight machine time is good for.

It’s my observation that you can learn a tremendous amount about someone’s likelihood of success in life by going to the gym with ’em.   If they get on the machines and start talking “gossip and filler” (which includes anything having to do with social media) the person is a loser who will never amount to much.

On the other hand, if the person gets on the machine and has a definite purpose to their workout, that is the mark of a person who will be successful, no matter what obstacles are ahead.

On a business trip, some years back (I was in my early 60’s) the COO suggested we begin the day’s work at the hotel workout center.

I arrived a few minutes after him…he was already into his half-hour of 3.5 mile per hour walking.   Point:  He was watching an assortment of news channels – flipping through the ones he was interested in for the headlines and then  the financial channels for anything he felt was near worthy of his time.

As I got on the machine, I had my yellow pad at the ready.  Over the next 20 minutes of walking we mapped out our approach to a client sales meeting.  By the time we were done with the buffet, I had started to modify the PowerPoint and supporting linked spreadsheets to drive the meeting, just so….

That’s a prime example of how many people waste their lives.

RATHER than get on a machine with some goal in mind, they wander off into useless.

Nowadays, out of corporate life, I have given up the yellow pad and use the Alexa app ion the Echo Dots (2nd Generation) – Black, that have sprung up around the home, office, shop, and gym.  I use the note-tasking, list-making, and reminder functions.

Not to dig in too deeply here, except to pass on a point.

If you get on a machine with the idea “What do I want to do today to really move my life forward?” it will dramatically improve the quality of your work-out.  Those muscles will work all by themselves (magic!) but the brain doesn’t have enough to do.

And when you run out of planning?  I’ve got Brian Tracy’s CD series on “The Luck Factor” tee’d up in case there’s nothing worth spending “PPC’s”  (personal processor clicks) on for that session.  (Afternoon workouts after 8-10 hours in the office tend to be more input-oriented.)

To wrap up, plans of Ure are often hatched as in-gym “out of body experiences.”

In the end, the “plan” would kill many birds:  Save money, get my shoe polish box essentially free, enjoy using the shop tools, and oh, yeah…write an article.”  A “four-fer.”


Stack up what I wanted in the box and measure it.  This is how big the box oughta be…

You know, this being a home handy-bastard-stuff isn’t so hard, after all.

The truly retentive would have spreadsheets indicating volume of the box in cubic inches at this point, but me?  Hell no, this is a one-hour project.


Go to the home scrap lumber assortment:

“Victim Boards”  (cellulose offerings to the saws) are then walked thru the various machines processes.

  1. Cut to length on chop saw.
  2. Turn on air compressor for nailer in a minute.
  3. Sand everything to taste on the belt/disk sander


  1. Assemble with glue and nailer
  2. Turn off compressor.

Done with the hard part.

Put wood filler in seams and nail holes to seal well.

Set aside to dry.  30 minutes gone by.

I’ll get back to it Sunday.


  1. A bit of touch-up on the belt sander (for the filler).
  2. A few spots with the palm orbital sander.
  3. Cover dusty bench with paint paper.
  4. Wipe down with turpentine rag as a tack cloth.
  5. Apply whatever’s old and aging as a finish. Cabot’s Spar Varnish, gloss, gives a nice warm look to it.

Behold the one-hour shoeshine box!

After a day and overnight of drying, I will invade Elaine’s collection of stick-on furniture pads stickies for its feet and it will be complete.

For my 75th birthday, I made a note in Outlook to hit it with the palm sander and lay two or three more coats of spare varnish on it.  Want it to cure good and six years ought to about do it.  Now let’s see if Outlook still works…

For the 80th birthday, I will add a name plate.  That’s in case by that age my memory is that bad.

Project’s done.   Local materials, fun doing it, and (effectively) made $37 per hour – which is what I’d need to make pre-tax to net what the Amazon product would cost.

And both would get here in two-days.

Now, if only everything else in Life ran this smoothly, it would be a much happier world.

The Box is a Metaphor

About here, some of our readers will be saying “Gee, George, was a simple (verging on dumb) project – why even bother?”

Because, you dolt, it’s a metaphor.  Everything we set off to accomplish in life runs by the same set of rules.

Plan, measure, cut, assemble. finish….the box only ended up with 15 parts.  (4 feet, 4 top inserts, bottom, 4 sides, top, and handle.)  For a computer or ham radio, just add more parts to the count.  This is really about the process – that’s what people don’t fully appreciate.

One of these days, a more complicated project…but today’s point?

Process rules.

Software Quest

I have a particular economic modeling problem I’m thinking on that would be much easier to deal with in an antiquated product called Javelin.  If you have a copy of Javelin Plus 3.5, and are willing to part with it, please let me know how and how much.  I found Javelin Plus 1.0…and Plus 3.1

The product was only around a short while in the 1987-1988 period.  If your memory of the Halt & Catch Fire days is dim…

Unlike models in a spreadsheet, Javelin models are built on objects called variables, not on data in cells of a report. For example, a time series, or any variable, is an object in itself, not a collection of cells which happen to appear in a row or column. Variables have many attributes, including complete awareness of their connections to all other variables, data references, and text and image notes. Calculations are performed on these objects, as opposed to a range of cells, so adding two time series automatically aligns them in calendar time, or in a user-defined time frame.

A version of the product was sold through about 1994…  You could also draw a curve and Javelin would “make-up” the data for you.  That’s what I want it for.  I draw the curve, Javelin would back-fill with data, and then I can extract the functions necessary without breaking a sweat.  Only got so many processor clicks left in the old brain, right?  (No, but go with me on this…)

This is an oddity on the side…Immediately upon realizing this was really the “right tool” for my problem, it brought back memories of the John Titor story.  He’s the supposed time traveler who posted for a while on the net after coming back to this timeline to get a specific IBM computer (or part of one).

Like Boeing Calc – which pre-dated the multisheet linking in Excel, there was some software from “back in the day” that is still better at general problem-solving that the head-down, stuck in stupid social mode we’ve descended to as a culture.

The Titor post only had so much credibility with me…until I figured I could use Javelin most effectively and then?  Well, maybe that John Titor/IBM parts story ain’t so “out there” after all…

Write when you get rich,

14 thoughts on “Making: A One-Hour Shoeshine Box”

  1. The Chinese yuan started trading futures today 3-26, and hardly a peep is mentioned …isn’t the goal to replace the petro dollar with the Chinese yuan? Didnt we literally start ground wars with other countries that tried the same?

    Im surprised George hast said more. If even to say no big deal ( maybe I missed it). How odd that the tarriffs correspond timing wise.

  2. Dow futures up 268 as I type. Not much fear apparently. Esp as Chinese petro yuan futures began today. Was anticipating more down…what happened!

  3. Perspicacity (also called perspicaciousness) is a penetrating discernment—a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight.

    To quote an NASA Astrounaut Academy brochure, “the quality most needed by a scientist-astronaut is “perspicacity.” He must, the brochure says, be able to quickly pick out, from among the thousands of things he sees, those that are significant, and to synthesize observations and develop and test working hypothesis.

    It appears to me, that throughout Ure years of “galactic measured” volumes of reading material– you did’ in fact come across, and infuse into your life’s metrics of “functionally appropriate and “happiness generating fullfillment”….the works of a certain French gentleman, who coined a few interesting theories of human mind theatrics…”We should totally focus the vision of the natural intelligence on the smallest and easiest things, and we should dwell on them for a long time, so long, until we have become accustomed to intuiting the truth distinctly and perspicuously.”
    Rene D.

    • Didn’t he put the Cart before something? Cartesians before the…hmmm… it’ll come to me…

  4. Dear Mr. Ure,

    I recall mention of the JT visit too. Look on the bright side: there must be a future (at least on one timeline).

  5. Lotus Improv software which uses pivot tables like Javelin is available for free from Vetusware dot com. I used it in the 90’s to perform engineering calcs for piling design in variable soil types.

  6. Yes building a box is satisfying. I remember our shine box when I was young. Wife remembers her fathers shine box. Buying new might be the answer or you can get vintage boxes for about…
    About 124 pages of them your price may vary.
    One trick we used in .mil was light the polish on fire then cover with lid. Then use cloth to spread liquid polish on boots. Made for a good quick high gloss shine. Careful not to burn down the dorm. Outside was safer and slightly more intelligent.

    • I have two. I have happy memories of shining Dad’s shoes. I just wish I did it more often for him. I was just a kid, and I’m so glad I had a GREAT DAD and FATHER. I had a near death experience in Dec/January. 3 things were told me: 1) People need to return to God. 2) Men need to return to the home and parent the children they brought into the world (Fathers need to come home). 3) The PURPOSE of LIFE is SERVICE, and it begins in the home, where we care for each other before we go out in the world.

  7. Shining shoes here in wild NM is a lost cause. By the time I’ve walked to the car, my shoes would be covered in thick dust. I suppose I could keep a shoeshine box in the car, but it’s easier to just wear something less formal.

    I don’t get the “working out” thing. I’ve been working 10 hours a day on a roof for the last few days in the wind, and I don’t have time or energy to “work out”. Is there any particular benefit to using machines rather than just doing serious physical work? I still get ideas and if they’re important enough, I’ll stop and write them down. I also find the social and smelly aspect of gyms to be somewhat distasteful. It’s like having business meetings in the restroom.

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