Alien in a box - UFO hits our ash tree with surprising results

They say "it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good" and this was certainly true with the gales we experienced last November. The wind brought down a very old ash tree in the hedgerow of our garden.

Glass-fronted display case with alien content.

Fallen ash tree resting on dry toilet roof
Three positive things arose from this sad demise; we were furnished with some very good quality usable wood, secondly, by falling onto the roof of our dry toilet cabin it proved the robust design of the structure and finally, it provided me with the raw material for an unusual gift.

The alien head-shaped tree burr
It was whilst I was making safe the large branches that were being supported by the toilet roof that I came upon an old branch with a burr (or burl) upon it. I was immediately intrigued by the shape and figuring of this burr that I cut it away from the parent wood and put it to dry in one of the outbuildings.

Perhaps it was my fertile imagination but I was reminded of the not-infrequent images of ‘Roswell’–type aliens seen on the ‘net and I decided to use it as part of the gifts we would be taking on our visit to family in Scotland. In fact, they've called it 'the Alien Autopsy Box'.

Downloaded FBI document reporting UFOs and Aliens
Alien at crash siteInitially, I’d thought of making a box of curiosities – of items found around a UFO crash site, but on reading the published documents on reported alien crash sites Sue came up with the idea of using the burr as the alien head and making a ‘garment’ as described in one of the U.S. Government reports and mounting this, with the head attached, (a ‘Roswell Barbie’?) in a box with Newspaper headlines decorating the back wall.

That being the plan I prepared the burr head by cleaning the dirt from the crevices in the ‘face’ and then flattened the rear of the head using a belt sander.

Orange box wood for alien display cabinet
I wanted the box to be glass-fronted and the walls and rear to be made of recuperated wood where possible. As this was intended to be a wall-mounted box I did not want a ‘heavy’ item but something lighter in both weight and appearance. Thus I ruled out my primary material source that is pallet wood as this is normally about 16mm to 21mm (5/8” to 7/8”) thick. I decided to use some planed pine that had been recuperated from the walls of an orange crate designed to be a point-of-sale display box (as well as the shipping crate for the fruit) in our local organic shop. The wall planks were 10mm (3/8”) thick and this I thought would be perfect for the box. For the rear I chose fruit crate wood that was pine but only about 3mm (1/8”) thick.

Squaring the edges of wood for the alien display cabinet

The wall planks had radiused edges and these I cut square using the table router (I could have used a plane but I was wanting to try the new table router out, there is a link to this project at the end of this article)

Gluing edge of walls for Alien display box

The finished width of the wall planks was 100mm (4”). Once cut to length I joined the wall planks to form the rectangular box using pva wood glue. I also used panel pins, pre-drilling the holes first and then holding it square whilst drying using a frame clamp.

Using a frame clamp to hold the box whilst drying
Gluing the rear face of the Alien display box

The rear wall provided extra rigidity to the box by being glued and tacked in place.

Once the glue was dry and the clamp removed, the copies of the newspaper clippings we had printed off the internet were pasted to the back wall and the ‘alien’ was put into place, secured to the back wall with a screw through the wall into the flattened head.

Collage of Alien news items for display box back

Pine moulding cut for fitting to front of alien display cabinet
I’d ordered a piece of picture glass to fit the box. This was cleaned and put over the open front and held in place with the only wood I bought for this job, viz: 18mm x 18mm pine angle moulding. The moulding was cut to length with a 45° mitre so as to form a ‘picture frame’ around the box front. I fixed this in place with 10mm countersunk screws into the side wall of the box.

To finish, I attached a brassed 32mm slotted mirror plate so as to hang the box.

Source material for Alien in a box
So that was it, a fun way for me to make an unusual gift out of an interesting ‘windfall’.

Talking of fun, we had a great time making the film to accompany this post. Hope you enjoy it!


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All the best and thanks for dropping by. Please feel free to share this article, comment and/or ask for further information.

Until next time!

Cheers, Andy
© Andy Colley 2016


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