I finished this a few days ago and am almost caught up with the “pencil” box. This was an experience for two reasons: first, the only decent looking 1/2″ stock at the local big box store was aspen. I had never used this and was surprised that it planed up nicely–IF I planed with the grain. Going against the grain resulted in really bad tear-out. Unfortunately, I could find no way to determine which ways was with the grain without taking a test plane. The second challenge was the box bottom. I could not find 3/8″ stock that was wide enough, so I bought 3/4 inch poplar and resawed it with my freshly sharpened (by Mark Harrel) Disston 6 ppi rip saw. The first side went well, but I got way off on the other corner, which made it more difficult than it should have been. Took about an hour followed by 30 minutes of planing to clean up the side I wanted to use. Three coats of shellac later and you can only see all of my mistakes if you look closely.
Thanks guys. I may make a pencil box out of the aspen that I have left, but before I even start I will determine which way the grain goes and then mark it through the entire construction process. The tiger stripes came out when I planed it smooth–it felt and looked glassy, even without shellac. But one false move, or a slightly dull plane and you’ll get really bad tear out.