Quarter-Sawn White Oak Keepsake Box with Spalted Tamarind Lid Panel

Handcrafted, Handmade and Homemade Wooden Boxes – It’s Confusing


I’ve been researching the wooden box market trying to get a handle on what people are looking for when searching for when purchasing wooden boxes.  I’ve found that there is no rhyme or reason when it concerns certain wooden box types or specific boxes associated with different holidays and occasions.  What I have found is that there are differences in what buyers conceive of the quality of what certain wooden boxes are perceived as.

It seems that people searching for wooden boxes distinguish a difference between what they perceive as homemade, handmade, and handcrafted wooden boxes.  In reality, all of these categories mean somewhat the same thing and are used interchangeably throughout the internet and storefront commerce.  These terms all designate wooden boxes made by some person who is not using factory, machine made, mass production techniques.  But people searching to buy wooden boxes see a quality difference between these three terms.  

Homemade Wooden Boxes

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Homemade wooden boxes are perceived as the lower quality of the three.  Homemade seems to conjure up something that is quickly thrown together at home under less than perfect circumstances.  Maybe the builder doesn’t have all the power tools needed for the project and relies on hand tools that they have in the garage or stored in the basement.  Homemade brings memories of that clay ashtray that junior made in school that was terribly deformed but accepted as a loving gift from your child.  With wood boxes, it brings to mind quickly nailed together sides with butt joints instead of carefully crafted miter or box joints that add strength and beauty to the design.

I searched Google Images for “homemade wooden box” and got the results seen in the above photo.  As you can see, I found many lower quality boxes and wooden crates.  It is important to note the keywords in various colors across the top.  Many of these relate to making your own wooden box at home.  The boxes displayed with prices are from chain stores like Target and Micheal’s.  Surely, people searching Google for homemade wooden boxes are looking to make their own or find a lesser quality box to use or decorate for themselves.

Handmade Wooden Boxes

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Handmade wooden boxes are perceived as higher quality items and are the most searched keyword when searching Google for wooden boxes using these three terms.  Many of the boxes displayed are from Etsy Shops, Amazon Handmade and other handmade arts and crafts sites.  Most of us believe the term and think that handmade is made by hand.  That would be the strictest of definitions.  But, this isn’t always the case.

Etsy has made their own definition of “handmade”.  Etsy defines handmade products as “items that are made by you, the seller, or are designed by you and made with the help of an approved outside manufacturer who complies with our ethical manufacturing policies”.   In other words, everything listed in Etsy’s “handmade” category must be made or designed by the seller.  The seller may hire employees to help run the business (and they may actually make or assemble the item), or the seller may outsource help to assist in making the “seller’s designs”. 

Amazon, on the other hand, requires that “all products be made entirely by hand, hand-altered, or hand-assembled by companies with 20 or fewer employees or collectives with less than 100 people”.  Even though Amazon’s definition does mention made by hand, it is rather loose.  In the case of wooden boxes, machines and other equipment are used to make the parts of the box, the hardware may be purchased from a manufacturer, in the end, the box is assembled by hand.  The main thing is that the box is made by one individual or by a small cottage industry. 

You can see that these are somewhat loose definitions of handmade.  Both allow for machine-made items, yet they must not be mass produced.  In the first definition, it’s the “seller’s design” that makes the item handmade and in the second, it’s whether it was assembled by hand.  Handmade allows for variations in quality and manufacturing technique.

If you Google for images of handmade wooden boxes, you will find that when compared to homemade wooden boxes, higher quality boxes are displayed.  The priced boxes are more expensive and are sold by specialty stores.  The colored keywords on the top that are related searches show high-quality wood, box types and things stored in handmade wooden boxes such as jewelry.  Google sees a quality difference in handmade wooden boxes versus homemade ones in the way that people search the internet and so they display higher quality items.

Handcrafted Wooden Box

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Handcrafted wooden boxes have a higher “quality feeling” than the previous two terms.  If you look at the related keyword searched listed in color at the top of the Google Images page for handcrafted wooden boxes, you will find terms such as luxury, handmade, heirloom and decorative.  All of the related keywords are aspects of quality of handcrafted wooden boxes.  Google knows that when people search for this term they are looking for more ornate and higher crafted boxes. 

Handcrafted to most people (and Google), seems to be related to craftsmanship and artistry.    In the case of wooden boxes, the box maker has spent the time to learn the various techniques of woodworking that apply to box making.  He/she has mastered the making of corner joints, edge routing, frame and panel construction, mortising in hardware and other woodworking techniques that are needed to make precision and artistic boxes.  The box maker has become the craftsman in handcrafted. 

This can be seen when searching on Google.  An example is the engraving of wooden boxes.  In the handmade images, you will find machine engraved boxes while in the handcrafted images you find hand carved engravings and pyrographic scenes on many of the wood boxes.  They are of higher quality in the eyes of Google searchers. 

Is there an answer to the difference between handcrafted and handmade Wooden Boxes?

I’ve wondered what to call my own boxes several times as I wrote the descriptions and headlines to their listings for my Etsy shop.  Which sounds better, handcrafted or handmade?  Which better describes the box itself?  Which of those names would make someone more apt to buy?   Would it make a difference to you if you were given the opportunity to buy one of two wooden boxes?   Both exact duplicates but one marked as handcrafted and the other handmade? Would you care so long as you knew someone used their hands to create the item?  Does it boil down to the keywords you used in searching Google as to which one you buy?…  Or are you going to purchase something you’re attracted to and you like? 

Knowing that Google searchers somewhat use these words for searching for their conception of quality, I’ve begun to use handcrafted for only my best wooden boxes and handmade for all others.

 

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