GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR MAILBOX
LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD AND EXPRESS YOUR PERSONALITY WITH A UNIQUE LETTERBOX
In a world beset by increasing regulations, building codes, local government bylaws, vehicle safety legislation, and the like, very few things remain untouched by the long, deadening arm of bureaucracy. However, one that has escaped is the humble mailbox.
While their suburban cousins have generally succumbed to the pressure to have standardized, mass-produced models available from hardware chain stores, their rural brethren have maintained their diversity, and still reflect their owners’ creativity and imagination.
In this era of increasing conformity, the rural mailbox stands out as a statement of individuality made by those of us unwilling to follow the common herd. Although postal services worldwide are coming under continued pressure from the new delivery platforms, the mailbox is still an integral part of any property, rural or suburban. A good mailbox should be thought of as a fine example of street art, a whimsical statement by its owners perhaps reflecting their passions and interests, while fulfilling a utilitarian function.
An added benefit of having a different mailbox from the common herd is its usefulness when giving first-time visitors directions to your property and also to your near neighbours.
Almost anything can be turned into a mailbox, as the accompanying photos show. The foundation of any good mailbox is its ability to contain normal items of mail and keep them protected from the elements. Beyond that the design and construction depend on the imagination and ability of its creator. It goes without saying that convenience of
use must temper your creativity by, for example, placing the box roughly at cardoor height. It has to be relatively easy for the mail deliverer to open and insert the mail.
A note of caution must be raised here. Some years ago I built a mailbox in the shape of a sitting dog with a lift up flap in his chest for inserting the mail, at the request of my daughter who was living in tropical Mackay, Queensland, at the time. Despite it being obviously a receptacle for the mail and placed where their mailbox was normally located, the erstwhile employees of the postal service were unable to use it as intended and often tried tucking the mail under one of its ears or simply threw it on the ground nearby. This continued even after the dog was equipped with a sign listing instructions to “Lift the flap to insert mail”. This suggests that for some, the purpose of the mailbox must be ultra-obvious, and its use require absolutely zero thought or effort.
Having said that, my own mailbox that I made from an old cream can to resemble a pink pig has been in constant
The rural mailbox stands out as a statement of individuality made by those of us unwilling to follow the common herd
use for some 30 years and relocated with us three times, without ever having stumped the posties who use it.
For longevity, most bespoke mailboxes are made from metal, although wellmaintained wooden ones can be equally good. Plastic, on the other hand, eventually becomes brittle and, I feel, does not lend itself as readily to the creative urges of the constructor.
The starting point for any bespoke mailbox is the receptacle itself. Almost anything that will hold relatively small items and has the ability to shed rain, can be used. Many a farmer simply bolts a discarded plastic chemical drum to a fence post, although I think these are opportunities wasted. Not only do they lack imagination, but they also
pass up the chance to make a statement about the property and its owners. As you can see from the photographs, others go to considerable lengths to build and display unique mailboxes that delight the passer-by.
A great way to get inspiration for your mailbox is to look at old items of equipment found at garage and farm sales or the local tip shop. Often a suitable piece will set you back only a few dollars. My daughter’s dog mailbox was made using the air reserve from a small, discarded air compressor, which I rescued from a bush tip one day while walking my dogs.
Old gas bottles also make good mailboxes. Before deciding to use one of these as your foundation, please read the precautions that I have included at the end of this article as these receptacles have the potential to become bombs very easily!
Of course you do not need to get tangled up with hazardous containers at all. One of the more striking mailboxes I have encountered was made from overlapping plough discs to form an enormous ball. Another used a cement mixer bowl to
The erstwhile employees of the postal service were unable to use it as intended
Others go to considerable lengths to build and display unique mailboxes that delight the passer-by
create an emu-like bird, and others have been built entirely from scratch. The only limits are your imagination, the materials at hand, and the available space to site your finished article.
My mailbox project
For the mailbox constructed to illustrate this article, I sourced an old, round, stainless-steel barbeque as the body of the box. I retained the grill to keep the mail off the bottom in the event that any water finds its way into the unit. On the original barbeque the lid simply sat on the lower half. To avoid it being dislodged or blown off in windy weather, I hinged the two halves and attached a small stainless-steel handle to allow the postie to more easily lift the top half and place the mail or larger items inside the unit.
To ensure that the mailbox isn’t adversely affected by high winds, I mounted the bottom onto an old discbrake rotor. This gives it added weight as well as strength and facilitates a variety of mounting options using the stud-bolt holes that held the wheels on the car in its previous incarnation.
For example, it can be simply screwed to a wooden or concrete gate post. Or if you would like to have the mailbox double as a weather vane, you could also use the appropriate stub axle and bearings so that the mailbox, if fitted with a vertical fin, will always follow the wind as it changes direction. Be aware, however, that this feature might annoy the mail-delivery person if they have to spin it around to insert the mail.
Let your imagination run
My next task was to give my imagination free rein to turn it into something more whimsical. I felt that the barbeque on its own, while still perfectly functional as a letter box, needed something more to catch the eye and give it that wow factor. As you can see from the other examples I have included, inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources, ranging from an angel made of beer cans and a concrete mushroom, to a farm bike made using bulldozer sprockets. Some are simple, others intricate and complex, but each has a unique character. It’s this uniqueness that makes building one of these such a pleasure in itself.
I decided to construct a stylized version of the black egret to sit astride the mailbox and give it its individual character. (The black egret has a unique way of catching small fish by using its wings as an umbrella to shade the area it is fishing. Presumably, small fish are tricked into thinking that the shadowed water provides a safe haven.) Its weight, while not great, will also help hold
My next task was to give my imagination free rein to turn it into something more whimsical
the lid of the mailbox down in windy weather.
I also think that an integral aspect of making a bespoke, whimsical mailbox is to use and repurpose the bits and pieces we all have lying around in the shed to make something truly unique. For me, it’s this exercise of the imagination that makes the project interesting. Otherwise, why not just tootle down to the local hardware store and buy something off the shelf?
Accordingly, an assortment of steamer basket ‘flaps’, a discarded ride-on mower roller, some wood, and a couple of bits of 6mm rod were pressed into service to become the black egret.
A man’s best friend
Above: Swagman mailbox
Below: Plough-disc mailbox
Right: Sassafras mailbox
Above: Mail … Mail … Mail! Left: Pony express Below: Toady mail
Roasted rooster mail
My daughter’s dog mailbox that confused the Mackay posties
A very keen gardener
Left: The black egret — fishing for mail Above: Wombat deliveries Below: Hi, guys! Any mail for me?