True to Form

Posted on November 30th, 2008 – 9:15 PM
By Jason Hammond

In December of 2006 I wrote a blog entry about my mailbox design. This entry was later posted on From the ground Up in March of 2007. either way it was quite early for me to have a mailbox design for a house that was only in conceptual form.  Now as we near the start of December, 2008 I am pleased to say that the concept is now a reality, but not without out a little help and a few modifications.

Although there are some decent design for mailbox out on the market these days most of them a really fairly pricey, and to be quite honest, most of the coolest looking modern ones are design for urban settings where the mail carrier goes door-to-door rather than in a suburban area where the carriers drive by boxes lined up along the street. For me this meant that I would need to spend a little time and energy to design and build my own mailbox in order to get exactly what I wanted. The trouble sometimes with being a designer is that you often times can envision it but you aren’t necessarily versed in the ways of making it, this was the case with my mailbox design. I had designed a tall rectangular shaped form to be divided into three sections. The first section would be a concrete finished base. The second section a light transmitting layer of some kind that would hold the house numbers. The third layer, and the one that posed the problem for me was the actual functioning mailbox, which I designed to be constructed out of steel. The problem, I don’t weld. As a matter of fact I didn’t even know where to get the steel I was looking for, let alone how to fabricate it— lucky for me I know people that do.

This past summer we spent a long weekend with friends at a cabin enjoy some of central Wisconsin’s beauty. Over a breakfast one morning I was telling my good friend Steve Severance about my mailbox and he said it would be something he could easily build for me. I sketched the design and the dimensions down on a scrap piece of paper for him to take home. Because Steve lives in Southern Wisconsin I knew that the next time I would see him probably wouldn’t be until one of our other annual get togethers later in the year. In August I saw some photos of the box in fabrication and learned that it was constructed out of scrap steel that came in a shipment from overseas. Then in mid-November Stacy and I made the trip to Southern Wisconsin for one of our annual get togethers, and to pick-up our prized mailbox. Not that this should be a surprise (knowing the kind of person Steve is) but I have to say I was super pleased with the way it looked and all the extra details that he had put into it —Thanks Steve, you’re an awesome friend.

If you’ve ever thought about constructing your own mailbox, there is one thing you need to remember, once you put the mailbox up it’s no longer yours, its the property of the U.S. Postal service. This means that before you go and throw any old box up, you need to make sure that it meets the standards of the U.S. Post office. As a rule the mailboxes that you purchase at your local hardware store or home improvement center have been constructed to these standards. In my case I needed to arrange for an inspection of the box via the postmaster at my local branch. I was a little nervous about this, but as it turns out there was nothing to worry about. The maibox needed to meet some general standards for size and access along with making sure that it was safe for operation, all of which my mailbox more than complied with. in addition to the mailbox construction we talked quickly about the location of the box (being on the curve of a cul-de-sac the placement was little tricky) so that was accessible and yet woldn’t have issues with the snowplow clipping it, and then we were good to go.

Over a the long holiday weekend I decided it was perfect time to put the mailbox up. We have had a rather nice run of warm weather for this time of year and the ground still hadn’t taken a deep freeze so I was able to get my posts set in place for the base. I decided that instead of pouring a concrete base I would use concrete backerboard and attach it to a base that I prebuilt, this was one of a several modification from my original idea that would be needed. For he second section I used left over pieces polycarbonate instead of plexi or glass. When I went to get the house numbers that matched the one on the building I found out there were discontinued and they were out of ones, of which I needed two. I had to run by Menards to pick up some pieces of wood and while I was there I found some great looking pin mounted modern styled house numbers, that worked perfectly. I was also able to find a solar panel and floor light at Menards that happend to be on sale. I mounted the floor light on the inside of the frame so the polycarb would be illuminated from the inside and the house numbers would be easily seen from the outside.

By noon on Saturday the mailbox was completed and the mail carrier had deposited the first parcel in our new mailbox. By Saturday evening I was able to see the final piece of the mailbox come to life as the solar floor light lit up the front of the mailbox. I have to say I was feeling pretty proud that my design had stayed s true to it’s orginal form almost 2 years from its orginal design.

The original design done in December of 2006. I wasn’t even sure of the house numbers at the time, but got fairly close with my guess.

The finished mailbox in place.
I think the box nicely mimics both the structure of the home but also the use of materials.


This little solar panel gathers light that eventually illuminates the inside of the mailbox, making the house numbers visual at night.

The LED solar flood light puts out a fair mount of light for a good 4 to 5 hours from what I could tell. Long enough to make sure the pizza man can find our house at night.

5 Responses to "True to Form"

Brendan says:

November 30th, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Cool post, I like the mailbox a lot. I think you did a great job with the design.

Totally unrelated question, I noticed that your windows are still looking different in terms of exterior coating (at least the one on the upper level). Has there been any agreement reached with Accurate Dorwin? From what I remember, the one that looks different is the only one that is correct, and that they would have to replace all of the other windows to get them to look the same and to meet your original specs.

Jason Hammond says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 3:11 pm


Thanks, I’m pleased with how the mailbox turned out as well.

You are correct that the upper center window is different, but it is actually the one that needs to be replaced, most of the others have been taken care of. They had a replacement for that but it cracked during shipping. The new glass is in town but we’ve decided to wait on the install of it until the weather warms up. Dry glazing can be tricky especially with these really large windows.

I’ve heard nothing from Acurate Dorwin about making the window issue right. However, the rep who sold us the windows from Above and Beyond construction has been helping us in every way possible.


Jonathan says:

December 2nd, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I love the mailbox and the house too, of course… I have been toying with some ideas on some mailboxes for the curb as well. You are right that there are not many options besides those meant to go by your front door. What material did you use for the light section? It looks like it has the perfect glow at night.

Jason Hammond says:

December 14th, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Sorry for the slow response, your comment was caught in the SPAM filter. The material for the light section is a 1/4 fluted polycarbonate sheeting. You may find this at a local hardware store, but your best bet is to try and find a local company that provides it to greenhouses.


True to Form | Solar Energy says:

December 17th, 2008 at 8:06 am

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