Matt Chalker's girlfriend Aislinn Hernandez is a photographer. When Matt, who manages a college makerspace, decided to propose, he knew that he wanted to do something special: something as unique as the affection that he and his beloved share.
His grandmother recently passed away, leaving Matt the ring his grandfather bought back in the '40s.
"Originally I wanted to make the ring itself," Matt told us in an interview, "but I ended up being honored to receive my recently deceased Grandma's ring. Obviously that was better than making a ring myself, but I still wanted to make something special ... I immediately thought of a box and since she is a photographer I thought integrating that somehow would be nice."
He decided to create a box based on a camera's aperture.
First, he collected his materials: bronze shim for the blades, machinable brass for the outer sleeve and ipe wood for the box itself.
The pins that hold the blades down are made of pieces of .060-inch brass.
The design was adapted from an Instructables plan.
He rough milled the wood for the base of the box on a ShopBot, then finished it on a tabletop lathe.
Then he got to work on the outer sleeve.
The box opens and closes by rotating the outer brass sleeve: you'll see in a minute.
Then it was time to mill the leaves/blades out of the bronze shim for the aperture itself.
The shim's stiffness is of utmost importance, he notes.
Each leaf required a pin of .060-inch brass to be soldered to each end ... a task requiring no small amount of dexterity and patience.
Then the leaves were put into the sleeve.
Finally, he cut some pieces of foam (from a NERF dart) and covered them in velvet to serve as the ring holder.
Finally, after 50-60 hours of work, he assembled the whole thing ...
Side view of the completed box.
And open ...
And here's what it looks like when it's engaged.
But the story doesn't end there. He still had to propose ...
Matt decided to pop the question at someplace you'd never expect ... Costco.
Aislinn shared the backstory ... and how Matt proposed.
When Matt and I first started dating, the very first month, we were making dinner at his apartment one night. We were making pizza which I had never made before. We were drinking wine and slow-dancing in the kitchen and just having a great time. At one point I stopped and looked at him and asked "what were Wednesdays like before I met you?" And he said "I don't want to remember."
And so Ordinary Wednesdays were born. It's been the cornerstone of our relationship. The idea that we love to travel, and try new restaurants and go on fun adventures together, but more than anything — we love our ordinary nights together. Making dinner, walking the dog, going grocery shopping, drinking wine, watching a movie, etc. It must sound so boring!! But we absolutely love it because that's real life for us.
About a year ago we started our secret date tradition. Once a month, one of us plans a secret date night for the other. We alternate months and, you guessed it, this was Matt's month. I had no idea what we were doing and he was super tight lipped about it. We start driving and I notice we're heading towards Costco, so I jokingly said "Are we going out to Costco?? I LOVE Costco!!"
And we were! I had to laugh. We pulled up into the Costco and he's literally shaking. I thought he needed water. It's been 108º here all week, so I was fairly sure he was dying of dehydration in front of me. Instead he starts fidgeting around in his backpack looking for something. Then he said "Honey, I know how much you love our Ordinary Wednesdays. And I want to spend every Wednesday with you from now until forever. But I don't want them to be ordinary. Everything is extraordinary with you. Will you marry me?"
And thats the story of how we got engaged at Costco!! Once we pulled ourselves together we got Costco pizza for dinner (giggling the whole time), then bought a bottle of wine and snuck it into a movie, went home afterwards, walked the dog and smiling the whole time. Nothing was better, honestly.
She was so surprised that Matt actually had to ask her twice.
"I had to ask again," Matt told us, "because she hadn't said yes yet and then eventually she did right away."
And obviously, she said yes. "She loves the box," Matt says, "and has been carrying it around with her all week."
This is one of my favorite engagement stories ever.
Many thanks to Matt Chalker and Aislinn Hernandez for sharing their story with us.