Drew's Tea Chest

Construction mishaps drive design changes.

SHOP OWNER: Drew McManus

    This project has a bit of a story behind it. It began life as a 2001 Christmas promise to make something special for my mother-in-law. At that time, she was beginning her interest in loose teas and putting together a collection of teapots and tea sets. So after some browsing and thinking, I decided that a nice table sized tea chest was the perfect present. Shortly after the New Year, I purchased the white oak for the chest along with a spectacular piece of figured apple wood for the drawer fronts. The original design called for joining the case with dovetails, and initially, that happened without a hitch. Unfortunately, while cutting the dados for the interior dividers, a clamp slipped just enough while cutting that when I attempted to fit the dividers into the case, they were off by about 1/8". Oh well, so much for case #1!
Drew's Tea Chest

    I then began work on case #2. While cutting the dovetails, I quickly became frustrated with the Porter Cable 12" dovetail jig I was using. The jig's clamps kept slipping and the dovetail cut would go awry (do you see a theme developing here?). So at this point, it was time to try a new approach. I decided to use a miter joint instead of a dovetail. This would allow the continuous grain to show and I knew this joint was a bit more crash proof than the dovetail. I used a new method (for me) of clamping the case. I arranged each piece in sequence and taped each mitered edge together with masking tape. The tape held the case in position during the glue up and subsequent assembly. It worked so well I didn't need to use a single clamp!
Drew's Tea Chest Drew's Tea Chest

    Other particulars of the design and construction were the use of Baltic Birch plywood for the dividers, banded with two-inch solid oak on the front edges. The front of each drawer has a 1/4" round over and the edges of the case around each drawer has a 1/8" round over that gives the piece a nice "pillowing" effect. The stand provides numerous shadow lines and lightens the bulky case by allowing it to "float". The back is a solid white oak panel and is set into a floating rabbet cut into the rear of the case.
Drew's Tea Chest Drew's Tea Chest

    I also tried my hand at some wet sanding during the finishing process. This was new for me and, although it seemed to turn out well, I think I need to use more elbow grease next time to churn up some more "paste" to better fill the oak pores. I joined the pieces of oak with #20 biscuits with the help of my trusty DeWALT biscuit joiner. The drawer sides attach to the drawer fronts with a pinned dovetailed rabbet. Everything is wood on wood joinery, no mechanical fasteners. The entire piece is 19.5"h x 16"w x 12"d, including the stand, and is finished with Watco natural Danish Oil.

. . . Drew McManus



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