Monthly Book Giveaway - December 2022

Tea Box and Serving Tray

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Tea Box and Serving Tray
Note:  This is a project I migrated from Lumberjocks just to feel out the process and see how easily I could do so.  So the text was written some time ago and may seem disjointed ;-)

I was pretty well decided that for my mom's birthday this year I was making a tea box of some kind.  She loves her tea.  And while she uses some fancy ball and loose leaves to make her own, she always keeps a bunch of bags around for company.   So I felt like she should have a nice way to present them.

I did my usual google/ljs/pinterest searching for ideas to steal.   And Mike Pekovich's said "try me!"  So I did
  I got the plans from FWW but I didn't pay for the accompanying article.  The plans are good for most of the dimensions and that's about it.  But that and some pictures were enough to get me through.  The biggest hurdle for me was making the stupid rope latch but stubborn persistence won out

Pekovich suggests Wenge for the box and then he wire brushes it for a unique look and feel.  While I do like the look of his boxes, I wanted something a little more "polished" and I also didn't have any Wenge and didn't want to buy any ;-)  So, I used Walnut for the box.  I resawed and planed it down to about 5/16".

Dovetails.  Oh those damn dovetails.  I've never used hand-cut dovetails in a project before.  I just haven't ever cut dovetails good enough that I was happy with them being a focal point.  But, in browsing tea boxes, somewhere I stumbled onto a method using painter's tape to layout the tails.  This was my first time doing that and the first time I've tried to hand-cut dovetails since I got my glasses.  Either the tape, the glasses, or the combination did the trick.  They aren't perfect by any means but they're good enough that I didn't feel the need to fall back to proud box joints instead (which was my plan B).

The dovetails set about 1/16" proud.  This was one of the features of this box design I really liked so I copied it.  Another detail I really liked was how the top and bottom of the box also sit proud of the box sides by the same amount.  So, I went with the plans on that too.  The tops and bottoms are captured in slots in the sides of the box but not in the ends like so:

I made sure that was a good, tight fit so nothing felt loose but there is also room for the wood to expand/contract without issue.

The box was fully assembled with the top and bottom in place and the dovetails glued.  The top was then cut off on the bandsaw.  The inner dividers were made from some spalted Hackberry I've been hoarding for a few years that my buddy Gary sent me from TX.  It was resawed and planed to 3/16" thick.  The corners are mitered and the middle pieces have the ends cut to a point and slip into corresponding v-grooves milled into the side pieces.


The base of the box was done per the plans as well (dang, I think I followed the plans completely!) with the two cross pieces capturing the stretcher in (half-lap?) joints.

The end pieces are attached with wood screws through the bottom of the box then a 1/8" thin piece of Walnut is laid in under the divider part to hide the screws.  This will allow expansion of the pieces running cross-grain to the bottom without any issues.  The stretcher has a hole and a slot for the rope latch to fit through.  I made two angled wedges to fit in the slot so that when the tag ends of the rope were in the right position, the wedges were opposed and driven in to secure the loose ends and lock the position.

As I said earlier, the rope latch gave me some grief.  I had never wrapped small rope around bigger rope before and there were no instructions in the plans so I just winged it.  The first time, I tried wicking super glue into the ends of the cording to secure it.  Well, it wicked right into the hemp rope as well and when I tried to bend it, it snapped like a a twig.  Grrrr.  Second go was a little better but I wrapped the cording too high and the whole thing just looked awkward.  Third time's the charm though.  If you plan to undertake this, I have two words for you: whipping knot.  You're welcome.
I kinda wish now that I had gotten some more refined rope.  The "rustic" look of the jute isn't ideal for the piece I don't think.  But, if there wasn't something I didn't like, it wouldn't feel right ;-)

The wood latch blocks are Katalox.  There are two 1/4" diameter rare earth magnets epoxied into the adjoining faces then I resawed and hand planed a strip to about 1/64" thick and glued pieces to the faces to hide the magnets.  Thanks to the color and extremely tight grain of the Katalox, the glue lines are dang near invisible, even when you know they're there.

The finish on the Walnut is a coat of BLO followed by 3 coats of Arm R Seal with the last coat buffed out with steel wool and paste wax.  The finish on the Hackberry is two coats of shellac.  I stopped there.  I didn't want to alter the color at all because I really liked the contrast with the Walnut.  I did give it a coat of paste wax.  Poly would be the smart choice since the lid is a sliding fit on it but it's my project and I'll do what I want ;-)  The finish on the Katalox is… Katalox.  Sanded to 400 grit dry then wet sanded with some thinned BLO to polish it to a glass-like texture.  I love that wood.

About the time I started working on the tea box, Woodsmith decided to give a free plan to all their subscribers.  So I was browsing and saw the Curved Handle Serving Tray and immediately knew I wanted it to go with the box.  Not sure why, the two styles are kinda at odds with the hard lines of the box and the gentle curves of the tray.  But, I did and it's my project so I'll do what I want ;-)

I build the tray exactly like it's laid out in the plans except I made it a little shorter.  Why?  It involves cutting a 3/4" slot for a 5/16" thick handle.  And that's all I'm admitting.  I had a piece of Birdseye Maple I got from Charles Neil's estate sale that I decided to use for the tray and I had planned to put Walnut handles on it to tie it into the box but then I saw a stick of Bocote that's been hanging around for a long time and really didn't feel like I had a choice because it would look spectacular

The plans were great but I don't like how the end pieces are attached so if I do this piece again, the end caps will be housed in dadoes in the bottom and sides.  The 22.5 degree joints between the sides and bottom are kinda tricky but the plans do a great job of walking you through cutting them on the table saw.

Not sure how I feel about the joinery being left exposed on the ends.  It's not hideous but I'm not sure it's not distracting.  I'll see if it grows on me.   The plans also call for the side pieces to be cut flush to the bottom.  I like the look and functionality of leaving them proud to act as "runners" for the tray to rest on though.  Easier to eliminate wobble that way.

Finish on the maple is 3 coats of shellac followed by 3 coats of Arm R Seal.  The final coat was wet sanded with 600 grit using thinned BLO as lubricant.  The finish on the Bocote is the same but without the shellac.

Thanks for looking!  Comments and critiques welcomed as always

11 Comments

Who is this Hokie character?  You do nice work ;) 
he's about as hokie as they come bill. very nice tea box kenny. your gonna love this place and not wanna go back ;-)
Really nice Ken! I actually think the more rustic rope shows of beautifully against the more refined finish on the box. Great job! (Even if it is a repost ?). 

Ryan/// ~sigh~ I blew up another bowl. Moke told me "I made the inside bigger than the outside".

Great project, a lot of work in this one. Excellent job !!!   Mike
Wonderful gift!  And very nice writeup.  
A great project Kenny, and the write up is wonderful. I like the tea box with the rope handle. Well done.

Main Street to the Mountains

His name is builtinpittsburgh but I would swear that’s a brooklyn accent…
Thanks for the kind comments all!
That is beautiful !!!!!
There are so many elements that speak to me but I have to say that the bonus was the ropes! Perhaps because it was a surprise feature. .. or the rustic handmade heirloom feel that it adds to it .. 

Beautiful work

Toxins Out, Nature In - body/mind/spirit

We go through the years and make stuff, I tend to forget what I’ve made a lot of the time. People mention they have something I’ve made and some times I wonder what it is they have because I sure don’t remember. 

I totally forgot about this set. It’s beautiful man. Definitely one to be proud of. 
Thanks lady and Dave ;-)