Porringer-Top Tea Table
Hand-shaped cabriole legs lend grace to a versatile period piece
Synopsis: Tea tables, popular for afternoon tea during the mid-1800s, make great end tables or occasional tables today. With its rounded, soup-bowl-shaped corners, this piece is a classic example. Simple in design, it has challenging details in matching the grain, shaping the cabriole legs and transition blocks, and creating the uniquely shaped top. The project requires careful machine work and a delicate touch with hand tools. The cabriole legs are cut using the bandsaw and shaped with chisels, rasps, and files. The apron is cut on the bandsaw and shaped with chisels. The tabletop is cut with the bandsaw and shaped using chisels, rasps, and files.
When a client asked for a tea table recently, I built this one in the Queen anne porringer style, named for the top’s rounded, soup-bowl-shaped corners. I found the design in an antiques catalog. The original was built in wethersfield, Conn., sometime between 1740 and 1760.
Tea tables were most popular from the william and mary period in the early 1700s through the Empire period in the mid-1800s. Today, even though earlier dinnertimes have put an end to daily afternoon “teas,” these tables still are useful as end tables or occasional tables.
This piece is also a great way to get started in building period reproductions. The design is simple, but there are challenging details in matching the grain, shaping the cabriole legs and transition blocks, and creating the uniquely shaped top. The project requires careful machine work and a delicate touch with hand tools. when you’re done, you’ll have a handsome, highly functional piece of furniture.
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Get the Full-Size Plan
CAD-drawn plans and a cutlist for this project are available in the Fine Woodworking store.