Dovetailed Tea Box
This project offers a variety of techniques in a small package.
Synopsis: A study in texture and contrast, this tea box is essentially a box within a box. The outer box is wire-brushed wenge with proud dovetails. The liner is a mitered box made of a smooth, contrasting wood that offers a nice surprise when the box is opened. The base, ebony clasp, and hemp cord add detail and make this box as interesting to touch as it is to look at. Step-by-step instructions on make it easy to cut the joinery and fit the boxes to one another. You’ll also get a tip on how to use magnets to join the halves of the clasp.
For some reason, tea tastes better coming out of a dovetailed box rather than the cardboard box from the grocery store. For me, tea is about taking a break. The time it takes to steep is just as important as the drinking of it. So anything that adds to that experience, whether it’s a teapot or cup or box, can make a difference. For this particular box, I had imagined something like an oyster: a wenge exterior acting as a rough, rocklike shell and a bird’s-eye maple liner providing an iridescent interior.
The box turned out to be a study in texture. The proud dovetails, the wire-brushed wenge, the hemp cord, and the bandsawn surface of the clasp all combine to create a box that is as interesting to touch as it is to look at. For an object that sees as much handling as a box, that’s an important thing.
Work from the outside in
The box is fairly straightforward to build. I glue up the dovetailed sides, capturing the tongue-and-groove top and bottom, and then make a sawcut right through the box, separating the lid from the base. I then build a liner and add it to the inside.
Dovetailing the box is the place to start. To create the proud dovetails, set a marking gauge a little wider than the stock thickness. When laying out the tails, make the tail that will be sawn through to remove the lid a little wider than the others to account for the sawkerf.
Once the tails are cut, I use a couple of tricks to make cutting the pins a little easier. First, I apply painter’s tape to the end grain. This will help to highlight the otherwise invisible knife lines on the hard, dark end grain. Before layout I trim the tape to the exact size of the end of the board instead of folding it over the corners, which could throw off alignment when scribing the pins. Second, I use a jig to help position the parts accurately for scribing. The jig is a rectangle of 1/4-in. MdF with a pine fence glued along one edge. A groove in the pine helps to secure it to the MdF and allows for slight adjustments when gluing. use a combination square to check the fence for square while the glue is still wet and adjust as necessary.
From Fine Woodworking #269
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More on FineWoodworking.com:
- How To Cut Dovetails on the Tablesaw – Make better, faster through-dovetails, with a trick for perfect half-blinds, too
- Secrets to a Perfect Mitered Box – How to create a seamless grain match and gap-free joints
- Tool Test: Marking Gauges – What really matters in a marking gauge, and which ones make the cut