Friday, March 13, 2015

The Making of Heather's Tea Shelf

This week I finished a teacup display shelf for my wife. The shelf was heavily inspired by an Arts and Crafts shelf I saw in Fine Woodworking a few years back. Basically, I took that design and made several changes to suit my wife's taste's and needs (specific tea set dimensions).

Her shelf is much larger than the one in the magazine, about 48"x 30". And it's made of curly maple instead of oak. The show faces are actually some "musical (instrument) grade" maple I was able to acquire. Here's some shots of the build...

The columns were mitered and edge glued with the nicest pieces of stock I could muster.

The dadoes for the selves routed out. 

Matching tenons milled on the tablesaw. 

Then on to the Arts and Crafts floral inlays. No doubt they would be the focal point of the piece, so I wanted to make them nice. 

I had some various mallee burl pieces I decided to work in: red mallee for the flower, brown mallee for the leaf, and white oak for the stem.

I cut the inlay shapes on the scroll saw and then shaped them a bit on the disc sander. It helps a lot to shape the inlays at a slight bevel downward. This way when you set them, they sorta "wedge" into place. It's wood, it'll give a bit. These inlays were virtually gap free. 

My router inlay technique is pretty much the same as Marc Spagnuolo in his excellent video found here. Takes time, but it works. ....

Must have been close to quittin time. 

The last thing to mill was some caps for the columns and thin back boards with a half rabbet.

The entire process included a whole lotta smoothing. I really wanted to work this piece without sandpaper, and I was successful. I had to bring my A-game at the sharpening table though.

Gettin' close.....
If she wasn't so darn cute!

After my shop elf quit loafin', I moved on to finishing. I wiped about five coats of minwax tung oil on all the surfaces, waiting a day between each coat. Then I wet sanded the surfaces with 1000 grit paper and Howard's Wax and Feed (beeswax). Then I glued the whole assembly with tightbond hide glue and tacked the back boards on with small finish nails. 

Glue up shows off my favorite part of the design. The shelf in Fine Woodworking had straight shelves. This would not accommodate my wife's tea pots so I came up with these arched shelves. As each shelf gets deeper, the arc is more pronounced. 

And here she is in our dining room today. 

The maple changes with different light throughout the day. 

By measure of quality, this is the finest thing these freckled hands have made to date. I'm proud of this piece and thoroughly enjoyed presenting it to my lovely wife. 

Thanks for reading. Happy shavings, 

Dan Westfall