Curly Maple Tea Shelf

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Project by BigRedKnothead posted 03-14-2015 04:25 AM 4008 views 10 times favorited 42 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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). 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. Seen here:


Her shelf is much larger, about 48”x 30”, and it’s made of curly maple. The show faces are actually some “musical (instrument) grade” maple I was able to acquire. The inlays are red mallle burl for the flower, brown mallee for the leaf, and white oak for the stem.

Finish: 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). My goal was to show off the great figure of the maple without adding color. Well, it worked. You can see in the pics the maple changes by light and time of day, and it looks fantastic in person.

A more in depth rundown of the build can be found here on my website:

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.

Take care knuckleheads, Red

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

42 comments so far

View jmartel's profile


9324 posts in 3601 days

#1 posted 03-14-2015 04:46 AM

Looking good, Red. Is it on top of a baby bib in that photo laying on your workbench?

And I like the note/signing on the back. Well done. I’m sure she was thrilled.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View ToddJB's profile


8874 posts in 3582 days

#2 posted 03-14-2015 05:11 AM

Man, you are so freaking good at what you do. Thanks for sharing this project and you’re experiences.

-- I came - I sawed - I over-built

View pintodeluxe's profile


6542 posts in 4265 days

#3 posted 03-14-2015 05:39 AM

Top notch work. The end product speaks for itself, and that is beautifully crafted.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1172 posts in 3982 days

#4 posted 03-14-2015 05:47 AM

Bodacious, Red. Simply bodacious.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile (online now)


24530 posts in 5127 days

#5 posted 03-14-2015 06:45 AM

That turned out awesome Red!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Don W's profile

Don W

20378 posts in 4019 days

#6 posted 03-14-2015 11:39 AM

Beautiful work Red.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View johnstoneb's profile


3220 posts in 3624 days

#7 posted 03-14-2015 11:50 AM

That is beautiful. That finish took an outstanding piece and put it over the top.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View fatandy2003's profile


262 posts in 3695 days

#8 posted 03-14-2015 12:04 PM

Nice work, as always!

-- -- Andy, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it” - Thomas Paine

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4318 days

#9 posted 03-14-2015 12:11 PM

It’s a very nice design and beautifully done.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View theoldfart's profile


13128 posts in 3903 days

#10 posted 03-14-2015 12:16 PM

Well done Red.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Buckethead's profile


3196 posts in 3320 days

#11 posted 03-14-2015 12:41 PM

Looks great! I especially like that you kept the maple as light a color as possible. So hard to do, but you nailed it. Stealing your formula.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4755 days

#12 posted 03-14-2015 12:47 PM

what a beautiful piece red, i know your wife is very pleased with this, i hope you got to try out the tea set first…what would be your favorite tea….great job, and the wood choice is spot on, i love the flower…

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8594 posts in 3434 days

#13 posted 03-14-2015 01:42 PM

Thanks for all the encouragement guys. Heather has seen some nice stuff come and go in my shops…but this one she get’s to keep;)

Jmart- ya, that’s probably a piece of a baby bath towel. My shop rags are a colorful assortment.

Grizzman- my wife is a tea nut. She gets the fancy loose leaf stuff. I’m more of a coffee guy. I don’t mind English Breakfast though.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View JayT's profile


6455 posts in 3662 days

#14 posted 03-14-2015 01:45 PM

Stunning work, Red. Not that we have come to expect any less from you.

It’s always special to make something the wife will cherish.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View terryR's profile


7731 posts in 3760 days

#15 posted 03-14-2015 01:45 PM

Very nice work, Red!
I especially like the curved shelves.

Lovely tea pots, and I spy extra room for a few more pieces.
Very Smart!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

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