Japanese tansu

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Project by cathyb posted 06-22-2010 10:13 PM 4993 views 4 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my tansu, a Japanese cabinet, constructed from mahogany with koa accents and a lacquered ash base. I took on this job just for the chance to experiment with those slats on the front. The tansu is 8’ long, 3’ tall and 2’ deep. The drawers on the bottom are large and offset from the cabinets above. Inside the cabinets are an assortment of shelves to store large serving pieces. In my yippie skippie mindset, I was focused on my joinery for most of the journey. After I added the top and tried to move it, I realized my box had beefed up to about 200 pounds. Even with the gliders on the feet, it wasn’t going to budge. Oh my God! Thus came the need for casters, which didn’t diminish my angst about the upcoming delivery. Somehow we managed to get that huge thing through the front door, around the corner and into place. Thank God for those casters! After this photo was taken, I made little lacquered booties to hide my casters, which were a distraction (or lifesaver). Bottom line: trouble is always around the corner-run faster!

-- cathyb, Hawaii

23 comments so far

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 4494 days

#1 posted 06-22-2010 10:25 PM

Just a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

View azwoodman's profile


132 posts in 4833 days

#2 posted 06-22-2010 10:26 PM

Thats a beautiful cabinet!

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 4375 days

#3 posted 06-22-2010 10:52 PM

Very nice piece. What did you use for the finish?

-- Life is good.

View cathyb's profile


860 posts in 4696 days

#4 posted 06-22-2010 11:10 PM

My standard finish is Olympic Polyurethane- a great one as the first coat. After 12 hours, 2 coats of Urethane polyurethane- a little thinner. After a few days, I spray Minwax polyurethane-pathetic as a primary coat, but so thin you can easily spray it to eliminate brush strokes from previous coats.

Although my woodworking buddies have urged me to go back to a lacquer finish, I love working with polyurethane. I enjoy slowing brushing my work to look for flaws. I don’t mind waiting for a finish to build up. Furthermore, it is so much easier to clean up my gun when using the Minwax, rather than lacquer. It sets up a little slower than lacquer and I can use acetone instead of lacquer thinner to clean up without any problems.

One final point, I never liked the look or feel of a lacquered finish. Oil-based polyurethane gives koa and mahogany a richer and and especially deeper look as it brings out the grain rather than a flash coat laying on top.

-- cathyb, Hawaii

View a1Jim's profile


118322 posts in 5029 days

#5 posted 06-22-2010 11:13 PM

View Broglea's profile


695 posts in 4543 days

#6 posted 06-23-2010 12:39 AM

Eye catching. Very nice work Cathy.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4793 days

#7 posted 06-23-2010 12:43 AM

excellent work ,
nothing but the best from you ,cathy .

i bet they love it .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4786 days

#8 posted 06-23-2010 12:44 AM

That is one beautiful piece Cathy. I agree with you on the poly. If done right it’s hard to beat. My son wanted me to make a long low cabinet in similar proportions to yours, but I told him it would be too large for my shop and besides, it would be a hassle every time they needed to move it. It seems that isn’t a big problem with your solution.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View NormG's profile


6576 posts in 4456 days

#9 posted 06-23-2010 02:07 AM

just amazing work and style

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Benji Reyes's profile

Benji Reyes

340 posts in 4531 days

#10 posted 06-23-2010 05:19 AM

A piece meant to be appreciated and enjoyed by future generations.

-- Benji Reyes, Antipolo, Philippines, Instagram benji reyes

View ND2ELK's profile


13494 posts in 5226 days

#11 posted 06-23-2010 05:55 AM

Impressive looking piece. Very nicely done. Thanks for posting.

God bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Ken90712's profile


18113 posts in 4641 days

#12 posted 06-23-2010 10:39 AM

Cathy, this is just perfect! Love the accents and color. Thx for the info on finishing as well, very informative.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5699 days

#13 posted 06-23-2010 01:10 PM

Beautiful work.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View buffalo689's profile


175 posts in 4460 days

#14 posted 06-23-2010 03:38 PM

A real beauty.!!

-- bill

View michelletwo's profile


2795 posts in 4468 days

#15 posted 06-23-2010 04:34 PM

Fantastic craftwomanship. The wood is outstanding. A very lovely piece. thanks for sharing.

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