Tambour Top Box - another one!

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Project by Don Johnson posted 12-18-2017 01:28 PM 1160 views 2 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A villager who owns a company that makes very large turnings – typically 3 ft diameter and 15 ft long – previously gave me some sapele off-cuts to remake our village notice board. He recently gave me a stack of very nice ash offcuts, but in small sizes – from about 1.5 inches square up to 3 inches by 1 inch – all around 3 ft long. I scanned through my Lumberjocks Favourites to find something to make from this wood, and came across The Tambour Top Box made by TheDane – – and thought that it would be an interesting project to make.

I found a video by Sandor Nagyszalanczy on making the tambour – – a pdf of the templates – – and another with a materials list – I could not find the actual build article that had appeared in the April 2011 Issue of Woodworkers Journal, so I subscribed to WwJ for digital downloads, which would entitle me to view back issues. It was a lot of hassle to get passwords etc. for access to the back issue I wanted, so I had another search and found the article at Rockler –

When viewing YouTube woodworking videos, I have been struck by the number of occasions when wood is laminated together to produce wide boards, and the re-sawing to get them to desired thickness. I have little experience of this, but glued together four 1.5 inch by 1 inch lengths of ash – after following the example of Brian at GarageWoodworks by putting them through my planer (jointer) – and got a nice 6 inch board. Part of it went through the planer to get the 5/8 inch sides, but I had to re-saw the rest for the 3/16 inch bottom and shelf. As my bandsaw only accommodates up to about 5 inches, I had to do the resawing on my table saw – several cuts on each side, and finishing off manually down the middle with my dad’s large old rip saw. When this and the subsequent planing was complete, I was able to relax a little as I had found the processes quite daunting. Making the tambour strips was relatively easy after that, but I miscalculated how many I could get out of the pieces I used, and ended up with enough to make THREE tambours instead of just one!

I cut the sides using a hand router with an edge trimmer bit and templates I had made from the pdf, but halfway round, the bearing decided to part company with the cutter – which of course dived into the side piece, leaving a nasty gash. Not wanting to go through laminating another board, I cut the damaged area away cleanly, and glued on one of the offcuts left over from cutting the sides to rough shape before routing, and it blended perfectly. I wanted to cut the tracks for the tambour with the same hand router, rather than a large plunge router suggested in the video, as I felt more comfortable with a smaller machine. As it could not plunge, I started – very carefully – from the edge of the template, and stopped at the end of the first – straight – part to clear chips away with a vacuum before doing the second – curved – part. I used the second template to tidy up the ‘inlet’ groove, and it all came out pretty well, but at considerable strain on my nerves – especially making sure I had left and right-hand versions!

My nerves also suffered when cutting for the biscuits. My biscuit machine could not cut in the middle of the 3/8 inch base and shelf, so needed spacers to get the slots in the right place. Also, when plunging into the sides, despite having guides fixed in place, my cheapo machine jumps like a scalded cat when the power button is pressed, and the button itself is so stiff that one tends to push the cutter forward before it is re-positioned correctly.

I decided not to attempt dovetails on the drawer, and just rebated the sides into the front. To make cutting the rebate easier, I reduced the height of the front to the same as the sides, but increased the thickness of the pull strip to compensate. Again, when routing the pull strip with a core box bit something went a little astray, and some filler was needed later to tidy the underside of the handle. Cutting the cap strip was a little tricky, but I followed advice gained from YouTube by doing the groove and angled cut on a larger piece before cutting it off to final size. I nearly missed the need to cut the front strip to 5/16 inch before fitting the strip.

Making the tambour using the suggested jig was quite straightforward, but before I actually inserted it, I had been struggling to understand exactly how it fitted from the video and drawings, but it all became clear in the end. I finished the box with three coats of Danish Oil, and then Renaissance Wax – which I also applied in the grooves – and the tambour moved easily as the drawer was pulled and retracted. I was impressed by the design, and the accuracy of all the dimensions, so congratulate Sandor Nagyszalanczy on his (old) article.

I appreciate that I tend to go on a bit about my projects, but I hope that mentioning some of the problems I encounter may make others appreciate that construction videos often leave out things that go wrong, giving a false impression sometimes of how easy things are.

-- Don, Somerset UK,

2 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


7089 posts in 2940 days

#1 posted 12-18-2017 09:41 PM

Exactly how a project should be presented and explained!
That way if the reader is interested in building it all the information is there, and you dont have to answer millions of questions about the construction later.

Apart from replying to credits of other LJs who did a build as a result!

-- Regards Rob

View helluvawreck's profile


32119 posts in 3603 days

#2 posted 12-18-2017 09:43 PM

Don, this box is so nice.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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