Tea caddy in burr oak

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Project by smartBoxmaker posted 08-05-2011 08:57 AM 3998 views 26 times favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch

‘Veneered’ can mean different things to different people depending on your point of view/experience. It can mean ‘fake’ – an attempt to fool the buyer/observer into thinking that a piece is made from a more expensive/pretty timber than it actually is.

But it also allows the maker to use far more figured timbers than would ever be practical in the solid. A highly figured timber such as the burr oak used on this tea caddy would never have the stablity or mechanical integrity to be used in the solid, even if it was available.

So, this box had to be veneered – but what to use for the carcass? My early attempts to make curved-form boxes veneering onto solid timber [it seemed to be the ‘proper’ way to do it at the time, and the most ‘acceptable’ to customers] were not a success. Even when using well-seasoned straight grain stuff, the removal of material to create the curves for the main carcass, followed by the subsequent veneering, could cause significant distortion.

The main parts of the curved boxes I make now are formed by laminating mdf, rough shaped and simply constructed with mitres and internal keys. The lid is then formed from 2 or 3 layers of 1.5 mm [1/16”] birch ply laminated onto a curved form – this method produces a lid that is extremely light and stable.

The main box and base are then united from the inside – there is no base at this stage and the parts are taped together around the inside of the lid margin. It is then worked as a single piece using a hollow plane and by careful scraping and sanding, ensuring that all curves and edges are perfectly smooth and continuous. It is then ready for veneering and the ‘real’ work/fun starts …

But this is turning into a long description, sorry – so I will stop the technical details here! But suffice to say, I generally keep the construction of a box as simple as possible as I like to spend my time on the exterior veneering, decoration and finishing. So, perhaps I’m not a box maker – more a box decorator?

So, this is a tea caddy veneered with burr oak. The curved inlay motifs set into the stripy maple round the front and lid were made from slivers cut from a curved laminated ‘pack’ of dyed veneers and the dots are abalone and mother-of-pearl. All the hardware [hinges pre-smartHinge] is gold plated.

The interior format is copied from a Victorian box of my mother’s – it has two separate tea caddies in ripple maple for different teas and a hand made lead crystal blending bowl.

-- Andrew Crawford, Shropshire, UK.

38 comments so far

View littlecope's profile


3072 posts in 3864 days

#1 posted 08-05-2011 10:32 AM

You do beautiful work… Sir…
Thanks for showing us!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3723 days

#2 posted 08-05-2011 10:45 AM

Ditto above.

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2864 days

#3 posted 08-05-2011 11:18 AM

Lovely box.

And the description is useful, but if you feel it gets a bit long, how about putting into a blog, or even a series of them? There is obviously a tremendous amount that many people could learn from what you do and how you do it.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View michelletwo's profile


2781 posts in 3378 days

#4 posted 08-05-2011 11:58 AM


View Jimboe's profile


257 posts in 4112 days

#5 posted 08-05-2011 12:24 PM

keep it up with the long descriptions and technical details…not boring at all . Love the box and was wondering how it was made thanks for the details =)

Another beautiful piece of art !!!

View murch's profile


1380 posts in 2986 days

#6 posted 08-05-2011 12:56 PM

Beautiful work.

-- A family man has photos in his wallet where his money used to be.

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3315 days

#7 posted 08-05-2011 01:27 PM

Gorgeous piece. Anyone who has attempted one of your signature shape flared base boxes develops a genuine respect for the skill it takes to build one at all. To build one flawlessly, as you do, is something else entirely. Simply marvelous work. Beautiful interior.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Bertha's profile


13567 posts in 3055 days

#8 posted 08-05-2011 02:03 PM

I would like to go on the record that hingeman is out of control. The work is breathtaking and more importantly, very unusual. Fantastic!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 3439 days

#9 posted 08-05-2011 02:09 PM

What a wonderful piece Andrew. I must admit my take on Veneering has dramatically changed since I become more educated on the subject (well enlightened is a better word… still don’t know much…lol). I also have discovered that it is a quit often tried but hard to master form of woodwork. You sir most definitely have crafted your art and nailed it with beauty and skill. I am very much impressed…

Please feel free to go off on your discussions on your work…. I can’t speak for everyone, but you definitely have my attention…

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Doug McPherson's profile

Doug McPherson

114 posts in 3517 days

#10 posted 08-05-2011 02:17 PM

If you were ever interested doing the video blog thing on your construction process- start to finish, similar to what degoose is doing with cutting boards, you would have LOTS of interested followers! I’m very impressed. You have our admiration and (for me at least) a bit of envy.

-- DullChiselDoug,

View CharlieM1958's profile


16282 posts in 4580 days

#11 posted 08-05-2011 02:32 PM

Another magnificent piece. Thank you for the brief construction tutorial as well.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View stitchface's profile


3 posts in 3042 days

#12 posted 08-05-2011 02:53 PM

Safe to say, Andrew, that we’re all riveted by a long and technical description. Thank you for posting this.

View blackcherry's profile


3339 posts in 4185 days

#13 posted 08-05-2011 03:02 PM

Not slow but surly, but fast and rapidly your reeling me into a book purchase. The description of construction makes sense must have more info….thanks plenty for all your posts…BC

View Shrub's profile


159 posts in 3633 days

#14 posted 08-05-2011 03:12 PM

You have created a beautiful caddy both outside AND inside. Increadible craftmanship and detail. Can you tell or show us how you finish the bottom?

-- Shrub G. , Dalton Georgia

View RomDodd's profile


27 posts in 3617 days

#15 posted 08-05-2011 03:41 PM

Keep talking Andrew!

Funny story, I saw this box pop up in the projects section and thought, “Hey, I’ve seen something like that before.” I was concerned that “someone” was going to try and pass off the work of one of my favorite authors and was just getting up a good head of righteous indignation when I noticed your name at the botom of the post. I was about to break my rule of looking before I lept..

Anyway, so cool that you’re here on LB’s. Please keep up the detail and the great information.

-- Romney

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