Boxguy Handles A Squiggle-Topped Teabox

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Project by Boxguy posted 05-05-2012 06:33 AM 2753 views 8 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Story: I needed a new take on a tea box. This one is designed to be moved from one place to another, hence the handles. I had a request for a tea box specifically designed to be walked around a table to let customers select tea bags and then returned to a counter. It was to be used in a restaurant setting, so I knew it had to be sturdy.

Materials: This box is American Walnut with Ebony splines (to go with the handles). The squiggle is two pieces of maple sandwiching a strip of mahogany. The finger indent was carved with a Jet spindle sander. The dividers are cherry, and in the third picture you should note the “chain pocket.” This lets the chain fall in this compartment so it doesn’t get tangled with the tea bags.

Design: Putting the accent on sturdy, I decided a slanted-side box would fit the need. The box sides begin at about 1 1/4 inches thick. After being glued-up and splined, all four sides are angle cut on the band saw. That way the outside is slanted, but the inside remains square (and I don’t have a lot of tricky angles to cut). It also means the splines will get smaller toward the thinner side of the box (a nice side effect). I knew this very thick, splined bottom would make for a strongly jointed box that would hold up to hard use and survive being dropped a few times. Rounded edges and corners also help since they don’t get dinged as easily.

Technique: The squiggle on top was formed by taking a 1 1/4 inch thick walnut board, cutting a flowing line through the middle with the band saw, inserting a 1/8 inch thick mahogany strip and two 1/8 inch thick maple strips into the gap, gluing all surfaces of the inserts and then clamping the thick board and inserts together. Start clamping in the center to let the thin boards bend and adjust to the curves; go back and re-tighten the clamps to pull the joints tight. The walnut board and the strips were all about 1 1/4 inches wide. If you clamp a thinner board it just folds up when you apply pressure. I planed and re-sawed the thick board into the top you see here. The nice feature of this technique is that the squiggle shows on both sides of the top and you can see it again when you open the box.

Results: I checked, and after a year of heavy use and a few drops to the floor, this box was still doing well. I tightened up the screws on the metal handles. My customers seemed very pleased and so was I.

As always, thanks for looking and a special thanks to those of you who take the time to make comments and suggestions.

-- Big Al in IN

9 comments so far

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4270 days

#1 posted 05-05-2012 09:51 AM

really nice box al, great wood accents and i like the fabric you used for the lining…its shape is perfect and i really enjoyed seeing this one, ill be sending g you a message soon with some info…

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

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 4557 days

#2 posted 05-05-2012 10:33 AM

Beautiful box!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 3272 days

#3 posted 05-05-2012 10:49 AM

Great looking tea box, my wife is looking for a tea box as well, this is probably way to nice for our needs, but she and I would be proud to be the owners of this one. Very nicely done.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View Ivan's profile


16513 posts in 3834 days

#4 posted 05-05-2012 11:40 AM

Nice shaped box!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Roger's profile


21047 posts in 3770 days

#5 posted 05-05-2012 12:38 PM

I like the design, and the handles on the side. I’d like to see a side view.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 4071 days

#6 posted 05-05-2012 04:47 PM

Yet another very nice reminder that I need to keep working on one of these. A lot of great details. Thanks for sharing!

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View blackcherry's profile


3345 posts in 4789 days

#7 posted 05-06-2012 02:25 PM

Sweet design on this tea box, just love all the extra details…BC

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 3464 days

#8 posted 05-17-2012 02:19 AM

I’m not much of a fan of corner splines, on figured wood I think they detract a lot from the overall look, but here when you do “Go big or go home” they seem perfect, especially with the angled fade.
And for myself, in opposition, I would have veneered the underside of the lid to conceal the inlay, or perhaps put in a mirror. Watch your fingers select what your eye has seen.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View Boxguy's profile


2889 posts in 3234 days

#9 posted 05-17-2012 05:28 AM


I get it, but personally I like the squiggle showing on the inside and think of it as a bonus. I agree splines do detract from the flow of the grain, but they also give the corner joints tremendous strength because they are side-grain to side-grain rather than the end-grain to end-grain gluing you have with simple miter joints and biscuits are kind of a pain in thinner wood.

Obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thanks for the comments. I enjoyed thinking your ideas through for myself.

-- Big Al in IN

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