Tea Table Prototype

Things I've made and what making them taught me

Tea Table Prototype

At some point, I decided it’d be fun to experiment with a piece that was a bit more sculpted.  The piece I was planning was to be a gift, and I wanted to build it in cherry, but trying out this many new techniques in cherry didn’t seem like a great idea so I built this one as a prototype in poplar.  I’m quite happy with how it turned out and I had no trouble finding a good home for it – someone saw it before it was finished and laid claim to it pretty much immediately when they found out I wasn’t planning to keep it.

This table was inspired by colonial American tea tables, simplified to suit my skill level, and sized to sit beside an arm chair (~18″ diameter, 26″ tall).  While not strictly very useful, the top flips up so it can be placed pretty close to the wall out of the way.  This would be more useful on a larger diameter version like the originals that inspired it, which were often reserved for entertaining guests.

Since poplar is a particularly blotchy wood, this was finished with a gel stain, which worked out pretty well.  The top coat was wipe-on polyurethane, 5 coats on the top and 3 on the rest.  The hinge between the birdcage and the top is a bit of piano hinge cut to length, and the bolt is a surface mount bolt from Lee Valley.  The stretchers across the underside of the top run perpendicular to the grain and have expansion washers to allow for movement – this worked really well and the top has stayed quite flat.

The feet are joined to the centre column using sliding dovetails that I cut using a quick and dirty indexing fixture off of the lathe (my lathe lacks an indexing head).  After I fitted those sliding dovetails and made sure the table stood level, I shaped the feet by roughing them out on the band saw and then rounding them over by hand with surforms, files and a tonne of sanding.  The feet were by far the most time consuming part of the project.