HB Tansu #3-Progress 16

…and then there were three.

Almost every evening this week I was able to spend at least an hour or so in the shop.  The sum total of that effort netted me two additional completed drawers.  Not as much as I had hoped for, but progress all the same.  All of these drawers are relatively small.  So at first glance, small drawers should take less time.  The reality is that a drawer is a drawer is a drawer.  They all have four corners that require joinery and grooves for bottoms.  Sure, very large drawers with additional dovetails will  take more time.  But average size drawers all eat up the same amount of time no matter the length or width.


I would like to draw your attention to the smallest drawer with a walnut front.  This drawer is a little different and took a bit more time to execute.  It is actually a removable pencil box with a sliding lid.  Much like the other pencil boxes that I have made only with a slight variance in the joinery.

As I have worked on and used these tansu I have begun to think that some of the drawers should actually be treated as removable trays and/or boxes.  I’m actually considering building a tansu with a separate removable case of drawers.  It just seems to make sense that the drawers should be removable.  Thus providing storage that can be taken to a table or similar.  Worked out of and then stored away again in the tansu proper.  Now I’m not saying that all of the drawers in a tansu should be this way, but maybe one or two key elements of a tansu.  Anyway, long story long.

The smallest drawer with a walnut front will be a removable box with a sliding lid.  So the joinery should reflect the fact that the box will be in full view when it is removed from the tansu.  Lapped dovetails in the front and the rear.   A sliding lid box is a simple thing to build and it’s also very easy to make a mess of it.  So in an attempt to keep myself straight I first plowed both grooves in each side piece.  One for the sliding lid and one for the captured birch ply bottom.  I had one small scrap of walnut left that was just large enough to make the rear of the box.  This was a one-shot deal.

The dovetails were marked out and sawed as per the usual.  The tricky bit is to get the rear piece to set flush with the bottom of the lid groove.  Since the groove is already in place, it’s very tempting to drop the saw into the groove.  Don’t!  Trust me on this.  A gap is what you will end up with.  Instead I sawed as close to the edge as I could and then trimmed the remain sliver of wood away when I chopped out the other waste.


Note the sliver of wood next to the groove on the right.

All of the parts milled and ready for assembly.


Assembled, glued and pegged.


My hope is that I can build the remaining three drawers tomorrow.  That will leave the fitting and installing of the drawer bottoms over the course of the coming week.  Next weekend I’ll begin adding the decorative touches.

Part 15 Greg Merritt

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HB Tansu #3-Progress 15

My time in the shop was short today.  The onset of warm weather signals the start of grass mowing season.  It takes, on average, 3hrs to mow down the grass on my property.  Luckily I can now split that time with my teenage son.  This weekend was the first mowing of the year so I had to first ready the mower.  Which ate up a little extra time.  There are few things in this world that I hate more than Continue reading

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HB Tansu #3-Progress 14

I started my day in the shop by gluing and pegging the two drawers that I had ready.  I tend to build drawers one or two at a time.  It’s not the most efficient way of doing them, but i have limited space in the shop.  So to avoid damaging the drawers, the safest place for them is in the carcass.  That’s why I build, glue and fit a drawer before starting on the next one.  Anyway.

Liquid hide glue was smeared on the Continue reading

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HB Tansu #3-Progress 13

Let the drawer making commence!

Last evening I started with the drawer construction.  I would have liked to cut at least one practice joint in the walnut before diving into the real deal so that I could get a feel for the compression rate.  But since I used absolutely all of my walnut, save a few small cutoffs, I had no choice but to just jump in.  I knew that the walnut would have little compression and just guessed at how tight to shoot for erring on the tight side.  This first round of dovetails fit pretty good.  There are a couple of Continue reading

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HB Tansu #3-Progress 12

I was able to slip down t the shop for about an hour after work the past couple of evenings and size, cut and fit the drawer fronts the current HB Tansu.  One the aesthetic elements that originally drew me to the Japanese tansu was the asymmetric layout of drawers and doors.  Maybe it is just because its different.  Most western cabinetry and drawer chests favor a symmetrical layout and it is what most of expect to see.  The left side mirrors the right side across a visual vertical center line.  Not so much with the Japanese style and I like it. Continue reading

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HB Tansu #3-Progress 11

Today was carcass glue-up day.  There are a lot of parts involved in this and its always a little unnerving.  Everything needs to go together smoothly or I risk glue freeze on a joint somewhere.  Wouldn’t be the end of the world, liquid hide glue is reversible, but it would be a lot of work to get everything back apart. Continue reading

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HB Tansu #3-Progress 10

Today was all about panels.  I cut and fit all of the required panels for the carcass.  This isn’t a difficult job, but due the small size of my shop, can be tedious.  Constantly moving the assembly and the raw panel material.  First to ascertain the panel size and then to cut the panel.  its far too easy to either get in a hurry or become frustrated or both.  So I try to make a conscious effort to slow down and be methodical in my Continue reading

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