I touched on my affinity for the Japanese tansu in my last post. I have wanted to build some version of a tansu for quite some time now. You can explore several samples here. There is surprisingly little information available on how these chests are put together. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. The tansu that are simple panel construction seem fairly straight forward, although the few bits of construction I’ve seen tell me there are several nuances that are not so obvious. The tansu versions that I’m really drawn to are the frame and panel type. This type has thus far proved very difficult in discovering the construction details. So, left to my own devices, I have decided to make up my own joinery details. I have no idea if any of my construction will be correct to the originals and I’m not overly concerned about it. I never set out to build period correct or authentic furniture reproductions. What I hope to come up with is solid construction that is adaptable to several layouts. So I’m free to wing it and this begins the Hillbilly Tansu project. My apologies to all Japanese craftsman and those who practice the traditional construction techniques associated with tansu furniture.
The first joint that I have come up with is for the outside corners of the supporting frame. Pictured here is my test run and its a keeper. My execution was a little sloppy but this joint is pretty strong. No glue and the wedges are not driven home and I cannot pull this joint apart. The layout is surprisingly simple. One setting of the mortise gauge lays out all three pieces. Which means I only needed one chisel, a mallet and a saw to cut and chop all of the joinery.
I’m sure this exists in the wild somewhere but I have yet to find a reference to it. If any of you know of any, please point me in the right direction. Same goes for any tansu construction details that you may know of. I have several more joinery details to work out but this is a start.