Episode #12: Porringer Tea Table – Part 1

Note: All of my old podcast videos have been moved to my YouTube channel.  You can now watch this video here:



19 thoughts on “Episode #12: Porringer Tea Table – Part 1

  1. Nice project and a good podcast. I will be building it, just not right now. I have a few things I’m finishing up yet in the shop. You are very thorough and explain things very well.

    Are you going for the aged look when you finish your project? I am trying to picture the finish of the final project.

    And do you like your Ray Iles mortise chisel(s)?

    • Scott,
      I’m glad to hear you plan to build along [later]. I’m not quite sure about the finish yet. If I were building it from mahogany I’d definitely be going for an aged mahogany look, but for the poplar I’ll be using, my wife and I haven’t decided on a finish yet. The piece is actually being built along with another much larger project for our family room (see here http://logancabinetshoppe.weebly.com/1/post/2009/08/design-part-2.html) and the finish on the table is going to match the finish on the other piece. I need to work up some test pieces for my wife to look at to see if she likes the dyed poplar (probably to look sort of like old, dark cherry), or if she would rather a painted finish. As for the RI mortise chisels, I like them alot, but they are rather pricey. They do hold their edge a good long time, but the mortises they make are no better than those made by a vintage oval bolstered mortise chisel. If you have the scratch for them, they’re worth every penny. If your budget is a little lower, find yourself some vintage mortisers in the same style. Both will make good mortises.

  2. Wow, what an awesome project podcast to start on. I’m very excited and I have to say thank you right away for all the effort you must be putting in to creating this video series. I can’t imagine how much time it must take in creating and editing etc to be able to post a 47 min podcast. I’ll be anxiously awaiting each post though quite frankly that style of furniture is not my thing but the hand tool skills are transferable to any style.

    • Jason,
      Thanks for the comment! Actually, I was hoping the video would end up no more than 30 minutes, but when I get talking 🙂

      You make an excellent point about the style of the piece. As you have probably figured out, the real intent of this first project series is to introduce and build some basic hand tool skills. I find the best way to do this is to build a simple project with hand tools. Ultimately, the style of the piece is irrelevant. I chose this style first, because my wife and I like it, but also because adding some curves to the piece provides some skill building activities, as you will see as the series progresses. A contempory styled piece with some gently compound curving legs and some simple curves to the top would provide exactly the same challenges and skill building processes.

      Of course another option is to build the piece I’m building and then donate it to a good cause when it’s done.

  3. “These tools are not necessary for this project. If you don’t have them, don’t go out and buy them for this project.”

    Bob…what are you thinking? Never say stuff like that. What if our wives hear this? The thought that buying tools is done in response to real need, for particular projects, etc…cease and desist – you’re upsetting the applecart here. We NEED all the tools we can manage to cram into our shops. Say it with me…”We NEED all the tools we can manage to cram in our shops.” There, don’t you feel better?

    Loved your discussion of storystick creation. The technique is particularly useful when someone hands you a photo and says “I want one of these.”

    • Larry,
      Mea Culpa. I don’t know what I was thinking. It must have been the egg nog talking. I have sacrificed a Porter Cable sander to the hand tool gods as penance, and humbly repent of my sins. 😀

  4. Very cool Bob. I’m excited to work along with this one. Maybe I can sneak away for a couple of hours this weekend to pick up some wood. If not it’ll have to wait until the new year.

  5. Bob,
    I think your podcasts are terrific, and I really appreciate the service you are providing fellow woodworkers. On your latest podcast, you explained clearly on how you proportioned the table components, but I don’t think you explained why you chose the individual proportions.

    • Bill,
      Thanks for the compliment! I’m glad you are enjoying the podcast. You are correct, I didn’t really talk about where the proportions came from. I’ve had several questions about that so I’m planning a Quick Tip later this week on actually drawing the table and talking about where the proportions come from.

      Many of these ratios have been used in the design of classical architecture since the ancient Egyptians, but most notably in the classic orders of architecture used by the Romans and Greeks (Tuscan, Ionic, Doric, Corinthian, Composite). These classic orders are detailed in Thomas Chippendale’s book as well as Thomas Sheraton’s. It can be assumed based on the works of these authors/cabinetmakers (and many others) that the proportions of the classical orders were important in designing furniture in 18th and early 19th century cabinet shops, though to what extent it’s difficult to say. Therefore, many of the proportions I use when I design are derrived from the column orders. It’s basically a trial and error kind of thing until I find complimentary proportions that are pleasing to the eye.

  6. Just wanted to say thank you like so many others have for the time you have put into this project. I am really looking forward to doing the build in real time with you. I already have some walnut in my shop that will work so I am good there. I might do a hybrid hand tool/power tool build. I’m thinking about replacing powertools for the larger rip and crosscut saws. We will see, maybe I will look around for a couple used saws that will work.

    • David,
      You could certainly do the rough crosscutting and ripping with power, however, one of the benefits of doing the cuts by hand is the sawing practice it provides. Since these cuts are less critical, they’re the perfect way to practice your sawing sklls for cutting the tenons later in the project. I can understand why you may not want to rip the 12/4 leg stock (I admit, ripping 12/4 anything is no fun), but the 4/4 stock for the top and aprons is not bad to rip and very easy to crosscut, and would be a good way to practice your hand sawing. If the ripping seems like too much, at least consider trying the cross cutting by hand. I think you’ll find it good practice and really not hard to do.

  7. Very good video Bob! I have never seen a storystick in action, so I’m looking forward to how it is being used. I can’t built the project right now, but I’ll built it in a few months time.

    • Jeroen, Thanks! The story stick will be used in pretty much every episode of the build, as I’m sure you will notice. It and a pair of dividers are my most important layout tools for the project.

  8. Bob,
    You are doing fine work here. I recently “found” you through the Unplugged Woodworking site. Your simple and unassuming approach is not only pleasant and inspiring but USEFUL! Palladio and Thomas Jefferson would be proud of your attention & emphasis on PROPORTIONS as a key design element here. What books have you found useful in this Quixotic endeavor of yours?

    • Rick,
      Thanks very much! Regarding books, I own some and have also borrowed many from the library. “The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director” from Chippendale is my most referenced for the column proportions. Other books I like a lot are Jeffrey Greene’s “American Furniture of the 18th Century…” and the Winterthur collections (though I’ve yet to add those to my own book collection). Sack’s book is also good. I mostly use them for inspiration and then go off and try to design my own pieces. I don’t like to do exact reproductions. It’s not how I picture work would have progressed in a period shop (too much measuring). I like to work using relative proportions instead of exact measurements.

      • I like Sack’s a lot and have used it to pull proportions for a couple pieces I have “designed”. I agree that slavish reproductions are absurd, yet that’s mostly what the high end reproduction guys are asked to do. Look at The Irion Company to see what I mean. http://www.furnituremakers.com/ I don’t think I would like to work like that.

  9. Hi Bob,

    I really love this episode, the way you explain using ratios makes me think about using the classical designs I like and scale them to fit my purposes and the space available to me. It’s a beautiful thing. I really never thought of designing things this way. I’m not really sure I will build the table here, I may build something else using these techniques. This really opens up unlimited possibilities.

  10. Bob,
    I have been re-watching the Porringer series, because I’m looking for the name and author of either a book or DVD on furniture design that I recall you mentioned at one point and recommended. I’d prefer a good book, but if it was a dvd that’s okay, too. Thanks.


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