Quick Tip #4: Proportions of the Tea Table

After posting Episode # 12 (tea table intro), I received numerous questions about how I came up with the proportions for the table. So I decided to do a step by step drawing to explain how I actually came up with the design. Most of the proportions themselves came from common ratios and proportions seen in classical architecture. Mostly the drawing was done by lots of trial and error with these proportions until things looked right to my eye. There are a lot of old books that talk about classical orders of architecture. One of my most referenced is Thomas Chippendale’s “Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Director”.

I also did a quick drawing of a contemporary design based on similar proportions. If you’re not into the 18th century styled pieces, perhaps this one will suit your fancy. The general proportions are the same as the porringer top table. The leg proportions, however, are slightly different (the leg stock is still the same, but the curve proportions are slightly different).


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4 thoughts on “Quick Tip #4: Proportions of the Tea Table

  1. Bob,
    Thanks for the blog, I enjoy it very much. I’m looking forward to building the tea table using hand tools. Historically, what was the typical height for such a piece?

    • Thanks James! Most examples that I’ve seen were somewhere between 25″ and 27″ tall. Of course like anything else there were exceptions to this, but 25-27″ was pretty typical. But don’t get hung up on the exact measurement/spec. Most pieces aren’t built to an exact spec. No one will know if the table is 27″ tall or 26-11/16″ tall. What’s important is that the parts are proportional to each other so they look right. Not that they are built to spec.

  2. Hi Bob. Although I was somewhat familiar with the method of laying out a project using only dividers, I’ve never tried it and I’ve never seen anyone lay out a whole project like you did. I found it very interesting and I’m going to have to give it a try.

    I had the same question about your proportions. That leads me to think maybe I should get George Walker’s DVD to get the real answer. I read your review from 9/16. I have designed some pieces, but have used the Golden Ratio and rulers. Your design method is something I have to learn more about.

    I’ll be following your build to study your techniques but unfortunately won’t be building along. I just can’t take on another project, even with power tools I’m too backlogged already. But I’m looking forward to learning techniques I can apply in my current work.

    • Thanks for the comment Vince! George’s video is a fantastic introduction into designing this way. He also just finished a new one on crown moldings that I have not seen yet but am planning to purchase. Another great resource for a lot of these proportions is Thomas Chippendale’s book “The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker’s Director”. I believe Thomas Sheraton talks about the column orders as well, but I can recall the title of his book at the moment (I don’t own his…yet).

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