Tea House Table and Chair – Final


Hello and welcome to my blog!   This post completes the tea house table and chair series in which I’m building a low chair and table of Honduran mahogany for an outdoor tea house and garden.  In the previous post the tea house table neared completion and I left off with a photo of brass plates that I had ear marked for use as shoes for the table and chair.

I chose a form of brass known as ‘Naval’ brass for this particular purpose, being that this set is staked for outdoor use.  Naval brass differs from the much more common 360 brass and 385 architectural bronze in a seemingly subtle way, it is alloyed with tin to make the material more corrosion resistant.  The addition of tin would also seem to make the material much more difficult to machine.  I learned something in using naval brass; never use naval brass where 385 bronze will work.


The brass was machined from raw stock into neatly surfaced bars.  I drilled and tapped the shoes for thumb screws used as adjustable feet on the table, this will allow the table to be leveled out on the deck surface.  I opted not to use adjustable feet on the chair, wanting instead a larger bearing surface than could be provided by thumb screw feet.


To complete the foot installation, they were seated into their respective bridle joints, then pinned in place.  The pins are tapered square pins, when seated they pull the joint tight.  After seating them into place, the ends are chamfered using a paring chisel known as tsuki-nomi.

I detailed the exposed end grain surfaces on the table with a chip carving, this carving creates a nicely textured surface.  The detailing was performed with a gouge in the fukamaru shape.

The table is now completed:


Now that the table was completed, I could turn my attention back to the chairs.  The base I designed for these chairs is a type of sled base with legs dovetailed into the seat pan.


Sliding dovetails alone, regardless of how tightly fitted they are, are really not strong enough to keep chair legs from racking.  I debated other methods, such as utilizing tenons, and ultimately decided against having joinery show through on the seat surface or relying upon tenons which may only protrude a short distance into the seat.   Instead I decided to reinforce the legs with a support similar to the bridle joined stretchers one might see under a table.

Bridle joints, however tightly they are fitted, do not offer suitable support against racking on their own and without the use of a stretcher.  Rather than use bridle joints I opted to use a type of joinery which could be pulled tight, compressing the fibers of the legs and offering real support as the chair went through seasonal change and possible shrinking of the components, along with the strains applied by regular use.

To further complicate matters I wanted the joinery to be captured on one end and open on the opposing face.  The open side, allowing for wedge to drive the joinery apart and enable disassembly.  The closed side to keep the pin from separating the joint during assembly.  I had two methods available to me; the first being a simple tongue and groove and the second a sliding dovetail.


Next, mortises were sawn into the legs to receive the supporting crossmember.


The dovetail housing was then cut into the seat pan, and the parts then test fitted.


This photo reveals the network of sliding dovetails used to support the base.  The dovetail housings would be hidden away by heavy shaping of the seat pan on the underside.



Once the supporting members are seated in place, the dovetailed crossmember reveals its joinery at the seat edge.  I did not want readily exposed dovetail housings at the side of the chair, being that efforts were being made to hide the housings of the leg joints.

A plan began to form, one which allowed me to hide the joinery, support the chair arm and utilizing the supporting crossmember to further strengthen the arms.  Chairmaking after-all is putting all of the minor components into play in a complete network, fully utilizing each piece.

The planned joinery was laid out:


Next I began cutting the seat for the arm supports.


I then laid out the joinery to be cut onto a roughed out arm support.


The joint would be my take on what’s called a ‘Maloof Joint’, which is a bridle joint supported through the center.  In the case of a Maloof joint, it uses screws that engage the seat which are then plugged with dowels.  My modification of this joint uses a tenon in the center of the joint, and a self-wedging engagement to the supporting crossmember.


The mortise was chopped into the support to receive a through tenon.


Marks were transferred to the seat, which was then cut to form a tenon.


Finally the arm support was seated into position.  After which, I removed it, then shaped the support, still roughly, to form a tenon at it’s top end.


Next, I marked out the tenon location on the chair arm.  Noting that as the chair arm engaged the support, it’s location would change.  The location was marked out with a pencil compass in its seated location.


At this point all of the joinery was cut out, my attention returned to the chair base components.  The chair base was still requiring the newly machined shoes to be installed.  I determined that my best approach would be to install a spline into the base of each leg, then attach the feet to that spline.  This offered support to the legs, helping to keep them flat over the course of seasonal changes while providing side grain which the feet could be screwed into.  The splines were captured with a set of riven pins.  The pins are located 4″ apart, rather than using a single pin which concerned me to some degree.


Prior to assembling the chair I drilled the base support in part of a process known as draw-boring.  The hole in the tenon is offset, slightly, from that of the mortise sides.  This off-set, when pinned, cinches the joinery together and permanently locks it in place.

The pins utilized must be very strong so they are riven from straight stock.  A dowel plate, which is a simple brute force mechanism is used to create short dowels.  One simply hammers straight grained stock through a hole cut into the metal plate.  Amazingly enough, a dowel is produced by this brutal method and that dowel is strong enough, having been riven into shape, to endure the bending forces applied as the joinery is drawn tight.

Pinning a draw bored tenon, quite literally causes the pin to bend as it passes through the joint and pulls tight the assembly.


As the chair was assembled, chamfers were cut on all of the parts, and those parts were carefully detailed to ensure that all sharp edges had been removed.  Every surface was flushed or shaped by hand plane or chisel to ensure that the chair will weather well.  Some parts were glued into position, others were pinned using bamboo “nails”.


The final finish was applied to the chair seat using shi-ho-sori-ganna.


The chair, when viewed in it’s side profile, reveals the curved spindles.





The prototype chair, which I will keep in the shop to reference from, was also completed.  This chair was designed without arms, though now I’m certain that I would have liked an arm chair for my own use as well.

The chair and table, now completed, have been installed into the tea house, where they will be used once the weather begins to improve, or should I stay, remains improved.  The Tea House is currently winterized.  Thank you for following along with this build, and I look forward to your comments.


  1. This is fantastic Brian. I love the creativity in the chair design and joinery- looks classic yet I can’t recall anything very similar. The wood selection is outstanding and perfectly suits the design.

    This has been a fun build to follow, what with all the new tools for shaping, etc. It was also nice to see some of the machining on the feet- I think well-executed hardware can add much to a piece and look forward to seeing more custom hardware on your future projects.

    Thanks for sharing. -Robert

    1. Thanks Robert, very much appreciated! Thanks for following along with the build, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the process. It’s fun designing from very old designs and working modern influence into them, I feel that is one of the few ways to create original works which will function well while working in a medium as old as civilization.

  2. I like your milling machine. Do you also own a metal working lathe. I’m still learning all about the different types of metals, I haven’t purchased a lathe nor mill as I’m unsure which is a quality buy. Finding reliable suppliers of metal is still a challenge especially brass, but what I didn’t know that there is various types of brass till your post. So where do you buy your metals from? What brand of mini lathe would you recommend and mill also? I would prefer one that came with all the tooling required a a package deal. I understand that many lathes on the market come with very minimal tools and each tool bought separately racks up hundreds of dollars each.

    My main use for this lathe and mill would be to turn my own screws and other components needed for movements and tool making. Shoot me an email.

    1. Hi Salko, Much appreciated! I don’t own a metal lathe, my father does but it’s not really tooled up to any extensive degree and neither of us really uses it much.
      I haven’t had much trouble with metals because I use McMaster Carr, a popular place in the northeast for materials and tools, the metal choice, while it was a good one was something a bit unexpected for how hard it would be to machine. I threw everything I had at it and the stuff fought me every step of the way.
      If you are looking for a full sized mill and can manage your way into a Bridgeport you’d do fine, that’s the type of mill that I have and it’s a substantial piece. More likely I’d expect you are looking for a micro mill? If so, there are much better resources for information than myself. You might contact the guys on WoodCentral, they’re a wealth of information and can likely get you going in the right direction.

      1. Thanks Brian for the tip. Yes I am looking for a mini mill and lathe. I want too much out of my craft and I may be biting more than I can really chew in every aspect, financially, shop space, time constraints to learn and eventually master one aspect of the metal working trade. My goals are big, my expectations of myself are even bigger which puts a great deal stress on my mind. However, from a finance point of view would be a significant investment of money, something I don’t have on hand but would have to save for if the return would be there and I’m not just referring to financial return either but knowledge and expertise. That’s the investment in myself I’m prepared to make if I can fulfill my goals.

        I did have a look at McMaster in the past but they will not ship to Australia. From a craftsman’s view your extremely lucky living in the US. You have every material at your door step and cheap as well, I’m not sure why so many Americans complain so much about cost, from what the prices I’ve seen it’s dirt cheap compared to what we pay. I look at the timbers you work with and they are just drop dead gorgeous. I haven’t seen many blogs from your country willing to work with such beautiful timbers but it also says to me you care about your work which reflects in the way you work. You’re willing to invest in quality materials to output quality work which defines you as a craftsman. Your joinery is always neat, clean with little to no chips none I’ve seen anyway.

        Not long ago I did this full time and was the happiest SOB in town. Maybe one day I will reignite it or not am not entirely sure as there is a lot of constant reeducating to do to the consumer groups that are decision price based buyers only that are infected with the mass produced consumerist behaviour bug. That’s the part that I will never miss.

      2. Metal working, especially machining is fairly expensive to get started, but most of the cutters are not far off from woodworking.
        I certainly agree, I’m thankful to have access to some wonderful woods to work, such as walnut and Honduran mahogany. They work beautifully. That said, they’re far from inexpensive, haha. I used ash for the prototype for that reason, it’s fairly inexpensive by comparison to walnut and Honduran mahogany. It depends on where you’re located in America, near where I am walnut is more expensive than the southern states and California. Californians are truly spoiled in their access to beautiful softwoods at reasonable prices and hardwoods alike.
        Are you enjoying your new job?

      3. Yes I agree that these machines do have a significant setup cost but the real ongoing drain of finance is the materials. I laugh when people whine about the cost of an LN plane, they don’t seem to realise that that’s only one grain of sand in the real costs involved in the vast sea of woodworking. The never ending wave after wave of the cost of materials is constantly overlooked. So I expect pretty much the same from metal, so far I’ve spent quite a few hundred dollars on metal and most of it was in shipping fees. What I can find locally I’ll buy but I’m not really saving much at all, because they still charge me the same as if I bought it from the states which is where they got it from. UPS stings the most unnecessarily and their service sucks pretty much the same as our postal service. I think the solution is probably in group buys, buying in larger quantities brings down the costs significantly but that’s ok for metal but do that with timber and you’ll start WWIII. Everyone wants the best looking grain and not every timber will give you that so how would you divide that amongst everyone without handing someone the short end of the stick.

        I didn’t know that your prices vary from state to state, maybe after all there isn’t much of a difference between our nations. I’ve seen some prices in the US on the net and walnut was selling for $10 LM not even our pine sells at such a low price. I think it’s around $17-18 LM which is pretty much expensive. To build a traditional 18th century tool box in pine will set me back a minimum $400. A decent workbench will hit $1000 and if I go structural then half that but the wait time to dry it will be a few months.

        As for my current job my answer is no definitely no but it is a blessing in disguise. The pay certainly doesn’t justify the hours and work I do but the true reward that’s just gratifying to the soul is the glimmer of hope and moment of happiness I give to people in need. Yes the things I see and hear are just traumatic and to keep my own sanity in tact I need to take periodic one week breaks unpaid I might add. It’s not a job that one can be proud of as society looks down upon it but it’s a job that everyone is dependant upon and every industry relies on, every disabled person or persons, every pensioner, every battered child or not and most definitely the police would be over stretched without us. Yet were the most looked down upon and under appreciated industry in the world.

      4. It’s a very similar conundrum to new vs used machinery. Old iron is inexpensive on the face, but has many many hidden costs. It usually ends up that new machines are a value, the same goes for planes, but with plenty of exceptions to that in both cases.

        That’s interesting, as a majority handtool user I always find I’m in a rare group looking for straight grained timbers even then they are quite rare. I have one sawyer who keeps a very close eye on his stock put one 11′ board of VG walnut aside, in 4000 BF (board foot) of material….one board! The vast majority of top walnut is either set aside for veneer or for export. It almost brings a tear to your eye to see what gets turned into veneer, I have walnut veneers 17″ wide and perfectly straight grained…in plain lumber I’ve found similar but not quite so wide.

        Glad to hear that you are making a difference in your career and that you find it fulfilling. And now of course, you can rely upon woodworking as a source of stress relief.

      5. Fulfilling up to a point but am grateful to have a job in the least.

        Yes it’s true they choose the best faces for veneers and it too is expensive.

        Come time to buy those machines it will be new. I’ve looked at many videos on what to look out for in used machinery but at this point my knowledge of those machines are still very limited and my chances of buying a lemon would be high. I think once it’s in the shop the learning curve wouldn’t be too steep. Once I’m able to produce what I want there will be one final challenge I want to undertake and that will be to make my own cast mold. There’s a guy in Melbourne about 1800km from where I live who has done just that at home. All his shavings he recycled and I think that just good economics. But as far as metal work goes I will work it by hand as much as I can, anything that needs turning or milling will be done using machinery. It may take longer to do by hand but what’s the rush anyway. You only have one life why not live it to its fullest and make a difference.

        btw are you still building drag cars.

      6. I agree as well, much of my metal work, at least fine tuning is done by files and sandpapers (for finishing). These parts can be done by hand but the setup time is far too great for such a simple task.
        Casting is a good way to get the material cost and waste down, no need to hog everything from a billet if you can do some casting work.
        No longer building drag cars, I don’t have the space for it anymore. I enjoy cars, but much rather build furniture.

  3. Hi Brian,

    As usual, wonderful work. I now know what you were talking about when you said you needed brass thumbscrews. Still surprised at the height of the chairs. They appear quite low to the ground. Are they and if so, why?

    OK what is “shi-ho-sori-ganna” and how does it relate to finishing?

    Also, do I see a newly made gumi wood mallet in the first photo dealing with working in the chairs? Or is it an older one that just looks new?


    1. Hi John, Thank you! The chairs are pretty low, but comfortable in use. I wanted something that would compliment the seating arrangements of traditional tea ceremony, but would provide a bit more comfort. Traditionally during tea ceremony one would sit on a pad on the floor.

      Shi-ho-sori-ganna is the Japanese name for the spoon bottom plane, and so I used that to finish the chair seat in the area of the leg recesses.

      Good eye! Newly made from Gumi, I couldn’t wait to replace my disintegrating maple mallet.

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