Making a Yew Caddy – Part One

I am required to take various tablets both morning and evening, and keeping them ordered and convenient has necessitated the use of a box which resides on a table by my principal chair. The unattractive shiny tin box always was just a temporary container for my medications, but the promise of replacing it with something a little less garish has dragged on to the point of ridicule.

One of my many failings is that I don’t relish trifling jobs; I prefer sinking my teeth into meaty, man-sized pieces of furniture. And so, in an utterly futile attempt to evade the inevitable, and with spousal pressure ever building, I explored all manner of suitable antique containers from an initially attractive £2,450 ($3,680) miniature Sheraton mahogany chest of drawers, circa 1780, standing a mere 9-3/4″ high; to a more modestly priced George I walnut veneered tea caddy, circa 1720. The former I deemed a little high priced for my purposes and the latter I thought mighty attractive.

The high…

… and the mighty. (Reindeer Antiques)

The inornate tea caddy is quite glorious in its simplicity; however, I am drawn to those caddies whose base mouldings have integral bracket feet – in fact, I wonder if this caddy once had feet.

When a recent visitor opined the view it was a shame I should have as inelegant a tin box in such a conspicuous position – particularly in light of the other items I had made around the house – I could bear it no longer. I had to make a caddy of some description.

With its simplified bracket feet, I find the style and proportions of the George II tea caddy, below, quite sublime, though I won’t be replicating the clinquant graffiti on my caddy – fabulous as it is.

George II Chinoiserie tea caddy, c. 1750.

It mattered little what wood was used for caddy carcases as their interiors were inevitably lined and so the (normally oak or pine) carcases weren’t visible. Tea caddy interiors were lined with lead foil to preserve the freshness of the tea, while other varieties of caddies and small boxes – and often the lids of tea caddies – were lined with silk or decorative paper. For lining my caddy, I will make some traditional marbled paper using earthy colours commensurate with the period.

Small veneered box carcases were seldom dovetailed; dovetailing is unnecessarily time consuming on this scale. Glued and nailed carcases were the norm – the very best might have been rebated rather than butt-jointed.

I glued and nailed a little closed pine box together as the basis of my veneered medicine caddy. I was circumspect with the spacing of the cut nails in the proximity of the top so I wouldn’t ruin my saw when it came time to separate the lid from the base.

Simple glued and nailed construction.

Earlier in the year I acquired a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old yew tree, some of which I sawed into 5/64″ (2mm) thick veneers. I veneered the front, back and ends of the carcase with this yew. Yew moulding slips were mitred and glued onto what will be the lid before it too was veneered. The veneer was cleaned up and the simple moulding formed around the perimeter of the lid.

The separation line was carefully located (to avoid the cut nails within) and the box was sawn in two.

The parted box.

An ovolo moulding was stuck along a thin, narrow piece of yew from which the feet were cut. I mitred the mouldings and glued them onto the bottom edges of the box.

The yew caddy in-the-white.

As the interior of the caddy will be lined, it’s appropriate to recess the handle’s pommel nuts into the lid to maintain a flat surface for the marbled paper to adhere to. I drilled and counterbored the pommel holes on the underside of the lid and also cut the hinge mortises into the lid and box


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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2 Responses to Making a Yew Caddy – Part One

  1. Torch02 says:

    When you line the interior, will you cover the pine that was the cut line?


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