Shop Project – Teacup Rack

In Tokyo’s Kappabashidori area I came across a couple of shops selling a staggering array of teacups, and every time I went in I seemed to return home with one or two of them. With some careful packing they all made it home in good shape, but I soon found I had a problem: they did not fit well anywhere I tried to store them. They were too small to fit in well with my coffee mugs, too big to just fit into any nook or cranny, and too interesting to just shove in the back of a cabinet.

It was obvious they needed a dedicated home, and I decided that the best option would be a cubbyhole rack where each cup had it’s own space. After sorting the cups by size and identifying the various heights and widths needing to be accommodated, and looking at the space available, a 20 cell box with 5 equal width columns, 3 equal height rows, and 1 taller row was the best combination. My first thought for wood was some cherry that had been drying in the barn for a few years, but on the way to it I came across the frame from the old back door and this seemed an ideal project to make use of the fairly clear tight grained pine hiding under the well-worn skin.

starting wood

After unwrapping the wood from it’s beaten, painted, and caulked exterior and ripping it to a rouch width, I was able to resaw each piece on the bandsaw to just over ½ inch and after some passes through the jointer and planer had enough wood milled to a touch under 7/16 inch to complete the project.

partially planned

I considered a variety of construction methods and decided that it was a good project for basic dados, so after making a crosscut / dado quide from some scrap I set to work laying out and cutting the main body. This consisted of the 2 side verticals, the top, bottom, and 3 shelves. Once cut I sanded to 220 grit and assembled the body. With the main body assembled it was fairly straightforward but tedious to cut, finish sand, and fit the vertical inserts; I had wanted to try and use a single section of wood for each vertical so the grain would align, but I didn’t have enough material available for that luxury. As it was, the belt sander (and dust collector) got quite a workout for minute adjustments… I wanted an open back, so the top row verticals had to incorporate a hanging strip.

After assembly but prior to finishing with walnut oil (my favorite “natural” finish) I mounted it temporarily to confirm all was as intended, then took it down and cleaned and finished. Applying a food grade oil finish to old dry wood is a great experience, just pour some oil into a container, slap it on and massage it into the wood until it stops being sucked in as soon as it hits, then let it sit a few minutes and wipe off the excess… and at the end your hands feel like they have given a spa treatment as well. While the finish was drying, I painted the heads of the screws I was using to mount it to the wall flat black. Once dry and mounted the teacups were all too happy to move in.



Only after it was on the wall did I look back through some pictures some friends took in one of the Kappabashidori shops and noticed a very similar structure as a sales display.

Possible inspiration

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