Tansu-shmansu #1: Birthday or xmas gift

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Blog entry by Pankratio posted 03-19-2009 12:32 AM 1540 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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So I’ve decided I’m building a tansu-styled cabinet (specifically the step or kaidan tansu style) for my lovely lady.

I’ll be documenting the entire process on here until it’s done.

Once it’s done, the nearest xmas or her birthday (march 8th) will become the ‘occasion’ for this gift. I like that deadline.

-- I am the man in the arena. Q-Woodworks

9 comments so far

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 3500 days

#1 posted 03-19-2009 01:03 AM

Hmmmm . . . sounds interesting. However I don’t have a clue what a tansu-styled cabinet looks like. :-)

Got any sketches or pics to share??

-- BLOG -

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 3244 days

#2 posted 03-19-2009 01:13 AM

Zuki, here is one that Dorje posted some time ago. To tell the truth I had to google tansu as well to get an idea what one was.

It will be interesting to see the construction of the cabinet posted. I am looking forward to seeing the steps involved.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Zuki's profile


1404 posts in 3500 days

#3 posted 03-19-2009 01:20 AM

Ahhhhh . . . cool. Its one of those cabinets with all of the black “hardware” attached to it.

I remember seeing a couple somewhere online that has so much hardware you could not actually see the wood.

I believe LV has the hardware . . . correct?

-- BLOG -

View 's profile

593 posts in 3394 days

#4 posted 03-19-2009 02:43 AM

Zuki, in Japanese ”kaidan” means stairs and ”tansu” means cabinet. When some words become compound like in the case of ”kaidandansu” the ”t” softens to a ”d” for ease of pronunciation.

In a nutshell, Pankratio is talking about those traditional cabinets that in older japanese homes in some occasions were used to double as stairs to the second floor. Through a clever design they are often modular so you can recombine both parts to form a rectangle, either horizontal or vertical.

And yes, when people talks about a ”tansu” most of the time they refer to the traditional small chest of drawers with pinned half tenons and big black round hardware.

LV has indeed some sort of tansu style hardware but I’m not sure whether is real or a cheap copy.

Pankratio, I’m looking forward to see the blog and the final results. Just out of curiosity, do you plan on using traditional wood or a more modern Westernized version? There a good 4 or 5 examples of this kind of cabinetry here in LJ.

By the way, the date you’ve chosen is very appropriate: March 8th is the ”International Women’s Day”.

View Pankratio's profile


15 posts in 2779 days

#5 posted 03-19-2009 07:34 AM

Thanks for all of the replies, and the warm welcomings! You lads certainly do some great work.

I’m trying to keep the black hardware down to a minimum. I understand that it has generally been considered integral to tansu styles overall, but the ornate black stuff just makes me want to hurl.

There’s definitely a twofold modern twist on the woods as well – every stick in this thing except for a few of those store-bought dowels is coming from recycled wood. I have found plenty of pieces, mostly maples from old furniture, and a few pieces of oak I ripped out of some old couches that were on their way to the dump.

The last big departure from the usual for this is that I’m building this thing very much in the miniature, and I’m doing two of them (mirror images) at once, so she can keep one at her folks’ place. Seeing as how this is a secret and I hear her slippers coming, I had better hide this window.

PS – Jojo3, if you don’t mind I might just be asking your advice here and there – both because I’m a geneticist, not a woodworker and because the lovely lady in my life is named Yayoi.

Many thanks to all!

-- I am the man in the arena. Q-Woodworks

View anotherbrick's profile


73 posts in 3078 days

#6 posted 03-19-2009 08:00 AM

This must be a significant gift.You’re the best husband.

-- china

View 's profile

593 posts in 3394 days

#7 posted 03-19-2009 10:22 AM

I agree with you on the big chunky hardware, it’s not exactly my cup of tea.

For a modern and subtle take on a simple but gorgeous tansu take a look at Dorje’s project that Scott mentioned above. This is a beautiful example of a twist on a traditional cabinet. It sports splined miter joins instead of the more classic open pinned laps (à la Greene & Greene but flush with the case) and the boards are thicker, probably because he uses a wood other than the traditional paulownia, but this gives it a very refined look that I love.

Here in Japan you can see plenty of similar examples without any hardware but the pulls.

View Pankratio's profile


15 posts in 2779 days

#8 posted 03-20-2009 08:18 AM

Thanks, ‘notherbrick, but I’ll still have to earn that title – I’m as of yet nobody’s husband.

Project update – Refined drawings a little, preliminary cut list is in the works, and, perhaps the most exciting is….

I set up my Dewalt 375 today! I did a few practice runs with my lady’s cutting board and the thing works perfectly! It was a good thing I did some practice runs, since the last time I used a thickness planer was in junior high school’s woodshop.

Thanks for the link, Jojo and Scott, I certainly do like the look. I was thinking of going all wood (even the pulls) but I might just do something a little on either the brass or SS side for the pulls.

Tomorrow I get to assemble my lo-cost jointer – apparently quite a bit more work than the planer to set up.

We shall see.

-- I am the man in the arena. Q-Woodworks

View Pankratio's profile


15 posts in 2779 days

#9 posted 03-22-2009 06:26 AM

Man, that jointer was a doozy! Maxwood – from the only other testament I found about it on this site, apparently it works just fine once you get it set up nice. It’s just that setting it up with a few missing parts, a bogus engrish manual and a ‘bump and pray’ belt tensioning system has been trying. I’ll be hooking up the electrical, hopefully all goes well with that.

On vera

-- I am the man in the arena. Q-Woodworks

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