Miniature Tea Caddies

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Project by mauibob posted 04-19-2016 11:41 AM 1304 views 7 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve always loved the George III period 18th century tea caddy design. While the marquetry on most of these caddies was relatively simple—shells, fan inlays, flowers & leaves, perhaps a bird or two—they were beautiful in their understated simplicity.

I was recently asked to give a short presentation on marquetry to a women’s auxiliary club. For the occasion, I wanted to make some simple marquetry boxes and, of course, the tea caddy came to mind. Unfortunately, in the 18th century, tea caddies were used to hold loose tea leaves—a very precious commodity in those days—often kept under lock and key to keep away from the servants. The tea bag was yet to be invented (the first tea bag patent was issued in 1903, and consisted of hand sewn fabric bags).

Today, tea bags are ubiquitous, and no one keeps their tea under lock and key! So, these caddies were designed to hold tea bags in two individual compartments. I selected a variety of woods and veneers to provide a bit of a sampling. Veneers used included: maple burl, rosewood, dyed koto, holly, aspen, mahogany and imbuya burl. Solid woods (for the box itself) included (clockwise from top left): Western big leaf maple, curly maple, Chechen rosewood, and Brazilian rosewood.

Inspiration for the marquetry designs came from Rob Millard and Luke Addington.

Dimensions are roughly 3 5/8” D x 6 3/8” W x 3 3/4” H.

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

13 comments so far

View majuvla's profile


12437 posts in 2895 days

#1 posted 04-19-2016 11:55 AM

Awesome boxes. Those marquetry is very colourful and detailed. I admire precision work here.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2745 posts in 3619 days

#2 posted 04-19-2016 12:20 PM

Beautiful Marquetry, The red rose is my favorite!

-- Dennis Zongker

View mauibob's profile


236 posts in 3095 days

#3 posted 04-19-2016 01:02 PM

Thanks Ivan and Dennis.

It always keeps me humble working on small boxes! You quickly realize that precision is the name of the game with these little pieces—1/64” on a piece of furniture, no big deal … but on a small box it stands out like a sore thumb!

I’ve come to really like adding some color into my designs—I need a bigger palette of colors, tho. May consider dyeing my own veneers, but my first attempt was a failure—color really did not hold.

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 2981 days

#4 posted 04-19-2016 01:22 PM

Lovely work. Your marquetry always impresses. I always enjoy seeing your work.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1041 posts in 2340 days

#5 posted 04-19-2016 01:46 PM

Beautiful examples. Did you cut the marquetry on your chevalet?

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View helluvawreck's profile


31407 posts in 2894 days

#6 posted 04-19-2016 01:54 PM

Bob, these are all lovely pieces and the post is very interesting. Beautiful work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2825 days

#7 posted 04-19-2016 02:05 PM

Very nice Bob. Simple marquetry maybe but very well done.
Have a look in the posts at the chevalet clubhouse. There was some discussion a little ways back (starting with Filip, post#396) concerning dying of veneers that may help you. It is something we have all thought about and some have tried but success is a bit illusive.
At any rate the colours you have come up with here work just fine.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Julian's profile


1348 posts in 2718 days

#8 posted 04-19-2016 02:20 PM

Very nicely done.

-- Julian

View PJY's profile


3 posts in 860 days

#9 posted 04-19-2016 02:42 PM

Love your work! Can you suggest any good resources for someone who wants to start doing this? Thanks

View Woodenwizard's profile


1331 posts in 3070 days

#10 posted 04-19-2016 03:00 PM

A great job here Bob. Although you say the designs are simple, I know there was a lot of effort put into them. Thanks for sharing, I always love to see your work.

-- John, Colorado's (Wooden Wizard)

View BurlyBob's profile


5555 posts in 2293 days

#11 posted 04-19-2016 03:22 PM

Bob, your boxes are beautiful. The complimenting woods really make your marquetry stand out. The marquetry is really great.

View mauibob's profile


236 posts in 3095 days

#12 posted 04-19-2016 05:01 PM

Thanks everyone for the nice comments!

PJY—I always find it easier to watch someone do something than to simply read about it. Here are my favorite marquetry DVDs:

Double Bevel Marquetry (David Marks,
Decorative Veneering & Marquetry (Paul Schürch,
Marquetry, Veneer & Inlay for Furnituremakers (Rob Millard,

Paul Schürze and Rob Millard use the pad method, while David Marks uses the double bevel technique—I use both approaches depending upon the design and desired effect.

Another good source for ideas is the American Marquetry Society (

Paul M. —Thanks for the dyed veneer link.

Jim Rowe—These boxes were done on the scrollsaw rather than with my chevalet. I got lazy ;-)

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View davidtr3's profile


51 posts in 959 days

#13 posted 04-19-2016 05:12 PM

These are wonderfully done.

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