Japanese tansu

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Project by cathyb posted 1528 days ago 3178 views 4 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my tansu, a Japanese cabinet, constructed from mahogany with koa accents and a lacquered ash base. I took on this job just for the chance to experiment with those slats on the front. The tansu is 8’ long, 3’ tall and 2’ deep. The drawers on the bottom are large and offset from the cabinets above. Inside the cabinets are an assortment of shelves to store large serving pieces. In my yippie skippie mindset, I was focused on my joinery for most of the journey. After I added the top and tried to move it, I realized my box had beefed up to about 200 pounds. Even with the gliders on the feet, it wasn’t going to budge. Oh my God! Thus came the need for casters, which didn’t diminish my angst about the upcoming delivery. Somehow we managed to get that huge thing through the front door, around the corner and into place. Thank God for those casters! After this photo was taken, I made little lacquered booties to hide my casters, which were a distraction (or lifesaver). Bottom line: trouble is always around the corner-run faster!

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

23 comments so far

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2124 posts in 1674 days

#1 posted 1528 days ago

Just a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

-- Bill - "Freedom flies in your heart like an Eagle" Audie Murphy

View azwoodman's profile


132 posts in 2013 days

#2 posted 1528 days ago

Thats a beautiful cabinet!

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 1555 days

#3 posted 1528 days ago

Very nice piece. What did you use for the finish?

-- Life is good.

View cathyb's profile


757 posts in 1877 days

#4 posted 1528 days ago

My standard finish is Olympic Polyurethane- a great one as the first coat. After 12 hours, 2 coats of Urethane polyurethane- a little thinner. After a few days, I spray Minwax polyurethane-pathetic as a primary coat, but so thin you can easily spray it to eliminate brush strokes from previous coats.

Although my woodworking buddies have urged me to go back to a lacquer finish, I love working with polyurethane. I enjoy slowing brushing my work to look for flaws. I don’t mind waiting for a finish to build up. Furthermore, it is so much easier to clean up my gun when using the Minwax, rather than lacquer. It sets up a little slower than lacquer and I can use acetone instead of lacquer thinner to clean up without any problems.

One final point, I never liked the look or feel of a lacquered finish. Oil-based polyurethane gives koa and mahogany a richer and and especially deeper look as it brings out the grain rather than a flash coat laying on top.

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View a1Jim's profile


112015 posts in 2210 days

#5 posted 1528 days ago

Beautiful Cathy

-- Custom furniture

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665 posts in 1723 days

#6 posted 1528 days ago

Eye catching. Very nice work Cathy.

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13018 posts in 1974 days

#7 posted 1528 days ago

excellent work ,
nothing but the best from you ,cathy .

i bet they love it .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View stefang's profile


12940 posts in 1967 days

#8 posted 1528 days ago

That is one beautiful piece Cathy. I agree with you on the poly. If done right it’s hard to beat. My son wanted me to make a long low cabinet in similar proportions to yours, but I told him it would be too large for my shop and besides, it would be a hassle every time they needed to move it. It seems that isn’t a big problem with your solution.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View NormG's profile


4112 posts in 1636 days

#9 posted 1528 days ago

just amazing work and style

-- Norman

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Benji Reyes

292 posts in 1711 days

#10 posted 1527 days ago

A piece meant to be appreciated and enjoyed by future generations.

-- Benji Reyes, Antipolo, Philippines,

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13495 posts in 2406 days

#11 posted 1527 days ago

Impressive looking piece. Very nicely done. Thanks for posting.

God bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Ken90712's profile


14878 posts in 1821 days

#12 posted 1527 days ago

Cathy, this is just perfect! Love the accents and color. Thx for the info on finishing as well, very informative.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

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10635 posts in 2879 days

#13 posted 1527 days ago

Beautiful work.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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170 posts in 1640 days

#14 posted 1527 days ago

A real beauty.!!

-- bill

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2232 posts in 1648 days

#15 posted 1527 days ago

Fantastic craftwomanship. The wood is outstanding. A very lovely piece. thanks for sharing.

-- We call the destruction of replaceable human made items vandalism, while the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources is called development.

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