Flatware CaddyComments (0)
This article is from Issue 106 of Woodcraft
A small container with big techniques
As the sun returns and spring blooms, my thoughts turn to heading outdoors and sharing meals with friends and family. But carrying all the accouterments of a backyard feast can require a lot of trips in and out of the house and result in a pile of cluttered cutlery. This flatware caddy provides a solution for organizing, transporting, and displaying your dining supplies in a simple design inspired by the curve and overlap of garden leaves.
The basic construction draws inspiration from historic coopered vessels, but I elongated the traditionally circular footprint to create an ellipse. The caddy achieves this elliptic shape by carefully adjusting the coopering angle between each stave. Luckily, that’s not as fussy as it sounds. There are 20 staves but only five bevel angles that repeat around the ellipse. The trick is to bevel long strips of stave stock first, then crosscut them to length, ensuring all your angles match. The compound curve on the top edge of the caddy is made easy by bandsawing the shape onto the staves while they are laid flat and then fairing out the curve after gluing up.
The container’s interior is organized with removable, half-lapped dividers, making clean-up easier in the event of messy condiment spills. And the steam-bent handle, attached with brass barrel screws, swivels out of the way for easy utensil access.
Order of Work
- Make the staves
- Make and fit bottom panel
- Assemble and glue-up
- Make removable compartments
- Steam bend handle
- Attach handle
The patterns on page 46 are available on our website at full-size:
- bottom panel
- caddy wall profile curve
- short and long dividers
- steam bending form
Read a free article on ripping bevels at the table saw.
An elegant, convenient solution for carrying cutlery
Making an ellipse
Mill several long strips of stave stock to 2" wide. You’ll need two strips (A and F) at 15" long, and four strips (B through E) at 36" long, plus extras for table saw set up. Tilt your table saw blade to 17°, and bevel both sides of strip F and one side of strip E. Then set the blade to the next angle in the diagram, and so on. After all six strips of stave stock are beveled, crosscut the strips into individual overlong staves and cut the dado for the bottom panel, as shown.
Bevel the stave stock. Before you rip the second bevel on each strip of stave stock as shown, use your set up stock to dial in the fence to the correct final width. Mark one end of your pieces with their part letters (A-F) and bevel angles.
Dividing the interior
Add curves. After tracing the curves from your plywood templates onto the dividers, bandsaw them to shape.
Fashioning a handle
Print the Steam Bending Form pattern. Cut it from thick stock or stacked plywood. I used 8/4 pine. Fair out any bumps on your form; they’ll show up in your handle. Cut the handle blanks overlong by 6" for clamping. Steam the blanks for 15 minutes. Then remove one and bend it around the form. If it breaks, discard and bend the next blank. Clamp until fully dry, at least 24 hours. Transfer the cut marks from the bending pattern to the handle before removing it from the form. Cut the handle to the marked length. Drill holes in the handle and chamfer the corners with a block plane. Sand and finish the handle, install the barrel screws, drop in the dividers, and start caddying!
Small-scale Steam Bending
Steam bending might seem risky. Building a form, making a compression strap, and spending hours steaming thick timber can end in heartbreak when you hear a loud crack as you finish clamping the piece around the form. But starting at a small scale is much more forgiving. And once you get a feel for small bends, it’s easy to scale up.
Once your setup is running (see photo at right), fill the Earlex with water, plug it in, and wait. Keep an eye on your thermometer as the steam starts to flow. When the temperature passes 210°F, load your blanks into the box. The temperature will drop when you open the door, so wait until it reaches 210° again before you start timing. The rule of thumb is one hour per inch of thickness, but I err on the side of extra steam. I steamed the 1⁄8" thick caddy handle for 15 min. It’s possible to oversteam, but the benefit of starting small is that you get to experiment quickly to get a feel for different factors.
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