This handsome maple and walnut serving tray is perfect for carrying snacks or beverages. You’ll appreciate the solid and stable feel of the 1-inch walnut handles as you carry the tray from your kitchen to your patio or living room. The plugs at the handle location and in the middle of the tray create an attractive contrasting inlay against the maple sides. The plugs at the handle locations allow the wood grain of the sides to run through and ensure a greater strength than if the handles were drilled all the way through to accept the dowels.
You can build this project easily within a couple hours. There is a photo titled “Figure A” at the end of this article with the parts and lumber sizes keyed next to it to help you get started. The only thing you might not have on hand is the 1-inch walnut dowels and plugs. The dowels are from Rockler Woodworking and the 1-inch and 1/2-inch walnut and maple plugs that make up the inlay are from WIDGETCO. The project will cost about $30 including the special order materials.
The only parts that need a bit of finesse are the shaped side pieces but I’ve included a drawing of them at the end of this article (“Figure B”). All you need to do is enlarge the drawing so the squares are 1″x1″ and then print it on greeting card stock so it’s easy to trace. Tip: you may need to select “borderless print” on your printer menu to make it print full size. Just follow the steps below and your gift will be ready to wrap the next day.
1. Enlarge the pattern shown at the end of the article so the squares are 1″x1″. Print the pattern on greeting card stock to make it easy to trace.
2. Trace the pattern onto your 3/4″ x 6-5/8″ x 22″ maple board. Be sure to mark a center line both ways onto the board in order to match the pattern. Once the left side is traced, flip it over to trace the other half.
3. Drill a pilot hole at the handle locations.
4. Rout the groove for the tray into each side. Make sure the feet of the pattern are toward the fence. Set the fence 2-1/4″ away from the cutting edge of the bit. Make three graduated passes until your groove is 3/8″ deep. Use a 23/32″ wide bit for a tight fit with 3/4″ plywood. A 1/2″ bit will work if you move the fence to widen your initial cut.
5. Drill 1″ hole 3/16″ deep on both sides of the handle locations and on the outer side at the tray center.
6. Cut the side pieces using a band saw or jigsaw.
7. Smooth and even out the cuts with a drum sander.
8. Cut out the thin piece of wood at the bottom of the tray sides. Measure back 2″ from the center and cut 3/8″ deep. Trim flush with a utility knife. These pieces become paper thin after sanding so eliminating the thin area keeps them from breaking away.
9. Glue the 1″ walnut plugs into the holes on the face side of each tray.
10. Drill a 1/16″ diameter hole through the backside of the plugs to locate the center of the plugs. Don’t do the same for the middle plug detail, instead, pre-drill the hole for this plug and then glue it into place.
11. Cut the birch plywood tray bottom and glue 3/4″ x 3/4″ maple strips on each side. Use a block plane to set a 17-degree angle to the edge of each end. Test the fit with the side before gluing the parts.
12. Glue the tray bottom into the grooves on the sides and leave loose until you slip the handles into place.
13. Cut the walnut dowels and ease the cut ends with fine sandpaper. Glue the dowel into the 3/16″ deep recesses. You may need to tap it with a wood mallet to set the dowels.
14. With sides and handles glued, clamp the assembly making sure to align the sides carefully with the tray bottom. Let the glue set at least 2 hours before going to the next step.
15. Drill 1/2″ holes into the centers of the walnut plugs using your previously drilled pilot holes as a guide. Drill only to the depth of the large plug. Drill the center into the decorative plug on each side.
16. Pre-drill a pilot hole into the dowel and secure the connection with a #6 x 1-1/4″ screw.
17. Glue a 1/2″ maple plug into the hole on each end. Glue a plug into the center decorative walnut plug as well.
18. Cut 20-degree angles on the bottom sides of the tray end stops (G) and glue them onto the tray. Leave a 3/8″ reveal at the end of the ray. Clamp the stop lightly until the glue sets.
19. Cut the plugs flush with the face of the tray sides. Use smooth careful strokes to avoid cutting into the side face. You can also sand them flush with a belt sander but use extreme care to hold the sander parallel to the face. To finish the tray, sand all the surfaces with 100-grip paper and then with 150-grit. Ease the edges of the sides for comfortable handling. Use a wipe-on polyurethane finish to protect the wood from water or alcohol.
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