For a fun first foray into the fashioning of fine glue-up woodcrafts, this breakfast tray is a pretty fun project. I made this as a Christmas gift for my sister-in-law, and the basic design is inspired by this tray by Roaming Roots Woodwork on Etsy.
Material list: ~ $25
- 3/4-inch light-colored wood (maple, poplar, birch...)
- 3/4-inch dark-colored wood (walnut, oak, cherry...)
- Wood glue
- Wood finish
- 4x wood screws and two strips of heavy leather
I went to a local hard-wood store and found a 4-foot long, 6-inch wide board of maple and another of machiche* for under $25 total.
- Table saw
- Chop saw
- Paint prush
*At least I think it was machiche... I forgot what the guy said it was at the store. It looked nice and was reasonably priced.
Step 1: Review the Design
I used Inkscape (a free graphic arts program) to draw up a pattern and verify dimensions. Here they are, down to the 1/32-inch.
If you're like me, you don't have the skills to cut that precisely, so you'll be doing some adjusting as you go.
Step 2: Rip to 1-1/2 Inch Wide
Use a table saw to rip your boards to 1-1/2 inch wide. These will be the building blocks of the design.
Step 3: Cut Dark Strips to Length
Use a chop saw to cut eight 1-1/2-inch boards to length:
- 2x 15-1/2-inch long
- 2x 14-inch long
- 2x 12-1/2-inch long
- 2x 11-inch long
Step 4: Glue Up the Dark Boards
There is a lot of lore out there on how to make perfect glue-ups. Basically, it boils down to getting good clean surfaces, smearing them with wood glue, and clamping them well. There are special tools for getting more surface area, special ways of lining up the wood grain, etc., but two good clean square joints are the simplest and arguably the best way to go.
Try not to glue more than 3 boards (two glue-joints) at a time.
- Hold the boards together and check for gaps. If you can see light between them, try to sand or plane the boards until you can't.
If you've got an hour, watch this great video by Jim Heavey of WOOD Magazine; he distills 20 years of experience pretty succinctly.
Step 5: Cut & Glue Short, Light-Colored Pieces
Cut eight 2-1/2-inch lengths of your light-colored wood and glue them on. I glued them in pairs and used some home-made clamp extensions (since my clamps weren't long enough).
Step 6: Cut a "V" in the Glued-up Board.
Step 7: Clean Up the "V"
Depending on your cutting skills, you may need to do some sanding to clean up the edges.
Step 8: Cut the Final Pieces to Fit
Rather than cutting these last few pieces according to the original plan, I took measurements directly off of the glued-up boards and cut them to fit, making small adjustments until everything lined up well.
Step 9: Do Final Glue-Up
I used two long clamps with extensions to glue the final pieces.
Step 10: Sand and Trim Edges
Sand the top surface of the tray. I used 80-grit on a belt sander to get everything flush, then moved through 100, 150, and 180 grit on a random-orbit sander to get the surface ready for finishing.
If all your edges aren't perfectly flush, trim them with a table saw.
Step 11: Cut Edge Pieces
Rip a few strips of your light-colored board to 1 inch. Then cut 45-degree angles to make edge-pieces.
Refer to the original design for approximate dimensions, but you'll probably have to adjust for the actual size of your tray.
Step 12: Glue Two Edge Pieces
I set the tray on four nuts to position it relative to the edges, then glued and clamped the long edges.
I could really use some longer clamps.
Step 13: Trim and Glue the Last Two Edges
With two edges installed, you can make adjustments to fit the final edges exactly before gluing them up.
Step 14: Drill Holes for Handles
Drill holes for the wood-screws you plan to attach the leather handles with.
Step 15: Apply Finish
Apply the finish of your choice. I used a few thin coats of water-based polyurethane (Varathane).
Step 16: Cut and Finish Leather Handles
Cut a few strips of leather, punch holes in the ends, and finish however you like. I used a beveler and slicker on the edges, painted them with Edge Kote, and then rubbed on some antiquing gel to give the leather a nice color.
Use something sturdy: 4-8 oz leather would be great.
Step 17: Attach the Leather Handles and Admire
Use wood-screws to attach the leather handles and enjoy your tray.