This tray served up a couple interesting challenges shaping the sculpted handles on the ends and creating a smooth lip around the inside edge of the tray

Small projects, like this serving tray, can be just as rewarding as larger ones. The scale may not be quite the same, but there are still plenty of challenges to work out — especially when you're trying to come up with a procedure that works well and makes the building process as simple as possible.

HANDLES. Onechallengeonthistraywasshap-ing the handles. I didn't want to just glue them to the end pieces; the joint line would have been too distracting. So these handles had to be sculpted from the same block of wood that the ends are cut from. But looking at the block and "seeing" the handles (like a sculptor would), I realized that a lot of cutting and routing had to be done on some fairly narrow pieces.

The solution? Instead of working with two separate blanks (one for each end piece), I started out with only one wide blank. This way, both handles could be shaped safely. Then later, they could be cut to finished size from the blank.

routed COVE. This tray provided another litde challenge: the routed cove along the inside edge. I wanted the cove to end up perfectly flush with the plywood panel. This not only looks better; it's also easier to keep clean. But which do you establish first — the position of the cove or the panel?

I began by routing the cove. Then I could sneak up on the location of the panel by using my table saw and a few test pieces. I did it this way because the fence on my table saw lets me "fine tune" a cut better than the fence on my router table.


I started work on the serving tray by cutting out and shaping the end pieces, which also serve as the handles.

Actually, these two end pieces start out as one wide blank, see drawing above. This makes these pieces much easier and safer to hold when you're routing them.

The first thing that needs to be done with the blank is to create a cove along the bottom edge of each side, see Fig. 1. This will form the bottom edge of the handles.

To rout the cove, Iusedarouter table with a core box bit raised %" above the table. Set the router fence so the cut is %" wide.

Then make a pass along both edges, see Fig. la. Then to increase the width of the cove, move the router fence slightiy away from the bit and make a couple more passes. Repeat this procedure until the cove is a full W wide. Then sand it smooth, see the first tip in the box below.

The next step is to cut the end pieces to width and complete the handles.

With the cove routed, nowyou can cutthe end pieces to final width from the blank. To do this, setthe fence fromthe blade and rip one end piece from the blank. Then flip the blank around and rip the other piece.


Now lay out the shape of the handle on both pieces, see drawing above and the second tip in the box below. Then this shape can be cut out with a band saw, see Fig. 2

The only problem here is the piece can rock when making the cut. So I used a dowel to add stability, see the third tip in the box below. Don't try to cut right to the line with the band saw; it works better to sand up to it instead. (1 used a drum sander.)

Now to complete the handle, rout a roundover along the top edge, see Fig. 3. But the handle is too thin to ride against the bearing, so you'll need to use the fence.

Sanding. To sand a routed cove quickly and consistently, I wrap adhesive-backed sandpaper around a dowel.

Laying out art s. When laying out the arcs, I found it easiest to clamp the opposing sides together and use a compass.

Sanding. To sand a routed cove quickly and consistently, I wrap adhesive-backed sandpaper around a dowel.

Laying out art s. When laying out the arcs, I found it easiest to clamp the opposing sides together and use a compass.

Adding support. To add support to a small work piece with a routed cove, I used tape to hold a dowel in the cove.


With the handles complete, it's time to make the sides and add some feet.

Creating the two 20"-long side pieces is simply a matter of ripping them to match the final width of the end pieces, see Fig. 4 and the drawing above. The next step is to make feet for both the side and end pieces, see Fig. 5. Cutting them to size is as easy as cutting the side pieces. In fact, the fence setting is the same. Just start with extra long blanks, and when they've been ripped to width, you can cut the blanks to make eight 4"-long feet.

With the feet cut to size, they're ready to be glued and clamped to the sides and ends. When gluing the feet, they should be flush with the ends and with the outside face of each piece. And pay attention to the wood grain too. It's best if the feet "blend" into the side and end pieces as much as possible so the joint line isn't noticeable.








Strike a W' ^ radius with r

a compass


r 33/s

I didn't really want square feet for the tray, so I cut a small curve on the inside edge of each.

The first step for creating a curve is striking an arc. The arcs have a W radius and are centered IM.i" away from the ends of the pieces. But setting a compass exactly on the edge is a bit of a balancing act. To make this easier, I clamped the opposing pieces together to draw the arcs, see Fig. 6.

When the arcs are all laid out, cut the curve for each foot, see Fig. 7. (Again, to do this, I used a band saw to remove the waste. And then I sanded the curves smooth with a drum sander.)



Next, I created a lip around the tray by routing a 3/s" cove along the inside edge of the tray pieces.

To do this, I used the router table with a core box bit, see Fig. 8. Simply raise the bit above the table and then set the fence to make a W-wide cu i, see Fig. 8a. Now, you

can rout the cove on each tray piece.

After the cove has been routed, there's still one more thing to do. And that's to rout a few test pieces with the same cove, see drawing above left. These test pieces will help later when you need to position a groove that will be cut in the tray pieces.

To make the test pieces, first cut a few blanks from scraps. The blanks don't need to match the size or shape of the end pieces, but you do want them big enough to work with safely. (Later, you'll be ripping a groove on the table saw.) Then simply rout the cove along one edge of each blank.

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