Party TraysComments (0)
This article is from Issue 97 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Make some chips before serving some chips
Whether you’re preparing a treat for your next potluck dinner or dishing up salsa and chips to eat in front of the game, you’ll find these two party trays are up to the challenge. They also make great gifts and are a good way to show off your woodworking skills. The removable dish, called a ramekin, is available at most department stores for a couple of bucks. Or splurge and find a local potter to make you a set. Either way, adding that ceramic element frees you to serve nearly any food without fear of damaging your tray.
The key to making both of these designs is to start with a template that includes inner “rings.” In teaching how to make these trays, I’ve found most students have trouble guiding a router across a wide-open area—essentially free-handing the tool. The rings provide guidance for every cut and make the job much easier. You’ll also need a plunge router and a 3/4" tray bit with a top guide bearing. You can make your tray from nearly any wood—those shown here are made of 6/4 sapele.
Order of Work
- Make the templates
- Rout the interior
- Rout the exterior
- Sand and finish
Lay out the templates
Regardless of which tray you make, the steps are the same. Make two templates for each tray from 1/2" MDF or plywood. The first or “inner” template gets the cutouts for the recesses in the tray. Keep it rectangular for maximum router support. Cut the second, or “outer” template, to match the outside shape of the tray. Draw centerlines on it to help with alignment.
If you have a CNC router, there is no need to make templates. Simply download the files from our website and program your machine to make the appropriate cuts.
Bandsaw the templates
Cut two template blanks to the size specified in the drawing on page 24. Lay out the interior cutouts on one blank, and cut out these shapes at the band saw. Follow the designated access lines through the outer portion of the interior template as shown. Clean up the saw marks at the spindle sander, then, cut the inner rings on the band saw as shown. With a little luck when making the double tray, you’ll only need a single set of rings to make both end recesses and another set for the circular cutouts because the openings are identical. In the real world, it may not work out that way. If so, simply make a set of rings for each opening. Attach a fence to the template as shown. To make the outer template, draw center lines on the second blank and lay out the shape before cutting it out at the bandsaw.
Add a fence. Screw a length of 3⁄4" × 11⁄2" stock to the underside of the inner template to serve as a fence. Position the fence as indicated on the diagram on page 24. Test the rings’ fit in the openings. Wrap 3-4 layers of masking tape around each to take up some of the slop from the saw kerfs.
Ring around the recesses
Cut the tray blank to size from 5/4 or 6/4 stock and draw two centerlines across the width and length of the top surface. Clamp the blank to the template’s fence centering it end-to-end. Equip a plunge router with a 3/4"-diameter bowl bit and an auxiliary base plate wide enough to span the opening. Set maximum cutting depth to 3/8" less than the thickness of the blank. Beginning with all the rings in place, rout away the recesses starting from the inside and working your way out. This will make a lot of chips. Vacuum out the recess after each pass. Be sure to retract the bit before lifting the router to avoid damage to your template.
Shape and profile
Align the template and tray blank, and trace the outside shape as shown. Bandsaw the blank to just outside the line and sand to clean up the saw marks and fair the curves. At the router table, profile the upper outside edges as shown. Then round over the inside edges with a 1/4" bit. Along the bottom, shape the long edges (or, in the case of the single tray, all but the handle end) with a 5/8" roundover bit. Finally, rout the handles as shown.
Sanding at the drill press
You can make short work of cleaning up the tray with a couple of drill press-mounted sanding accessories including a foam-backed sanding pad and a sanding mop. The pad makes use of wavy edge abrasive discs, which help keep the edges of the paper from digging in. Once you have everything sanded, apply a finish. I finished these trays with several coats of tung oil.
Mopping up. While you can sand the flat surfaces conventionally, a sanding mop will do a nice job on the roundovers without altering their shape.
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