Perfect For Sushi Serving Tray

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My wife and I wanted to present my brother and his wife with a nice sushi set, but we were disappointed with the offerings available commercially. Naturally, that meant I would design and build one myself. Because presentation is just as important as preparation with many customary Japanese foods, I started with a traditional “geta”-style tray and added a few elegant touches of my own. 

Geta are traditional Japanese sandals, made up of a flat piece of wood for the sole with two cleats on the underside. My tray begins with the same design, but I’ve dressed it up using breadboard ends with butterfly splines, dovetailed legs, and built-in chopstick rests. Bamboo has an inherently oriental look, so to me it was the only choice for the body. I picked purpleheart for the splines and cherry for the breadboard ends.

Fast-growing bamboo, which is actually a grass, is rapidly gaining popularity as a substitute for wood. Engineered bamboo planks are smooth, stable and environmentally friendly. Bamboo grown for lumber can be harvested every four to six years. The 6" stalks are cut into strips, then glued into planks, plywood and flooring. You can read more about using bamboo in this issue’s Woodsense department on page 61.

Bamboo planks can still be a bit hard to find, unless you’re lucky enough to have a local supplier. A flooring wholesaler near me does carry bamboo flooring and stair treads, but the flooring is too thin for this project and the treads would need to be milled down from their 1" thickness to be usable. Chris Miller at Northwest Bamboo came to my rescue by shipping me an unfinished stair riser. At ¾" thick and 7½" wide, it was perfect for the tray, and a 6' riser is enough material for several trays. The plank was perfectly machined and usable just as I received it. 

Sushi trays seem to traditionally be about 7" wide by 10" long. I increased the size a little to compensate for the chopstick rests. 

The first step is to mill the hardwood stock for the legs, splines and ends. I always harp on proper stock preparation, and it’s a crucial component of this project. The stock must be very square and straight to ensure close-fitting joints.

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