Serving Tray in Walnut and Copper

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Project by RussInMichigan posted 07-09-2014 07:40 PM 2818 views 16 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A serving tray in walnut with elongated finger joints reinforced with copper nails.

I like the protruding finger joints common to the Greene and Greene style, but I wanted a better contrast than I would have gotten with the traditional ebony plugs. I opted to go with copper nails to get some bright and sparkly contrast along with a solid corner reinforcement.

I didn’t have any walnut veneer I liked so I made the bottom by gluing up two pieces of 3/16” walnut plywood. It makes for a sturdy tray.

I included a couple of the images only to show some of the interesting grain. The last image highlights a rather bird-like grain patten.

Have a great day, lumberjocks, and thanks for looking in.

17 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3743 days

#1 posted 07-09-2014 07:54 PM

Great design and very nicely crafted!

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 4370 days

#2 posted 07-09-2014 08:49 PM

Wow! Russ! Absolutely beautiful! Stunning tray! :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

27676 posts in 4556 days

#3 posted 07-09-2014 10:40 PM

Greene and Greene or Blue and Blue, that is a fine looking tray!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4598 days

#4 posted 07-10-2014 12:06 AM

Beautiful serving tray! I like the copper nails!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View calisdad's profile


334 posts in 2960 days

#5 posted 07-10-2014 12:10 AM

Nice. That would make my breakfast in bed especially special.

-- Groveland, CA.

View Matt (MWA Woodworks)'s profile

Matt (MWA Woodworks)

305 posts in 3063 days

#6 posted 07-10-2014 03:04 AM

hey! Nice tray. Can you tell me what you used to finish it? I have some walnut to use and I like the look of your tray.

-- Follow me on instagram and facebook @mwawoodworks

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 4231 days

#7 posted 07-10-2014 04:01 AM

I’m really glad you like it. Thanks a lot everybody for your comments.

Concerning the finish, I think this might be the best finishing job I’ve ever done.

I applied Danish oil before assembly. The bottom panel was a bit darker than the frame, so, not wanting to deepen the color, I gave it two applications of natural Danish oil. The frame members received two coats of dark walnut Danish oil. I allowed this to cure for three days, then lightly rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool. Then, I applied three coats of Minwax Wipe On Satin poly to the entire assembled tray. The first coat was a simple flooding of the surface, wait 5 minutes and wipe off ALL the excess. Wait three hours. Second coat I rubbed in with 0000 steel wool, let stand a few minutes and remove ALL the excess from the surface. The third coat I actually sanded into the surface with 600 grit Norton 3X sandpaper. Wait 5 and wipe off ALL the excess. I let it cure 48 hours, then rubbed it out with 0000 steel wool.

The outcome was very pleasing to the eye and the touch. I feels really good. It’s silky.

An aesthetic element I forgot to mention was the layout lines. I’ve seen them on traditionally worked woodcraft before and it appealed to me, so I left them, rather than sanding them out. I’m glad I did. I think the layout lines, the copper nails and the finger joints work nicely together.

Thanks for looking, lumberjocks.

View robscastle's profile


8541 posts in 3655 days

#8 posted 07-10-2014 07:59 AM

Nice work getting walnut to a fine finish like that.

I bet there was some detailed sanding repeated there more than a few times.

Dont be surprised if after 24hr the Danish Oil finish looks like it was never applied.

I did a similar tray and have repeated the finishing oil at least four times and it still sucks it up!!

What was the procedure for adding the copper nails please?

-- Regards Rob

View Matt (MWA Woodworks)'s profile

Matt (MWA Woodworks)

305 posts in 3063 days

#9 posted 07-10-2014 11:57 AM

thank you Russ for the very detailed explanation of the finish. I never would have guessed all that! I have heard of rubbing a finish with steel wool after it cures, but never rubbing/sanding poly as a method of application. I really do like the finish and I have a few small projects in mind for my walnut that this finishing technique would be perfect for.

-- Follow me on instagram and facebook @mwawoodworks

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 3530 days

#10 posted 07-10-2014 12:23 PM

I really like the finish also. I’m wondering if the sheen of the wipe-on poly makes any difference since you wiped off all the excess and buffed it out. I may try this with a varnish of mine over oil/varnish to see if it makes for a more water-resistant finish. I really like the look. It looks like wax over oil to me.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 4231 days

#11 posted 07-10-2014 12:49 PM

Thanks, robcastle.

After I applied the Danish oil(I used Watco’s) I kept a watchful eye on the wood as it cured. I was concerned about exactly what you mentioned, that is, how sometimes the oil seems to disappear altogether. The two Danish oil applications were about a day apart, and after the first I did see some undesirable absorption patterns. The second coat showed no irregularities as it cured. After this second coat I let it cure for three days, looking in on it every few hours.

The wood I selected came from a stash of walnut I’ve had for over twenty years. Some of it had amazing depth of color, wonderful grain and amazing chatoyancy. It was as if you could look far into the wood. In spots I could tip the wood and it seemed I could see even farther into it, like peeking around a corner and discovering a light a bit of a ways off. In the selection process I rough planed a bunch of the stock then looked for the best character by wetting it with mineral spirits.

In case some readers aren’t familiar with the word “chatoyancy”, I’m including a definition here(from wikipedia): In woodworking: Chatoyancy can also be used to refer to a similar effect in woodworking, where certain finishes will cause the wood grain to achieve a striking three-dimensional appearance; this can also be called pop-the-grain, wood iridescence, moire, vibrancy, shimmer or glow. This effect is often highly sought after, and is sometimes referred to as “wet look”, since wetting wood with water often displays the chatoyancy, albeit only until the wood dries. Oil finishes, epoxy, and shellac can strongly bring out the “wet look” effect.

Adding the copper nails was a bit of a challenge. It took several days of searching and head scratching before I settled on the copper nails. I experimented with brass rod, but to get the appearance I wanted I would have had to have used rod almost the thickness of the wood. The sides of the tray are less than 11mm thick, but my playing around with the design, led me to something in the 7 to 9mm range, which I felt would compromise the strength of the corners. Smaller than 7mm failed to achieve the look I envisioned. I tinkered with various ring shanked boat nails, but I couldn’t find any with the right combination of head diameter and color. Some of the alloys were quite green looking – not what I was going for.

Once I settled on the copper nails, I had to find some. The big box stores didn’t have any I could make use of. I found the ones I used at an ancient ACE hardware store. They were intended for installing slate roofing tiles, so they had a stout shaft(about 3mm) with a head almost 12 mm in diameter, but not what one would call “circular.” This, of course, meant that the shafts were not in the “center” of the head. But, I figured I could machine the heads down since copper is quite soft and malleable.

To get the a head to rough size I chucked a nail into my drill press and let the head grind against a medium file. I tracked my progress with digital calipers. I decided on a final diameter of 7mm. When the head was less than 8mm I switched to a fine file to complete the grinding. The nails had small bumps, knots, and lumps on the shafts and on the underside of the head, I ground those away, also.

I polished the show face of the head while the nail was still in the chuck. I rigged up a sanding/polishing plate on a MDF with strips of sandpaper at 320, 600, and 1000 grit, along with a patch of green chromium oxide honing compound directly on the MDF. With the drill spinning, I simply went through each sanding grit and then to the honing compound. This created some very pretty copper-colored dots. Since the heads were facing downward I used a small mirror to inspect the progress and verify the result.

To install the nails I first made a piloting jig about the width of the finger joints such that the hole would be centered both on the finger joint into which the nail would go and the abutting tray frame section. The pilot hole was about 0.2mm smaller than the nail shaft diameter. I roughed up the nail shafts with course sandpaper; placed the tray on a cushioned surface; rubbed a dab of wood glue in the hole with a toothpick; and, then, gently tapped the nail in with a tack hammer and a maple block.

Have a great day.

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 4231 days

#12 posted 07-10-2014 02:01 PM

Matt in Franklin, you are welcome.

A description of the finishing process makes it sound more involved than it really is, but each step in the process is only a few minutes, except for the days-long waiting.

One of the things that draws me to woodworking is the endless ways of making it your own thing. There are lots of ways to do it. There are lots of ways to learn from others. Rubbing in and sanding in the poly is an idea I picked up from some geezer older than me. Then, I experimented with the idea until I got something I liked.

Here I wanted to enhance what the wood had already given me, while adding protection appropriate to the end use.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4317 days

#13 posted 07-10-2014 02:06 PM

This tray is really nice and I like the design.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 4231 days

#14 posted 07-10-2014 02:09 PM

I’m glad you find the finish appealing.

Thanks for looking in.

View hotncold's profile


788 posts in 2995 days

#15 posted 07-10-2014 03:03 PM

Wow! Absolutely stunning! (I really have to learn the patience required for finishing like this -beautiful)

-- Dennie - Tennessee

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