"Growth Rings" Serving Tray

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Project by Patrick Jaromin posted 09-08-2009 03:49 AM 5352 views 8 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s been a very busy summer and I opted to spend most of my free time with my family rather than in the shop. Other than a couple cutting boards (after seeing all the cool ones posted at in the past few months I just had to try a few myself!), I really haven’t spent any significant time in the shop.

However, while shopping for a gift for my wife on the occasion of our 6th wedding anniversary, I learned that the traditional gift was candy or iron and the modern alternate was wood. In keeping with this theme, many of the online vendors were selling wooden boxes containing chocolates. This seemed like a great gift idea, but, being a woodworker, clearly I couldn’t buy her a wooden box. However, since I didn’t have time to build a nice box and don’t have any real experience with them anyway, I looked for another idea.

For the past 5 anniversaries I’ve made it a sort of tradition to get up early and, now that we have children, taking the kids out with me to pick up cinnamon rolls for breakfast. This year, I decided, I would make her breakfast instead and serve it to her, with chocolate-dipped strawberries, on a handmade wooden serving tray.

And this is the result.

This project was unique in that it’s the first project I designed entirely in my head and during the actual construction process. Typically I design my pieces in detail in SketchUp before even selecting the lumber. I must admit it was kinda fun building this way — designing on-the-fly so to speak — though I’m not sure I’ll make this the new norm.

The bulk of the body of the tray is cherry, the handles are walnut. The horizontal strips (the growth rings) are curly maple and purpleheart. The purpleheart, incidentally, was from a board my wife gave me for our fifth anniversary. Each strip represents a different milestone—the day we met, our wedding day, birth of a child and anniversaries. I labeled them with dates on the back and signed the piece with a personal message for my lovely wife.

The biggest challenge in this piece was scooping out the “dish” of the tray. I built the tray in a single day—it was the only time I could spend in the shop without letting on what I was up to. Therefore I had to hurriedly cobble together a quick-y template and jig to position and guide the router. The template slipped a bit on the front edge and the bottom was uneven in spots, requiring a good deal of sanding to make it acceptable. There are still a number of visible imperfections in the piece which, in this case I think give it character. It really does look handmade. In any event, I didn’t have much choice but to accept it as the best I could do within available time. It was a real hit with my wife and will certainly be difficult to top next year!

(PS – In case you’re curious, for her part my wife gave me a waffle iron (I love cooking from-scratch pancake breakfast with the kids on weekends and my son would eat waffles for all three meals if we allowed him) and made a generous contribution to my tool fund — I’m presently more than 1/2 way to a Festool Domino. Woo-hoo!)

[originally posted at]

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

12 comments so far

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


20026 posts in 4648 days

#1 posted 09-08-2009 03:53 AM

Great story and nice tray :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4549 days

#2 posted 09-08-2009 04:18 AM

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 4294 days

#3 posted 09-08-2009 04:19 AM

Keep up the great work…on all fronts!!

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View Walnut_Weasel's profile


360 posts in 4194 days

#4 posted 09-08-2009 02:50 PM

This turned out great. Good idea with the “growth rings.” Perhaps you can make another on your 50th that is nothing but lines…even then it may be an awfully big tray. Maybe you could go with “growth checkers” instead!

-- James -

View Innovator's profile


3589 posts in 4386 days

#5 posted 09-08-2009 03:17 PM

Nice work, good looking tray.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 4500 days

#6 posted 09-08-2009 04:18 PM

A significant piece! Very cool story, great idea, well done…...........

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 4563 days

#7 posted 09-08-2009 08:23 PM

Very nice design!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4794 days

#8 posted 09-08-2009 11:12 PM

Patrick, this is a nice looking tray that made a wonderful gift and the story behind it was nice to share as well.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Grumpy's profile


26793 posts in 4823 days

#9 posted 09-09-2009 01:26 AM

Well done Patrick. Great result.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View kcrandy's profile


285 posts in 4405 days

#10 posted 09-09-2009 03:15 AM

I love it. I am absolutely going to steal this design. My wife is Japanese and so loves tea and needs this serving tray.

-- Caulk and paint are a poor carpenter's best friends

View Patrick Jaromin's profile

Patrick Jaromin

412 posts in 4805 days

#11 posted 09-09-2009 01:04 PM

Thanks for the comments, all…and I’d love to see your version when it’s finished, kcrandy.

-- Patrick, Chicago, IL

View Peter Knight's profile

Peter Knight

53 posts in 4128 days

#12 posted 10-21-2009 01:52 PM

Lovely tray.

oh- Congrats on 6 years, here’s to many more!

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