Kentucky Derby Drink Serving Tray

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Project by Jonathan posted 05-01-2010 10:31 PM 3815 views 2 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Mint Julep, anyone?

Just finished attaching the handles to take this to a Kentucky Derby Party in a few minutes!

This serving tray, or drink tray measures 12-inches x 16.5-inches (plus the handles) x 2.5-inches tall and is made of wood species that are all native to Kentucky: 4/4 Walnut, White Oak (plywood for the tray section), and Maple (pockethole plugs), and a square Poplar dowel on the underside.

The pattern of the horseshoe and rose are woodburned into the white oak plywood. This pattern is a direct offshoot of this year’s Kentucky Derby logo.

I cut dadoes into the long sections of the tray to slide the 1/4-inch white oak plywood into. I then screwed the ends into the side pieces with pockethole screws, then plugged with maple plugs. I also glued up a 1/4-inch square poplar dowel under the left and right side to keep the middle of the plywood from bowing once the tray is loaded-up.

Sanded 120-150-220-320.

Finished with 2-coats of Zinsser Seal Coat (dewaxed shellac), then 2-coats of Minwax wipe-on poly. 0000 steel wool rubdown between all coats. The final coat of poly was left alone.

New techniques or tools used on this project:
-I used my new drill press for the first time on this project to drill the holes for the handles.
-First time using the Seal Coat. Great stuff, I just need to apply it thinner next time and not go back over it until it’s dry!
-First time using pockethole plugs. I tried cutting them off with a flush cut saw, but quickly realized it’d just be easier and produce a cleaner edge if I took a super thin layer of the walnut off and the plug ends at the same time. Of course, I had already sanded the walnut, so I had to resand after that.

Things I’d do differently:
-Thin coats of the Seal Coat. I’d also do another layer of wipe-on poly., but ran out of time.
-I got so anxious to get things put together that I started assembly without drilling countersink holes for the screws that attach the handles. I wanted to sink them into the side, but I wasn’t going to take everything back apart to do it. Should’ve changed the bit out for a forstner bit on each hole when I had the chance. Oh well, next time.
-Looking back on this, I would also cut a dado on the right and left side pieces to receive the tray section instead of having to glue a dowel underneath. This would be sturdier in the long run. I don’t know how much use this tray will actually see though. The next one I make will probably get a lot of use by the recipients, so it’ll need to be as strong as possible.

OK, I have to pack this thing up and take it to it’s new owners! It’s time to head to the races!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

8 comments so far

View stefang's profile


16712 posts in 3811 days

#1 posted 05-02-2010 07:09 PM

Great work Jonathan. I liked the plugged pocket holes too. If the offer still stands I’ll have one of those mint juleps. Just send it to Norway.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3527 days

#2 posted 05-02-2010 10:45 PM

Thanks Mike, I’ll make sure to whip up a fresh mint julep and send it your way!

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View sras's profile


5154 posts in 3606 days

#3 posted 05-03-2010 03:33 AM

Very nice! I have not seen pocket hole plugs before – nice detail!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3527 days

#4 posted 05-07-2010 07:29 PM

Thnaks Steve!

I have both maple and walnut pocket hole plugs, plus some generic ones. I actually bought the walnut plugs in anticipation of using them on this project. In the end though, I felt the maple was a more dramatic touch, plus it incorporated another native Kentucky species of wood into the project. I am happy I used the maple plugs for this particular application.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Porosky's profile


619 posts in 3841 days

#5 posted 06-12-2010 02:08 AM

Jonathan, I think the pocket holes and contrasting plugs work well especially when the pocket hole is in your face, (I use them all the time). When you use the same color or species of plug it’s like your trying to hide the pocket hole which only works well in less obvious spots like if you put the holes on the inside of the tray.

I had the same handles in my hand at the store but opted for longer ones because I was thinking of the tray balancing better when loaded. And your tray includes Art so nice job yourself.

-- There's many a slip betwixt a cup and a lip.--Scott

View a1Jim's profile


117708 posts in 4054 days

#6 posted 06-12-2010 02:18 AM

A cool tray with interesting joinery

View LEITH's profile


175 posts in 3334 days

#7 posted 08-06-2010 10:28 AM



View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3527 days

#8 posted 04-30-2011 11:09 PM

Quick update here. The 2011 Kentucky Derby is exactly 1-week away. Ever since I made this tray and we gave it to the couple that hosts an annual Kentucky Derby party here in Denver, I’ve wanted to get the tray back.

I just felt that the bolts sticking out, holding the handles on the sides, looked tacky protruding out the way they do. I should’ve countersunk the bolt holes before I put the tray together, but I didn’t think of it at the time.

I finally got the tray back about a week ago so I could rectify the situation. The recipients questioned what was wrong with it, even after I told them what I wanted to fix. Maybe it’s just one of those things that you notice about your own work? Even if this was someone else’s work though, I’d still think it looked funny with the bolt heads sticking out… kind of tacky, you know?

It ended up being slightly more work than I thought it would be. I couldn’t quite get my drill chuck into the area without it being at an angle. At first, I thought I’d simply put a forstner bit in the drill and slightly countersink the holes, then put the bolts back in, screw the handles back on, and cover the bolt heads. Without being able to get my chuck in there, I decided to use of the the flexible drill extensions. The problem was, the only ones I could find, and the one I already had, were all hex-shaped to accept bits.

So, I ended up using an angled countersink bit (82-degrees) and the flexible extension. I kept drilling just a little bit at a time until the new bolts were slightly below the surface of the wood. After that, I wanted to make sure the handles weren’t going to loosen up with time, so I used some blue Loctite. (Thanks to my fellow LJ and neighbor, Todd, for lending me his Loctite!) I slid the bolt through the hole, with maybe 5/32” protruding, then put a small drop of the blue Loctite on each bolt end and screwed the handles back on, nice and tight. After that, I took little self-adhesive cork pads and covered all the bolts, using spacers so that all of the corks were in exactly the same spot, equally spaced. I used these to provide a more organic and flowing look, as opposed to the bolt heads still being visible. This will also allow for easy access to the bolts, if the handles were to ever loosen up, which is fairly unlikely now that the Loctite is on there. You can simply scrape off the cork cover, tighten the bolt, then put a new cork pad back over the bolt.

Maybe this seems like a minute detail to some, but I personally think the piece looks better, as it appears more cleanly executed to me.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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