Beer Serving Tray

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Project by jsheaney posted 07-03-2011 07:06 PM 3378 views 8 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of the great aspects of being a woodworker is that we can design and build things that are specific to our needs that we would never find in a store. This is one of those things.

I live in an apartment building in which I have unauthorized access to my roof. That means I go up there a lot to have a beer while watching the sunset. This particular section of the roof has a slight incline, about ten degrees. The incline actually makes it a bit more comfortable to just plop down and sit, but it is enough of a slope that I can’t just put a beer bottle down without some concern for it tipping over, rolling off the roof and landing on the sidewalk behind my building. Beer drinking being the second highest priority of woodworking, invention ensued.

This serving tray has legs that fold out from either end. The height of the legs are such that if I only fold out the legs on one end, it sits at ten degrees and give me a level surface on the roof to set down my beer bottles. Since there are legs at both ends, I can use it as a serving tray in other contexts; either with the legs folded in or out.

The wood is Goncalo Alves for the frame and legs. The tray bottom is a walnut burl veneer on a 1/4” birch project ply. This is my first attempt at veneering. I used Pro-Glue Veneer Bond Dry Resin. I think it came out OK. I veneered the two sides separately, so I could get two shots at getting a good side. The first time, I didn’t add enough water and it was a bit thick for spreading. The second time, I added a little too much water and it was a bit runny. Fortunately, neither case seemed to affect the adherence after it dried.

The dovetails are handcut and I was very pleased with how they turned out. The real fun was in the legs, though. Initially, I was going to just tenon the bottom of the legs into the cross member of the leg assembly, but then I realized the endgrain would be exposed. So, I extended the outside of the legs to act as a cap to conceal the endgrain.

There are sliders for each corner that have a tongue that slides into a matching notch when the legs are open. This locks them in place, so the legs don’t collapse in use. I inserted a dowel that I rounded over to act as a finger pull for the slides. I used sliding dovetails for the mechanism. The hinges are also wooden dowels in the inside of the frame.

At the moment, because the hinges are wooden dowels, the legs are fairly stiff when changing positions. I figure over time they will loosen up, though, so I inserted rare earth magnets in strategic locations. I used two different size magnets: 3/8” and 1/4”. The 3/8” magnets have a matching steel washer. You can see that the bottom of the tray has an embedded magnet and the legs have matching washers. These hold the leg assembly closed. There is also a magnet embedded in each slider kind of opposite the finger pulls, against the face abutting the frame. If you look carefully, you can see a matching washer on the inside of the frame. One interesting detail is that this magnet is not glued. Rather, it is slightly loose, but trapped. The matching washer is just slightly shy of its surface. The effect is that, when the slide is open (to release the leg assembly), the magnet acts as a detent.

There is one other set of magnets, which you can see on the top side of the tongue of the slider. This is a 1/4” magnet and Woodcraft didn’t have a matching steel washer, so there is another magnet on the matching face of the notch in the leg. The big difference in using a pair of magnets is that the polarity has to match. Otherwise, they repel. You don’t have that concern when one side is a washer.

Finishing this project was a challenge. I wanted a rugged finish for the tray because I was planning on putting cold beer bottles on it on humid summer days. I ended up applying spar varnish on the veneer before assembling. Because the veneer wasn’t completely flat, I had to put on a bunch of coats, sanding it flat between. Because I pre-finished the bottom, I had to pre-finish the inside of the frame pieces, but left the outer three faces unfinished, so I could clean up the dovetails after assembly. I also had to pre-finish the leg assemblies and the sliders. I used two or three coats of Bush Oil on the frame.

The spar varnish has held up well and I have had no problem at all with rings from the bottles. It was a very successful project and it has greatly enhanced my beer drinking experience.

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

17 comments so far

View FutureOptimistic's profile


4 posts in 3098 days

#1 posted 07-03-2011 07:12 PM

Cool. I completely approve. :-)

-- Maker of fine parallelograms since 2008

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 3797 days

#2 posted 07-03-2011 07:25 PM

very nice job I like the way you did the legs the most.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 3289 days

#3 posted 07-03-2011 08:24 PM

Man..the lengths we who enjoy a cool one will go to enhance the experience ! Very nice work..and non “traditional Beer as well..!!

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Tim Kindrick's profile

Tim Kindrick

369 posts in 3062 days

#4 posted 07-03-2011 08:46 PM

I love this design!! I had a very similar idea for a tray with magnets holding the legs open and closed. I like the way you incorporated the sliding catches!!!

-- I have metal in my neck but wood in my blood!!

View maxomatic's profile


48 posts in 3082 days

#5 posted 07-03-2011 09:59 PM

This one really speaks to me, beautiful, clever and it holds beer! I should have had a woodshop when I had an apartment, there would have been less spillage.

-- I cut it three times and it's STILL too short!

View KnotCurser's profile


2032 posts in 3577 days

#6 posted 07-04-2011 01:17 AM

Simply. Too. Cool.



-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: [email protected] /

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4669 days

#7 posted 07-04-2011 01:22 AM

I was wondering why the need for one leg…
good solution! :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Nick's profile


87 posts in 3361 days

#8 posted 07-04-2011 04:36 AM

Nice work. Beer is always important to have around at the end of the day.

-- Nick, AZ. Wood is a canvas for God's art work, it is our job as woodworkers to figur out the best way to display it.

View FlairWoodworks's profile


71 posts in 3047 days

#9 posted 07-04-2011 08:34 AM

Love it! The odd picture captured my attention.

-- Chris Wong -- --

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3428 days

#10 posted 07-04-2011 11:51 AM



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

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4383 days

#11 posted 07-04-2011 04:34 PM

Beautiful, simple, functional. I bet it makes the beer taste just a little bit better, too.

-- -- --

View t. rector's profile

t. rector

31 posts in 3182 days

#12 posted 07-05-2011 06:21 AM

ahhhhhh blue moon…........great job

-- I often wonder "how did I get this lucky?"..t rec

View RexMcKinnon's profile


2593 posts in 3703 days

#13 posted 07-05-2011 05:27 PM

Now that’s a cool project.

-- If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

View jsheaney's profile


141 posts in 4497 days

#14 posted 07-05-2011 05:37 PM

Thanks for all the nice comments. I’m glad to see so many others appreciating my commitment to woodworking…and beer. :)

-- Disappointment is an empty box full of expectation.

View mbruins's profile


2 posts in 3350 days

#15 posted 07-06-2011 03:04 AM

A great example of simple genious!

Well done!

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