Boxguy Hits The Trayfecta

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Project by Boxguy posted 07-10-2012 03:33 AM 8343 views 35 times favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Pictured: A tea box and serving tray combination. The Black Cherry tray is about one foot by two feet with end-hole handles, corner splines, and sloped sides. The cups and tong-holder are made by a local potter. (I featured this tea box in a separate post “Boxguy’s 6-Sided Tea Box.”) The goal of the trayfecta is that I would like to sell all three items, tray, box, cups as a unit. On the next version the splines in the tray and box would match and the potter would join in the fun. At least that is the plan.

Tray Construction Details

The Bottom Dado: I find that it helps to cut the bottom groove for the inset bottom in all four of your side pieces first. The angle is 25 degrees to inset a tray bottom. (Since the sides are long and thin, I would suggest that you glue at least the center strip of each side to the bottom board to give the tray more strength.) You have now established the inside and the bottom of your tray sides.

The Set-Up Block: The trick to making several of these efficiently is to speed up set-up and cutting and still get the angles right. That starts with a set-up block.

Turn your miter gauge to 22 1/2 degrees, and tilt your saw blade to 40 degrees. While you are at this point, cut a 2×4 scrap at this angle, then for future trays you just bring this block against your blade and tilt it until no light shines between the 2×4 and the center of your saw blade.

The Corner Cuts: I soon tired of turning my miter gauge back and forth to work on alternate ends of the sides, so I made this simple jig. The two sides are each angled at 22 1/2 degrees to the saw blade. The cherry strips let me hold the board I’m cutting while it goes through the blade. If I am making several sides, I clamp a stop to the far side of the jig. (On the near side you are just cutting the correct angle on that end.)

Lay your side or end piece down flat on the saw and make the first cut.

Now spin the side blank around to the other side of the jig laying it flat and keeping the same side up to make the cut on the other end of this side piece. To keep things straight, pencil-line the slant of the angles on the two ends before you make the cuts and remember you are putting the inside of the tray up.

Assembly: Tape together the four sides to hold the tray together. (Sorry for the poor picture in the mock up here.) Loosen one corner, lay out the sides, and apply glue to all 8 corner cuts. Roll the tray together, apply the corner blocks, pull everything tight with a band clamp.

Applying the blocks and band clamp is a little like wrestling an octopus. Apply tape to the corners to hold them in the corner blocks until the band clamp is pulled up tight.

Help! This is where I need some advice. I couldn’t come up with a good way to make these corner blocks work if they were wood. So, I welded these corner blocks of angle iron with a piece of rod across the angle iron to keep the wooden sides from creeping up the angle as I tightened the band clamp.

The band clamp pulls on the block’s straight “leg” to keep the pressure even. The block’s angled part applies pressure evenly to all of the joints. The rod holds the tray in place. (I added a piece of flat metal inside the angle to make up for the rounded corner inside the angle iron.) These work for small trays and larger boxes with 6 inch sides as well. My guess is that someone else in Lumber Land has come up with a better solution for these blocks. If so, I would love to hear about it.

Thanks: As always thanks for looking and I really appreciate those of you who take the extra time to comment or make suggestions. I think that is the essence of Lumber Jocks.

-- Big Al in IN

38 comments so far

View majeagle1's profile


1429 posts in 4710 days

#1 posted 07-10-2012 03:51 AM

Wow, this is really great…. what a terrific idea of a set!!!
Beautifully done and thanks so much for the “mini blog” instructions…....

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View Kookaburra's profile


749 posts in 3438 days

#2 posted 07-10-2012 03:55 AM

Oh, I love illustrated instructions!

And Boxguy – I think the tea box, tray and pottery sets would be very popular – it makes such a beautiful and functional set. It is definitely the kind of thing I would buy for a gift or for myself.

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30637 posts in 3552 days

#3 posted 07-10-2012 04:00 AM

Really nice work & appreciate the tutorials.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4522 days

#4 posted 07-10-2012 04:06 AM

Big Al…those are some really fancy cuts and glue-up jigs you made for those trays. Very nice…!
It shows how a seemingly looking project can involve a lot of steps and work..

View Daiku's profile (online now)


239 posts in 4121 days

#5 posted 07-10-2012 04:20 AM

Big Al

Great looking set! Thanks for posting all the pictures, they’re really helpful for visulizing.

-- Cal Noguchi

View DocSavage45's profile


9068 posts in 4056 days

#6 posted 07-10-2012 04:26 AM

hope you get em sold!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


22118 posts in 4890 days

#7 posted 07-10-2012 05:14 AM

awesome work and tutorial! Those sure are beefy corner clamps. Did one ever fail? ;-))

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

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3486 days

#8 posted 07-10-2012 05:41 AM

Big Al,

Your Trayfecta looks like a Winner for sure.

Here are a couple clamping alternatives, but yours appear to be working just fine, aside from the octopus reference. :-)

Compound clamping with Pinch Clamps.

From Wood Magazine;
Check out this clamping solution I beleive you could adapt the corner brackets to your needs.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Boxguy's profile


2900 posts in 3481 days

#9 posted 07-10-2012 05:59 AM

Replies to the comments so far…

Kay and Doc, the ultimate test of my work is when someone is willing to buy it.

Gene and Monte, thanks for the comment. Even brief illustrated tutorials like these take a surprisingly long time for me to get right.

Greg, thanks and I really liked that last sculpted cypress box you posted…beautiful.

Cal, I tried to write this post in the two languages most of us in Lumberland speak…English and Pictures.

Topa, welded steel does stick together well and is quicker than glue…no chance of failures here.

Len, thanks for the research and the reply. The pinch clamps are interesting. I’ll work through the other concept in the morning when I am less tired. It looks like the clamps ride in and out in a slot, but I don’t get how they would fit a whole range of box or tray sizes yet.

-- Big Al in IN

View Tim Pursell's profile

Tim Pursell

501 posts in 4996 days

#10 posted 07-10-2012 09:59 AM

I think your clamps are perfectly functional. if you really want wooden versions I imagine starting by taking a square length of hardwood and ripping out a corner to form the inside of the clamp and gluing a “leg” of a similarly ripped piece, just cut on a deep angle would work. As I no longer have access to a welder, this is what I’d be left with. Just be sure to line the clamps with something to keep the glue from making the clamps a permanent feature of the product!

As to fighting the octopus, I hear you!

If there were no bottom, as in your mock up, I’d try a rubber band hooked over the base of the clamp, run inside of the side and hooked over the top of the clamp to hold them in place till the strap can be put in place.

With the bottom in place, perhaps a length of rubber tubing could be looped around the bottom of the clamp legs to hold all the corner clamps in place till the strap can be snugged up?

It looks like if the tray were set on a block (smaller than the base) to raise it off the workbench, the clamp blocks would just hang on each corner nicely waiting for the strap.

Good luck with the sales!


View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4018 days

#11 posted 07-10-2012 10:53 AM

Super nice trays. A finely made apparatus’s for gluein up them trays. Nice fab up

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Tom Godfrey's profile

Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 3390 days

#12 posted 07-10-2012 10:54 AM

Awesome project, as always. Thanks a million for all the information. Sure makes it easy to understand all the work that goes into your work and also helps me a lot in making something like this to sell in my neck of the woods.
Keep up the great work and posting. Every thing you do makes me want to become a better wood worker.

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina ([email protected])

View Boxguy's profile


2900 posts in 3481 days

#13 posted 07-10-2012 11:05 AM

Roger and Mr. Tom, thanks for the kind words. Keep boxing and keep posting.

Tim, I think you have several good ideas here. Thanks for taking time to think the problem through. I especially like your idea of raising the tray on a block…that should help. The rubber band or tubing may work well too.

I tried wooden blocks on the corners, but for me it was a complete disaster trying to cut the “notches” on the right angle, keeping them from moving as pressure increased, and still getting a square “pull” on the outside with the band clamp. When pressure was applied, everything suddenly flipped off the tray. (I “flipped-off” the tray as well.)

I also tried a wide, band clamp and letting the top of the strap lap over the top edge of the tray. That worked to some degree, but it put most of the pressure at the top of the corner joints and little pressure at the bottom of the corner joints.

-- Big Al in IN

View FldTrlr's profile


1 post in 4434 days

#14 posted 07-10-2012 12:24 PM

Beautiful work as usual Boxguy. I always look forward to viewing your projects. You can avoid having to add flat stock to the inside face of your innovative glue-up clamps by using “architectural angle” rather than “structural angle on your next version.

-- Richard in Florida's Panhandle

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 4281 days

#15 posted 07-10-2012 12:32 PM

Well done, beautiful work!!

-- Jack, Albuquerque

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