A little serving tray

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Project by Al Navas posted 07-10-2008 04:03 AM 3131 views 4 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

From my blog:

Two years ago our daughter mentioned she had some tiles she bought and “…sure would love to see them put into some kind of woodworking project…”, or something like that. I show this on the blog now, to prove that something simple can be made into something striking (at least, in my mind…)

I found an article in a very old issue of ShopNotes magazine for a nice, plain serving tray. That particular article was really an exercise in hand-cut dovetails; of course, I wanted to use my Leigh D4 dovetail jig, as I just don’t do the hand-cut variety. And the project languished for a couple of weeks.

Side note: ShopNotes magazine is an AugustHome publication; AugustHome also sponsors the WoodNet woodworking forum, which I frequent.

Eventually I decided to make the tray, and also made a subconscious decision to somehow attach the tiles to the flat surface after I made the tray. Well, that turned into a nightmarish experience; I selected a high-temperature silicone smeared into a somewhat even layer on the backs of the tiles, using spacers I removed as I placed the tiles on the bottom of the tray. Then I filled in the space between the tiles, to give it a finished look. What a mess! Can anyone suggest a good way to do this without smearing the silicone into thinner and thinner layers? I seem to remember using two full rolls of shop towels to make the tiles shiny again.

It turns out that the high-temperature silicone takes a long time to cure. But it does cure, eventually. Of course, at the time I did not know this; but it was a good experience, from which I learned to just leave well alone, and to be very patient. It worked!

Some details about this little tray project:

1. Wood: Sycamore; some is quarter-sawn, some is plain-sawn
2. Sanding: 150 grit on the drum sander, then 220 to 320 grit with the random orbital sander
3. Finish: Sprayed 2 coats shellac, followed by 6 coats of Target’s satin USL lacquer _ ; sanded to 400 grit after the shellac, and to 600 after the fifth USL coat
4. Handles: Cut using a 30-year old jigsaw
(edit to change this…)_; I used the oscillating spindle sander to refine the shape of the handles
5. All other curves cut on the 17-inch band saw with a 1/8-inch blade in place

Here is the outcome of that project, in full, living color:

The finished tray:

Some joinery detail:

Some detail of the inside of the tray:

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

22 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 5277 days

#1 posted 07-10-2008 04:07 AM

Nice project Al. That QS Sycamore looks nice. I have never used it before. People tend to use sycamore for firewood around here.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Bradford's profile


1434 posts in 5284 days

#2 posted 07-10-2008 04:44 AM

Beautiful work. I love the tile work as well as the dovetails.

-- so much wood, so little time. Bradford. Wood-a-holics unanimous president

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4074 posts in 5525 days

#3 posted 07-10-2008 05:25 AM

Clean and beautiful design and augmentation, Al.
How did you find the QS sycamore for planing/sanding?
I have a hunk which alternately tore-out (even when moistened with mineral spirits) or fuzzed up fiercely. Nothing beats that grain pattern though.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View trifern's profile


8134 posts in 5228 days

#4 posted 07-10-2008 05:41 AM

Nice execution. Thank you for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Bigbuck's profile


1347 posts in 5124 days

#5 posted 07-10-2008 06:00 AM

Looks great

-- Glenn, New Mexico

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5449 days

#6 posted 07-10-2008 06:05 AM

Great looking little tray! I really like the joinery.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View lew's profile


13534 posts in 5216 days

#7 posted 07-10-2008 06:41 AM

That is one sweet tray.

Wish I could offer a suggestion about the silicon. I seem to remember reading somewhere about using mineral spirits to clean it.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Douglas Krueger's profile

Douglas Krueger

420 posts in 5185 days

#8 posted 07-10-2008 10:59 AM

Al, very nicely done even with all the trials and tribs of ‘playing in silicone’. I was envisioning a similar ‘tile’ based project as there are so many beautiful tile designs around here and they most definitely add another dimension to the fininshed project

-- I can so I wood but why are my learning curves always circles

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 5336 days

#9 posted 07-10-2008 12:36 PM

Thank-you all for the wonderful comments!

I know what you mean – that is ALL I remember sycamore being used for, too!

I use quarter-sawn sycamore quite a bit; the DW735 planer handles it very nicely. No trouble sanding at all. First pass is always the drum sander, followed by the ROS. I finished this tray with 5 coats of Waterlox, and buffed with 0000 steel wool between coats, so it is very smooth and velvety to the touch. Even with hand planes the QS sycamore planes beautifully – but one must go with the grain.

I look forward to seeing others with tile work, too.

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5761 days

#10 posted 07-10-2008 01:05 PM

A beautiful well crafted tray.

The Sycamore looks great.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View Callum Kendall's profile

Callum Kendall

1918 posts in 5164 days

#11 posted 07-10-2008 01:45 PM

Great job!

Thanks for the post


-- For wood working podcasts with a twist check out

View Çggghgyt's profile


306 posts in 5092 days

#12 posted 07-10-2008 02:05 PM

Very nice. Great dovetail work.

View Randy Sharp's profile

Randy Sharp

363 posts in 5134 days

#13 posted 07-10-2008 04:05 PM

A beautiful project! Choice of sycamore perfectly matches the tiles.

-- Randy, Tupelo, MS ~ A man who honors his wife will have children who honor their father.

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 5174 days

#14 posted 07-10-2008 04:27 PM

AL, I have not yet worked withe any tiles although I have bought some for future use so this may not work but, these tiles are intended to be included into a kitchen, so what about using the mastic that is used to apply tiles to walls and then grouting (of which there are several types available) ?

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Al Navas's profile

Al Navas

305 posts in 5336 days

#15 posted 07-10-2008 08:43 PM


I am humbled by all the wonderful comments! Thanks again – I learn something from y’all everyday (is THAT proper here???), and that is pretty cool!

-- Al Navas, Country Club, MO,

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