All Replies on Need help routing serving tray

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View JosephNY's profile

Need help routing serving tray

by JosephNY
posted 07-31-2016 07:26 PM

22 replies so far

View NoSpace's profile


170 posts in 1805 days

#1 posted 07-31-2016 07:55 PM

Not sure the right way to accomplish a bowl, but using the tools you have, it looks like you need to make a pattern to follow around the edge. Do you have a router table? with a wide mortising bit, you could turn the bowl upside down on the table and the height will be constant.

View bruc101's profile


1373 posts in 4106 days

#2 posted 07-31-2016 09:00 PM

You can do like I do when I have to route a large sign in relief sometimes.

Put a large flat router bit in your router, I use a 1/2 inch bit. Get a flat piece of plywood that will fit all the way across the serving tray wide enough for your router to sit on. Place the router on the side of the plywood and adjust your bit deep enough to take out all the forstner bit marks.

Move your router slowly back and forth across the bottom of the serving tray overlapping the large flat router bit cuts by about 3/4 the width of the router bit. Go slow and take your time and keep the router bit moving flat and not dipping into the tray bottom.

Go across the grain not with the grain.
That should do it with some sanding out the router bit marks.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1484 days

#3 posted 08-01-2016 12:30 AM


This may be the perfect time to build a dado jig for the router. The dado jig could be used, along with a straight bit in the router, to flatten the serving tray and even cleanup the edges. Hang the jig on the wall for when routing dado and grooves is needed in the future.

A piece of ½” thick plywood (the base) with a set of ¾” thick cleats along each long edge is all there is to the jig. The cleats on mine are spaced so that the router can only travel the length of the jig, with no side to side play.

The first cleat is attached to the plywood base. The second cleat is carefully attached to the plywood base to ensure minimal side to side play of the router while at the same time enabling the router to run the length of the jig easily. This exact spacing can be achieved by placing the router base against the cleat already screwed to the base. A piece of folded printer paper is inserted between the router base and the second cleat. The second cleat is held tight to the folded printer paper while being screwed in place. This process continues down the length of the jig about every 6” – 9”. Cleats are installed at the ends of the jig. The base of the router, the sides of the cleats, and the base of the jig are waxed with furniture paste wax to make the router slide effortlessly.

To finish the jig, a straight bit is used to plow a slot down the length of the groove. This zero clearance slot can then be used to accurately position the jig.

This jig can now be used to flatten the bottom of the serving tray. The jig is placed on the serving tray so that routing occurs across the grain. A pair of registration blocks can be clamped on the bottom side of the jig. These registration blocks are clamped to the jig after positioned against the outside edges of the serving tray. After the registration blocks are in place, the router with the straight bit is positioned on the jig and brought up to the inside edge of the serving tray. A stop block is clamped to stop the router from cutting into the edge of the serving tray. A second stop block is similarly positioned at the opposite inside edge of the serving tray. The router bit depth is set to the desired depth. The jig is clamped to the serving tray, starting at one end of the tray and the bottom smoothed. However care is required to avoid downward pressure on the router.

Once the bottom is cleaned up, the same jig can be positioned over the inside edges and these edges cleaned up.

View Lazyman's profile


4203 posts in 1952 days

#4 posted 08-01-2016 02:25 AM

One basic technique for using a box bit is to start (by plunging the bit) in the middle of the area you are going to core and work your way out towards the edges. This way, the base plate on the router is always supported by the areas you have not routed yet. Just be careful not to tip the router as you move it around and make sure that each pass overlaps with the previous one. If you miss a spot, it is hard to go over the spot again later so don’t try to remove too much in each pass. For the rectangular tray, you may have to work toward one end and then move to the other side and work towards the other end. The biggest challenge will be near the edges. As you get close to finishing, there will be less and less of the board supporting the router base so you may find it helpful to have a board of similar thickness (or height at least) to support the router as it hangs over the edge. One problem with this method is that you have plunge down the the final depth all at once. If it is too deep, you will need to make sure that you don’t try to remove too wide a swath as you move the router.

Now, before you start in the middle, it would probably be easiest to rout the outside of the border first. By clamping a straight edge across the board, you can run the router base along the edge to get a nice neat line. After you have gone all the way around, plunge into the middle and work your way out as described above.

If you want to salvage your first attempt, you basically need to build a bridge similar to JBrow’s example above that will support the router across the edges to clean out the bottom. Instead of clamping the jig down and sliding the router in it, I would attach it in place of the router base plate and just move it from side to side. As long as the jig supports the router on both sides you can work it across the bottom without clamping it down. You can use a regular straight bit as he recommends but the box bit will give you nicer edges and tends to give you a smoother bottom especially if you tip the router a little or the jig flexes a little.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2731 days

#5 posted 08-01-2016 04:58 PM

Thank you guys!

Woke up early and began work on the dado jig, struggling through getting the pieces the right size to fit and making the slot wide enough got the bit extension. It’s far from a fine piece of woodworking, but it’s my first.

I then used a bowl bit with the jig for the bottom, and then the same bit up against the rim. The edges, however, aren’t straight (either vertically or along the cutout), so I used a roundover bit. Helped a little.

Below are some pics. Any suggestions as to how to fix this up from here and how to do a better job next time?

Thank you!!

View waho6o9's profile


8803 posts in 3141 days

#6 posted 08-01-2016 05:00 PM

Good job!

View Lazyman's profile


4203 posts in 1952 days

#7 posted 08-01-2016 09:36 PM

Looks much better. Remember that the roundover bit bearing basically follows the contour that you already have so if you are routing along an edge that isn’t straight, it will just duplicate that edge, though it will soften it a little because of the radius of the bearing. Also note that when you are working on an inside edge like this you should move the router in a clockwise direction to get a smoother cut. If you route the outside of a board, you should move left to right (or counterclockwise around the board). You may know that already but I thought I would mention in case that contributed to some of the rough spots.

If you want to try get the edges a little smoother you could reroute each edge making sure that you keep a perfectly straight line while starting and stopping in the exact place your will start the next edge. You may be able to use the jig you already made for this, though you might have to move the stop blocks on the top of the jig out about a 1/16th of an inch (+/-). Use the jig to run the router down each side, counterclockwise, keeping the router firmly against the end of the jig and using the blocks on the bottom to keep it aligned with the outside edges. For the ends, you would have to clamp the jig in place and run the router across to the other side (again, in a counterclockwise direction).

In the spirit of making lemonade when life gives you lemons, another idea is to embrace the rustic nature on this one by accentuating and adding more rough hewn features. For example, you could use a hand gouge if you have one (a little expensive to buy unless you plan on doing more carving) to make it look like you carved it out by hand. Another idea for doing that would be to make the box bit a smidgen deeper and put some short random gouges in the bottom of the tray using your jig to keep the depth consistent and overlapping some of them. This will also help hide some of the router marks in the bottom. If you have a Dremel tool, You could also use that to carve in some random gouges. I would experiment on a piece of scrap before you try this on the piece you have worked so hard on to make sure that you like the way it looks.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Richard's profile


1932 posts in 3255 days

#8 posted 08-01-2016 09:54 PM

I would say you did a good job of coming back from a pretty big mess and making it look decent. Now you have a better idea of what and how to do it again and a better set of basic tools to use for your next one. Don’t let it bother you as this is how we all learned to do what we do with wood and some of us do it better than others , but None of us can say we made a Perfect Project the First Time ( Well some might say so , but I know I can’t ) It took you some time to learn to Ride a Bike and Wood Working is no different than that in that you have to Practice and just keep at it till you do it right.
But all in all I would say you got it pretty close on this one , Now just go and do it again and show us the next one when it is done.
Be Careful and take your time , it will come out right.

View tealetm's profile


104 posts in 1422 days

#9 posted 08-01-2016 10:08 PM

Looks good. Any concerns with warping/twisting now that you e mastered the shaping?

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1484 days

#10 posted 08-02-2016 12:32 AM


It looks to me like all that left is to do is lots and lots of sanding and scraping. From the photos it appears you made a nice recovery, which, to my mind, is where the real challenge in wood working lies.

For the next serving tray, looking at some YouTube videos searching bowl tray routing can reveal the various techniques and tools used to make these projects.

View avsmusic1's profile


542 posts in 1249 days

#11 posted 08-02-2016 12:47 AM

From the photos it appears you made a nice recovery, which, to my mind, is where the real challenge in wood working lies.

nicely done

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2731 days

#12 posted 08-02-2016 10:59 AM

View Paul Mayer's profile

Paul Mayer

1082 posts in 3630 days

#13 posted 08-02-2016 02:04 PM

My dad came to me several years ago with the exact same question. I came up with a very different approach for him. In the case of my father, it was not at all what he was looking for, but after building one this way, he much preferred this approach and has been making them this way ever since. It is a bit slower than the approach that you are taking, but it offers more design possibilities and is a more efficient way to use materials.

I’ve documented the process here:

-- Paul Mayer,

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2712 days

#14 posted 08-02-2016 03:25 PM

Turned out pretty good. I hope you are pleased with it. Thanks for asking and sharing. This may be useful in the future.

View Lazyman's profile


4203 posts in 1952 days

#15 posted 08-02-2016 08:36 PM

Nice Job!

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1484 days

#16 posted 08-02-2016 09:33 PM


The serving tray looks very nice! Congratulations.

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2731 days

#17 posted 08-04-2016 10:33 PM

Thank you all so much! I am indeed very pleased.

So is my mother in law, who not so subtly informed me that a tray just like that would make a very nice Christmas gift for her.

So I started another and I have the template outline drawn on the piece.

I thought instead of forstner bit drilling it out first on the drill press, which took a lot of time, I would just route it.

Luckily, I tested my theory with the template clamped on a scrap piece and I failed tremendously at lowering the router into the piece.

What would be the smartest way to go:

1) Forstner bit on press, then route?
2) Drill single hole and lower router in with bearing guide along template?
3) Something else?


View KelleyCrafts's profile


4062 posts in 1303 days

#18 posted 08-04-2016 11:08 PM

Take shallow cuts and move your way down. The router is still a decent tool for this. Do an 1/8” at a time and it will look clean as a whistle. Don’t try and hog off all the material in one pass or you will lose control.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1484 days

#19 posted 08-04-2016 11:47 PM


It sounds as if you are using a fixed base router. If so, a plunge router could make plunging a little deeper with each pass a little easier and less unnerving.

Otherwise, what ki7hy, many light passes.

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2731 days

#20 posted 08-05-2016 07:30 AM

I have the Dewalt 618 which comes with a plunger base and a fixed base. I’ve been using the plunge.

But, the bit I’ve been using has the guide bearing (closest to the base plate of the router as opposed to the tip of the bit) 3/4” from the tip of the bit. So, I figured I had to start cutting at that depth so that the guide would come in contact with the template (which sites on top of the work piece, in between the work piece and the router).

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1484 days

#21 posted 08-05-2016 02:46 PM


I think I understand the issue. In order for the guide bearing to contact the template, the router bit depth is a little deep into the workpiece for good control. If I understand the issue correctly then drilling holes with a forstner bit is one way to go.

The other option would be to raise the template up enough so that the guide bearing makes contact with the template while giving you a shallow initial cut. Some shims all of the same thickness could be temporarily attached to the bottom of the template with some screws or double stick indoor carpet tape (screws would be safer). Then the template can be attached to the workpiece with double stick carpet tape. I prefer indoor carpet tape to the outdoor tape because the indoor tape holds well against lateral forces and can be release with just a little effort. The outdoor stuff has a super grip. Hopefully the template can remain in place until the desired final depth of cut has been achieved. Otherwise the template must be released, shims removed, and the template reattached, registered to exactly the same position as when shims were used.

View Lazyman's profile


4203 posts in 1952 days

#22 posted 08-14-2016 09:53 PM

The thicker the material you use for the template the more shallow the first pass can be, resulting in a cleaner edge with less burning and chip out. As long as about half the bearing make contact with the top of the template, that will be enough to guide it.

Also, when using a template to guide the bearing on a piece this large, you will find it easier to replace the base plate on your router with a home made one that is wider than your work piece so that it bridges all the way across the width of the template. This gives you are really stable base for moving around the entire perimeter of the template and will be easier than the jig you used to fix your first one. You can use plywood or MDF for the base plate but plexiglass makes it easier to see what you are doing. I would use at least 3/8” thick to reduce flex across a piece that wide.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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