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Project Information

I have been wanting to make a Serving Tray for a while now but was having a hard time deciding on what I wanted it to look like, and with Mother's Day coming up I decided to make it after completing my research.

I really wanted to make a nice serving tray instead of slapping a couple of boards together and calling the project done, so I went about designing the tray that had the following characteristics :

  • Finger Joints

  • Made with contrasting woods

  • Solid wood bottom

  • Curved Arc's around they tray sides

I did create a project blog on my website that goes into more detail but here is a brief summary as to how I made it.


Since I wanted to make the tray using contrasting woods I decided to use Red Oak & Hard Maple. So I got the following

1" x 4" x 8' Oak
1" x 4" x 8' Maple


My first was step to cut all parts to their final dimensions and since I wanted the tray to be 3-1/2" wide I only needed to crosscut the parts on my table-saw using my miter gauge with a sacrificial fence attached.

Here you can see all the parts cut to their final dimensions.


Their was a decent amount of layout work needed on this project mainly because I needed to properly position each part of the design so as that it didn't interfere with some of the design aspects I wanted in it.

I laid out the finger joint locations, the handholds in the side components and later needed to layout the arc that I wanted to place on the side components.

Here is the finger joint layout

Here is the handhold layout, I recently got this circle template and I have to say it is an invaluable tool for arcs and circles, beats my compass any day.


I used 1/2" thick plywood to make both templates. I needed to make two sizes of templates because I will be using them on 2 pieces of wood which are dimensionally different. Here are the steps I took in making them.
Use the arc jig to draw the layout line
Cut the arc at the bandsaw, making sure to stay away of the layout line.
After cutting the arc out I being it over to my oscillating spindle sander to sand to the line.

I used a simple home made jig that I used to create the arc its very simple to make its basically a thin piece of wood that I can use to bend between two fixed points then curve it and strike a line.

Next I used my bandsaw to cut most of the arc away making sure to stay away from the line.

Finally using my oscillating spindle sander to refine the arc and sanding to my layout lines.


Next up was to cut the finger joints , I used my jig that I made on the last project (C Table) and cut all the finger joints in the 4 side pieces.

Here is my finger joint jig on the table-saw

Here are all the tray sides completed with the finger joints cut into them.


Creating the arc that I cut into all four sides of the serving tray's frame requite a couple of different tools and techniques, but below are some pictures of the process that I took, all pictures are in sequence of my work progress. Although I am only showing 1 picture for each stage of creating the arc I did all these steps to all 4 pieces.
  • Used my template to draw the arc in pencil onto the workpiece.
  • Brought all 4 workpieces to the band saw to remove most of the waste.
  • Installed a flush trimming router bit in my router table.
  • Adhered the template to the workpiece

Used the template to make the layout line on the workpieces

Cut out the arc on the bandsaw staying away from the layout line

Used the flush trim bit in my router to clean up the edges from the bandsaw.

Here is the tray sides with the arc and finger joints cut , this is where I did some dry fitting to make sure the parts fit together good and that the arcs all matched each other, looking good so far.


To enable the serving tray to be carried I decided to cut 2 handholds in the sides of the tray. To create these handholds I took the following steps. I also placed some pictures of the steps I took in making the handholds, they are below the bulleted points.
  • STEP 1: Did some layout as to where the handholds were to be positioned in the sides.
  • STEP 2: With the 2 holes cut out I needed to remove the remainder of the waste so I did that on my scroll saw.
  • STEP 3: With all the material removed I needed to sand the interior edges of the hand holds so I did that on my oscillating spindle sander.
  • STEP 4: I wanted to round-over the inside edges of the hand hold so I used my palm sander to add a 1/4"round-over

Using a 1-1/2" diameter hole saw in my drill press I created the holes at either side of the handhold

I removed the waste on my scroll-saw

Used my spindle sander to refine the arc and make it soft to the touch.

Finally I wanted to add a round-over profile to the hand-hold to make it easy to carry and not have any sharp edges. So I used my palm router with a round-over bit to accomplish that.

Here are the completed hand-holds.


The base is made of solid wood and basically consists of 4 boards joined with tongue and groove joinery and is then house inside a groove that will be cut in the frames inside faces. Here is how I went amount making the base.

Here you can see the base pieces with the tongue & groove cut into them

I wanted to add a decorative feature on the inside edges pf the base, so I decided to add a 45° chamfer to all panel edges that abutted each other, this created a " V Groove" and you can see this visual appeal in the picture. I did the chamfer using my hand plane.

In this image you can see the entire panel being glued up, the 2 main objectives of this glue up is to attach the boards together permanently and to keep the panel flat. I am using clamping cauls on the left and right sides of the panel to achieve this.


The joinery method I chose to attach the solid wood base to the 4 workpieces that make up the serving trays frame is groove joinery. Basically the tongues that were cut on the base will fit into a series of grooves that I cut into the inside faces of the frame.

There are 2 different types of grooves that I needed to cut and they were through grooves that go from one side of the frame workpiece to the other, and the other were stopped grooves which means they start and stop away from the workpieces edges. I needed to do this so as that the base would not be visible when looking at the serving tray from the outside of the frame. I positioned the finger joints in such a way so as that the finger would cover the through groove on the side pieces.

Here you can see the grooves cut into the inside faces of the side pieces, the long oak sides have stopped grooves done at the router table this helps hide the through cut grooves in the side pieces that were also cut on the router table.

Here are all the side pieces dry fit together to make sure that all the grooves lines up with each other, and they did. I don't usually do grooves or dadoes on the router table but I had to this time around as I could not achieve a stopped dado on the table-saw which is where I usually cut all my joinery.


With all the milling and shaping done to the serving tray parts it was finally time to glue up the entire project. As I usually do I used my painters tape trick to keep glue away from the edges and hard to reach places inside the tray. Below you can see the steps I took.


I added painters tape to all the corners which is where I will be adding glue to glue up the corners of the finger joint . I used painters tape so as that I can just peel off the tape and get nice clean lines where the glue was applied and take care of any squeeze out this works out great. When adding the tape make sure apply the tape straight so as that the tape does not get into the finger joint, as that will be extremely hard to get out once the glue has dried. One more thing I didn't glue the base into the side grooves as I want the base to expand and contract with seasonal humidity, otherwise you run the risk off the base splitting the sides.


I utilized a lot of my pipe clamps and other clamps that I have, I also used clamping blocks at the corners to make sure there was an even distribution of pressure along the joint lines, you can also see why I used the painters tape as all the squeeze out is on the tape and all I will need it to peel off the tape and I will have nice clean lines and there will be no need to sand or remove dried glue as there will be none.


Here is the serving tray all glued up and sanded, all that is left is to apply the finish and that is next. I used 100 grit up to 220 grit sand-paper on my Random Orbital sander.


I decided to use a Polyurethane finish as I really like using it and it provides a lot of protection to the wood. I especially like using this finish because it is water based and is easy to clean up, its also great for when you need to wipe down the wood with a damp rag and it looks as good as new. I applied a total of 3 coats sanding in between each coat with 200 grit sandpaper.

Well that's it for this project , I really like how it turned out and finally have a serving tray that I can use. Thanks for reading this lengthy post but I figured I would provide as much detail possible, "if you would like to see even more detail check out my website.if you would like to see even more detail check out my website. you would like to see even more detail check out my website.



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485 Posts

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Nice curves on top sides - beautiful tray…I like other photos too.

· Registered
4,327 Posts
Nice work!

I learned quickly on that seemingly "simple" projects have a lot of hairy details in the construction, trays are no exception.

Great job on finessing out the details in your design and posting it all! The slatted bottom really works well with the overall style.

· Registered
485 Posts
Nice curves on top sides - beautiful tray…I like other photos too.

- majuvla
Thanks Ivan appreciate that .. I think my fav part of the project was the curves never did that before

· Registered
485 Posts
Nice work!

I learned quickly on that seemingly "simple" projects have a lot of hairy details in the construction, trays are no exception.

Great job on finessing out the details in your design and posting it all! The slatted bottom really works well with the overall style.

- splintergroup
Thanks for the kind words as always greatly appreciated