Recycled cedar - tea tray

This project was straightforward once the resawing of a 14" wide piece of Port Orford cedar with a hand saw (300mm rip kataba) was out of the way. The wood came out of a California Victorian house where it was formerly shelving. The shelves were 1" x 16" x 6' and made of a mix of redwood and POC - all clear, not glued up. Worth taking the time to resaw with care. Note the two tones - the darker face was near the original surface, lighter color is the interior of the board. Port Orford cedar darkens with age.

Besides the main tray panel you will need 4 sides and maybe handles. Many trays have pierced, oblong holes for handles but I chose to cut slots and insert handles instead. Here are the parts prior to final planing.

For strength and to conceal the groove that the tray panel fits into I made a combination box joint with miter. My prototype seemed strong enough. The handles I milled with a pair of kiwa-ganna (rabbet planes) and a small block plane. 

 The handles will be glued into the slots on the ends as the last part of assembly. The handle slots are as deep as possible without going through the end pieces. You will have to use care (or a small router plane) to get the slot bottom parallel to the surface of the end piece.

underside of tray and handle
 Once all parts were finish planed and lightly chamfered, I set up a clamping frame on my bench. This is just 4 frame members (straight, square, and stiff scrap wood) clamped to the bench with sets of wedges to clamp an end and a side. Then I created 8 clamping blocks that distribute the clamping pressure near the corners. These 8 blocks were carefully finish planed so they had a very smooth side that was placed against the soft POC tray sides.

I made sure to leave room around the corners so I could peek at the fit before letting the glue set. I cut small squares of plastic bag and place a square under each glue area to keep it off the bench.

Very carefully apply the glue to the box joint cheeks and the miter. I made a wood spatula to spread the glue, pictured below. Then assemble 2 sides and one end, slip in the tray panel, then slide on the last end. Hand press the joints together then get the tray into the frame and place your blocks and wedges. Check square frequently as you apply pressure by tapping the wedges together. I used no glue around the tray panel. It floats (actually it had little room to move). Visually inspect all corner joints and clean up glue before it sets.

After 24 hours in the frame I pulled it all apart and began the trimming process. The flush trim saw followed by a very flat and sharp kiridashi (single bevel knife) with shearing cuts leaves a nice finish. You really need to plan your cuts so you do not blow out the fragile end grain or gouge the sides. Practice on scrap.

sashigane for scale

With this done I could breathe again. Handles were glued in and clamped for 24 hours and some slight cosmetic blems were planed off (again, go easy and use very sharp tools). Then it is ready for a durable finish of your choice. Warn the recipient that the tray is thin softwood and not to carry a 25 lb turkey on it.

the tray before finishing

Tools used for the project


ronvan said…
Nicely done! I'm planning on making one just like it..handles will be different thouth. What did you use to finish it?

Regards, Ron. i have a little page at wordpress called rbhandcrafted.. i need to do a lot of updating but im just getting back into it.
Peter Mac said…
Hi Ron:
Being that this wood is easily damaged and, ahem, knowing where it was going, I just put 3 coats of satin polyurethane on it. Waterproof, durable, looks ok.