A little serving tray

Two years ago our daughter mentioned she bought some tiles, 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 (# 19) 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 (edit to change); 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 – just click on the first image, and navigate within the window that opens:

And I present to you… Some joinery detail - I LOVE dovetails! Some detail of the *inside* of the tray

Relevant links:
My entry into the Lumberjocks’ Serve It Up With Class, Summer 2008 Woodworking Awards







Related Posts with Thumbnails


  1. says

    Thanks! I have made note of your tip, for any future projects involving similar tiles.
    Your table is beautiful!!! And what a nice way to show off the tiles. I learn something new everyday – and I appreciate it a bunch.

  2. says

    Hey Al,

    Nice looking serving tray.

    With respect to your question, I made a set of end tables and a coffee table with inset tile tops a while back. Here is a picture the coffee table which shows the tile the best.

    I just used standard thin-set tile adhesive to adhere the tiles to a baltic birch substrate (this was enclosed within a White Oak frame). I then taped off the oak with painters tape and grouted with regular sanded grout with some latex additive for flexibility. It worked great and the tables have held up to my kids abuse for bout 3 or 4 years now!


    The Craftsman’s Path