For the next project here, I thought we might move to something a little different.  Let’s move on to a joined serving tray to go along with our kitchen items.  Since it’s to be a relatively vernacular piece, we’ll use softwood and paint it.  If we wanted to be a little more refined, we could make it from any of your hardwoods, then varnish it.  While this adds refinement, it would also increase the cost, with no appreciable increase in utility.  So in this case, we’ll use white pine which should make it eminently affordable.  Our stock starts out at 3/8″ thick.  For this particular tray, the finished size will be 12″x18″x3″.


I try, whenever possible, to use quarter- or rift-sawn stock.  This is not only the most stable option, but it also gives easily worked stock.  Flat-sawn lumber, especially in the softwoods, can be fractious.

A note here on the size of the tray.  The dimensions given reflect three criteria:

  1. A convenient size for a serving tray
  2. Ability to get pieces from a standard 1″x4″
  3. Classical proportions of 1.5:1

This proportional method gets carried over a lot in period furniture.  I recommend By Hand and Eye for more on that.  So the measurements are kind of irrelevant, but the proportions are everything.  Free yourself from the dimensionalist hegemony!

At any rate, the sides will be dovetailed together.  Nothing too fancy here. However, for a tray this size, do cut at least two tails.  It’s much stronger than one tail.  I will shift to a single tail only if the height of my sides is under 1.5″ or so.

For an excellent video series on dovetailing, you should camp out on Paul Sellers’ channel over on the YouTube academy.  It’s maybe a little slower than using a coping saw, but not by much.  More importantly, it reduces the possibility for error while keeping your baselines crisp.  As we have talked about before, a key principle for keeping woodworking productive and pleasurable is to reduce the ability for chaos to impinge on our projects.  Dovetailing is probably the most likely candidate for difficulty in this project so we start there.  But once it’s done we’ll have a nice looking carcase.  Don’t glue up yet!  We have more to do yet before we want to stick it together.  We could probably do it on a finished carcase, but our steps to come will be much easier if we do them before assembly.