The details are not the details…

…they make the design.

So saith Charles Eames, a very prominent architecture and furniture designer.  And in the case of our little tray, I think you will agree with him.

We could just put a bottom in and be done with it.  It would hold things after all, so the function would be undiminished.  But the unrelieved rectilinearity seems a little clunky for this purpose.  We’ll revisit the idea in the future, but for now, let’s focus on relieving the severity.

The way we’ll do this is to sweep the edges a little.  We’re only going to do this with the long edges, for reasons you’ll see in a moment.  Don’t drop more than a third or so down the height of the sides.  Find your midpoint, come in from the ends an inch and a half or so, and connect everything by tracing along a French curve.  A lot of the ones in the arts and crafts section of your local shop are too small, and too severe for the curves we’re going to trace.  The ones I’ve found helpful instead are known as ship curves.

Once the cutlines are penciled on, we can remove the parts that are now “not tray” with your choice of implement.  A caution, though, not to chip off the upper edges.  They can easily be split off if you’re not attentive.  Once the outlines are cut out, round over the edges with your rasp so they’re friendly to the touch.


On the short ends, we’ll increase the functionality of the tray by adding integral handles.  These won’t catch on things or cost more.  Leave a half-inch or so of wood at the top of the handle area.  This will keep it plenty strong for the loads involved.  Using a brace and an auger bit, I bore out the main part of the handle (it’s 1″ x 3″), then clean up and round over with a rasp.  Make sure that you’re making the edges round, not ovoid, when you do this.  Otherwise it will dig into your fingers too much.  It can be tricky to get in there, but persevere.