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“Growth Rings” Serving Tray

Posted by on September 7, 2009

It’s been a very busy summer and I opted to spend most of my free time with my family rather than in the shop. Other than a couple cutting boards (after seeing all the cool ones posted at lumberjocks.com in the past few months I just had to try a few myself!), I really haven’t spent any significant time in the shop.

However, while shopping for a gift for my wife on the occasion of our 6th wedding anniversary, I learned that the traditional gift was candy or iron and the modern alternate was wood. In keeping with this theme, many of the online vendors were selling wooden boxes containing chocolates. This seemed like a great gift idea, but, being a woodworker, clearly I couldn’t buy her a wooden box. However, since I didn’t have time to build a nice box and don’t have any real experience with them anyway, I looked for another idea.

For the past 5 anniversaries I’ve made it a sort of tradition to get up early and, now that we have children, taking the kids out with me to pick up cinnamon rolls for breakfast. This year, I decided, I would make her breakfast instead and serve it to her, with chocolate-dipped strawberries, on a handmade wooden serving tray.

And this is the result.

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This project was unique in that it’s the first project I designed entirely in my head and during the actual construction process. Typically I design my pieces in detail in SketchUp before even selecting the lumber. I must admit it was kinda fun building this way — designing on-the-fly so to speak — though I’m not sure I’ll make this the new norm.

The bulk of the body of the tray is cherry, the handles are walnut. The horizontal strips (the growth rings) are curly maple and purpleheart. The purpleheart, incidentally, was from a board my wife gave me for our fifth anniversary. Each strip represents a different milestone — the day we met, our wedding day, birth of a child and anniversaries. I labeled them with dates on the back and signed the piece with a personal message for my lovely wife.

The biggest challenge in this piece was scooping out the “dish” of the tray. I built the tray in a single day — it was the only time I could spend in the shop without letting on what I was up to. Therefore I had to hurriedly cobble together a quick-y template and jig to position and guide the router. The template slipped a bit on the front edge and the bottom was uneven in spots, requiring a good deal of sanding to make it acceptable. There are still a number of visible imperfections in the piece which, in this case I think give it character. It really does look handmade. In any event, I didn’t have much choice but to accept it as the best I could do within available time. It was a real hit with my wife and will certainly be difficult to top next year!

(PS – In case you’re curious, for her part my wife gave me a waffle iron (I love cooking from-scratch pancake breakfast with the kids on weekends and my son would eat waffles for all three meals if we allowed him) and made a generous contribution to my tool fund — I’m presently more than 1/2 way to a Festool Domino. Woo-hoo!)

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