Tea preparation tray
Why I made this
Beginner 2 Hours / Hand tools
The completed tray with a teapot!
We have long had a tea-making tray by our kettle. It’s usually slimmer and long and we don’t often use it to carry things (although we sometimes do). Our last one broke. After years of abuse it cracked and split. The gaffer tape fix wasn’t doing the trick either. I decided to make a new one from some recycled timber I had. It’s a fairly simple idea and not much of a plan needed.
What you need - tools, time, difficulty
The idea - the reasoning behind design decisions
Design & build - including simpler alternative
Lessons learned - what would I do differently
Conclusion - my thoughts on building this
What you need
All measurements listed are in mm unless noted otherwise.
- Hand saw
- Electric planer - I needed this because the timber for my base was not flat. If yours is, then you could probably just get away with sanding it.
- Pins, Glue, Sandpaper, Paint & Varnish etc.
I used a plastic mitre jig I inherited from my father to help me cut the 45 degrees ends on the side pieces but it’s not strictly necessary.
Disclaimer: This is a description of a build I did. You are welcome to use it and adapt it but you do so at your own risk. I am not responsible for any accidents or injury you receive trying to build this. My estimate for difficulty is an estimate and if you find it too difficult or risky, ask someone better qualified to assist you.
Zero. I had all the timber and everything else was already in my toolbox.
The tray needs to be long and slim but wide enough to fit cups, mugs and possibly a teapot on. It should also have some colour on it. We didn’t want it entirely painted as we liked the exposed wood look but there should be some colour.
For the base I decided to use an offcut of featheredge board left over from a fence we had put in. It needed to be planed flat but that gave me a chance to use my new Electric Planer. This is a hand held planer and not a free-standing “thicknesser”.
For the sides I also went to leftover wood from the fencing project. One of the wooden posts supporting the gate had to have a slice take off it. Consequently I was left with a piece of timber 70 x 2000 high and 8mm thick. So I cut the pieces I needed from that and sanded them down to remove any paint etc.
Design and build
The tray is 450mm long and 150mm wide overall. The height of the sides is 40mm. I cut finger grips into the ends at the bottom and the corner joints are 45 degree mitres rather than butt joints. Everything is glued and pinned.
Cutting and preparing
The longest part of all this was planing the featheredge board down so it was flat and about 4mm thick throughout. It wasn’t difficult but the plane wasn’t as wide as the board so I had to take care to ensure I planed to get the same thickness and not leave any planing marks.
Once that was done, I trimmed the ends of the board to make them square and cut ends of the sides to a 45 degrees mitre. I also cut the finger grip holes into the end pieces at 20mm high.
Assembly was gluing and pinning and using clamps to keep it in place. The base board was square so I wasn’t too worried about clamping it square, I sat the frame of the edges on top of the base and glued and pinned from underneath. The mitre joints at the corners were glued only - no pins. This kept any visible pins underneath the tray but I also used a small punch to push the pins in a little below the surface and filled in those small dents.
The timber had some nicks and dents in it which I was happy to keep as it added history to the tray. Where I couldn’t keep them was where any of the pieces connected to each other so I used some wood filler to ensure my glued joints didn’t have gaps.
Once the sides were in place I sanded back the base board where the finger holes were so it tapered to a 2mm thick edge there. This helped with being able to pick the tray up if needed and just looked nicer.
I used acrylic paints to paint the two ends different colours and to paint a coordinated pinstripe design across the centre.
I used painters/masking tape to keep the pinstripes straight. Even though I had to let each one dry before moving to the next one, the acrylic paint dried very quickly (it was a very hot day!) so my total time was still around 2 hours.
The whole thing was covered in three coats of a food-safe varnish, sanding between coats. We won’t be prepping food on this but we might put spoons and things on it. In truth, once set, I’d imagine all varnishes will be food safe unless you rub them. Three coats to make it harder wearing and wipe clean.
Using featheredge board
If I hadn’t wanted to “play” with my new planer I might not have used featheredge for the base. It was a great size but it took most of my build time to plane that flat. I had some other pieces of wood I could have used which were flat (but which would have needed joining to make the tray wide enough). In the end though I love how it turned out and it was worth the effort and time to use the featheredge.
This was a really simple project and doesn’t require much beyond sawing, gluing and pinning. Keeping it square is easy if your base is square and I like the simple finish too. We love this tray and it has been serving us well. Any drips or marks can be wiped off easily (it’s well worth the extra coats of varnish for this reason) and it is light but very sturdy.