Instructables
Picture of Make Some Nice TV Trays

Pictured is one of a set of TV trays I made for my wife.  Most sets contain four trays.  She wanted six.

Materials required are--

1/2 inch A-D grade fir plywood
Plastic countertop laminate
Plastic laminate adhesive
Good hardwood of your choice for legs and trim
Hardwood dowels
Wood glue
Aluminum bar stock
Brass woodscrews
Wood and sheetmetal screws
Varnish or shellac

Tools required are--

A tablesaw or a radial arm saw
A router with a corner rounding bit and a laminate trimming bit
A bandsaw or a sabre saw.
A drill
A chisel for scraping
Screwdrivers (straight and offset straight)
Sandpaper
An inexpensive paint brush for applying laminate adhesive
A hammer and a wood block
"C" clamps
 
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Step 1: Making the tray top

Picture of Making the tray top
Commercially available TV trays always seem a little small to be really useful in my estimation.  I made these TV trays 16 1/4 inches by 22 1/2 inches (finished) on top.  This provides a nice working surface for more than just eating in front of the television.  My wife does all manner of projects on them.

Begin by cutting pieces of 1/2 inch plywood 14 3/4 inches by 21 inches, one piece for each TV tray you want to make.  Some solid wood trim will bring the tops up to the dimensions mentioned in the paragraph above, but that is for a later step.  The edges of the plywood should be smooth.  There should be no splintering or kicking up of the grain on the top "A" surface of the plywood.  I chose to have the "A" side up so the plastic laminate would be glued to a nice smooth surface. 

Step 2: Attachment pieces

Picture of Attachment pieces
Two pieces are needed for attaching the legs to the tray top on each tray.  Begin with a piece of hardwood 3/4 inch in thickness and 1 1/2 inches wide.  Make cuts at 15 degrees that are 2 1/2 inches apart.  I had some pieces of beech wood that I used.  It was well cured and has a nice tight grain structure with no knots.
agis682 years ago
goood!!!...what prep process u did to plywood?
Phil B (author)  agis681 year ago
I really did nothing special to the plywood. I simply bought A-D or A-C plywood and left the A side up to be painted with glue for the plastic laminate.
kooth3 years ago
This is a very nice Instructable! Your explanations are great and your pictures are very helpful! Nice work!
Phil B (author)  kooth3 years ago
Thank you. Thanks, also, for looking. I hope you can make use of something in this.
Jon3163 years ago
Can you use other materials for the tray top instead just the plywood if so could you list it please.
Phil B (author)  Jon3163 years ago
You could probably use medium density fiberboard (mdf). I think the very best thing (and most expensive) would be pieces of solid wood glued up, but that also requires some skill and some tools to make it come out right. I would want to cover the mdf in plastic laminate to give it a nice appearance.
Jon3163 years ago
can you used polyurethane instead of that plastic counter top laminate
Phil B (author)  Jon3163 years ago
I am sure you could. I assume you are thinking of finishing some type of natural wood with a surface of polyurethane. I chose the plastic laminate because of the many patterns available and I wanted something that would match the wood I planned to use for the legs, etc.
sockless3 years ago
I plan on making the top out of proper planks instead of veneered ply. You think that it would work fine?
I was thinking that the planking may break if someone put too much weight on it, but no one would put that much weight on it anyway. I might make some support underneath just in case though.
Phil B (author)  sockless3 years ago
I am sorry. I missed your comment earlier. I doubt you will put enough weight on your planking to break it. I think you will be fine.
twighahn3 years ago
id like something light weight
Phil B (author)  twighahn3 years ago
Light weight will usually mean less strength and durability unless you use special materials and special assembly techniques, which means more expense for materials and tools, as well as more skills. But, I could be wrong.
twighahn Phil B3 years ago
im in a mtrhm so i need to keep the gas consumption down so i need lighter like maybe plastic
Dosbomber3 years ago
I have a few of these that were store-bought, but could always use a few more as work/project tables. I'd likely use some self-adhesive clear plastic laminate from McMaster (such as Part 8689K42) and place some sort of reference information under it. The best thing about making your own is that you can build it exactly to your needs.
Phil B (author)  Dosbomber3 years ago
You just gave some great reasons why it is good to be a DIY person. I am not familiar the McMaster product, but will try to check on it. Thank you for your comment.
I told you before, when you need my hepl in cases like this just send me what you need and I will do it for you. No problem at all.
Thank you. If there were a USB port on my forehead, I could feed my mental images into the computer and send them over the Internet. Failing that, I am not sure how to communicate what I need without just doing it.
Anyway your graphics are clear and down to the point, anything more it's just funcy.
I also never tried the newspaper method with contact glue (cement), I always used 3 square rods to position the laminate, then I remove the center one and press down to make the first contact so the sides won't move, and finally a J roller working my way from the center outwords to avoid air bubles.
I will give a try to your method given the chance.
Thanks
Steli
Thank you. Three square rods would work. When I prepared for this Instructable I began to wonder if anyone applies plastic laminates to their projects in their home workshops. So many things in our stores here in the USA come with plastic laminates applied already at the factory. We can also buy shelving with the laminate already applied. I searched the Internet for good information on applying laminates so I could merely give a link in the Instructable, but such things are not easy to find. Many years ago I found a good brochure from Formica, a leading maker of plastic laminates. At the present such brochures are more difficult to find.
I have used Formica on my multi-tool power bench. Is much more durable and stronger than melamine.
Formica is also thicker than melamine, which is likely part of why it is more durable. I used Formica on these tray tables. It holds up well to hot things. It can be scratched by a sharp metal instrument, but generally holds up well to physical abuse, too.
vader0ne3 years ago
We have Tv Trays like this we bought them.Nice to have around....
Phil B (author)  vader0ne3 years ago
Thank you for looking and for your comment.
Seriously good instructable, well illustrated and detailed. This is a great project, as we have a number of visitors and this allows us to put on a BBQ feed with our limited table space. Thanks for the work on this, it will be much appreciated!
Phil B (author)  trike road poet3 years ago
Thank you for your comment. I am glad I used the plastic laminate. It is durable. But, you could easily modify a number of things according to your needs.
We have a similar table, oddly enough I was saying to my better half only last night Ishould make a couple more for our grandson to use here & at home.
You have given me a couple of good ideas for ours, nice one :-)
Phil B (author)  Nostalgic Guy3 years ago
Thank you for your comment. It is always a good feeling when someone can use something I posted, even if they adapt it heavily.
rimar20003 years ago
Phil, I'm surprised by the newspaper method to match surfaces. Did not adhere the paper to the adhesive?

Excellent instructable, as always!
Phil B (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Thank you, Osvaldo. If the glue is completely dry, as contact cement should be before mating the two pieces, even paper does not stick to it. And, the clamps are set only as tight as necessary to keep the laminate from shifting position while you are getting ready to remove the first piece of newspaper.
aeray Phil B3 years ago
Newspaper works really well. On the jobsite, though, rosin paper is more readily available, but is a little more difficult to deal with because of the curl. Maybe I just need to work with more literate carpenters, or buy the paper instead of reading it online.
Phil B (author)  aeray3 years ago
I enjoy the humor in your comment. I was surprised to see a brochure on installing plastic laminate at Lowe's that mentioned only dowel rods for keeping the surfaces separated until ready to mate them.
aeray Phil B3 years ago
I have occasionally used slats from old meal blinds as well.
Phil B (author)  aeray3 years ago
Those should work very well, I would think. Good idea. Thank you.
Sabata3 years ago
Very nice (as usual), Phil! I had a table about that size years ago. It was much more convenient than an average-size TV tray, which are marginal for even a dinner plate and glass.

I recall seeing someone recommend using strips and/or sheets of brown paper bag between two items to be joined with contact cement. I figured it would work fine but brown bags are rare in stores anymore. ;)
Phil B (author)  Sabata3 years ago
Thanks for your comments. I have applied plastic laminate to my projects half a dozen different times and a single thickness of newspaper worked well for me each time. The key thing is to be patient enough to wait until the cement was completely dry so that the newsprint does not stick.

You are right about TV tray tables. They are small. We had some cheap TV trays pressed from thin steel with thin steel tube legs. Those disappeared somewhere. My wife asked for TV trays, and I made these.
Excellent work my friend.
Those things serve me for the last 5 years and never had the need of the dinning table.

Job very well done
Stelios
Thank you, Stelios. I thought about you while preparing this Instructable and wished I had your skills with graphics programs. The illustrations would have been a little different in several places.