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Picture of Wood serving tray with folding stand
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This project was born out of necessity and a serious case of cabin fever. I have recently sold all of my furniture in preparation for a mobile lifestyle. My biggest hack yet! I had figured a nice wooden tray and stand could be a useful item to have. So I rummaged through what was left in the house, found some wood, and sat down to come up with this tray. 

I have no table saw, band saw or any other shop type equipment. All the tools I used I can carry in my 5th wheel. Any handy man is likely to have them.  The materials I have used are whatever I found remaining in the house. That being said, the laminated press board I used to make the tray with is probably not the best material since the edges will not be that pretty (unless you know how to laminate the edges). Some extra work was required of me since I made many of the pieces that could otherwise be purchased. found, or cut using better techniques or equipment.

Experienced wood workers, please feel free to leave comments. I'm sure there is a lot I could learn!

If I could make this with hand held tools, scrap material and limited experience, anyone should be able to do this project.

 
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Step 1: Tools and materials

Safety gear:
Safety glasses
Dust mask
Ear plugs
Rubber gloves

Tools:
Pencil
Drafting compass
Yard stick or tape measure
45 degree angle

Circular saw (Depending on the materials you have, you might not need this)
Wood plane
Jig saw
Hand held saw
Hack saw
Drill and wood bits
File
Sand paper
Cloth
Screwdriver and wrench

Sewing machine (optional - to make straps)

Wood glue
Wood putty
Stain
silicon putty (optional)

Materials:
This is really flexible. Adapt your tray and stand to whatever materials you want to use or have available.
I used whatever I could find.
I used a piece of laminated press board because that is the only flat piece  I had.
I made lengths of wood with dimensions of 1/2 X 3/4 inches for the lip of the tray
I made lengths of wood with dimensions of 3/4 X 3/4 inches for the feet of the tray
I made lengths of wood with dimensions 1 X 1 1/2 inches for the legs.
Two 1 1/2 X 1 1/2 inch lengths of wood for the cross braces (This is preferable to the dowel I used)
1/2 X 5 inch length of board for a brace
3/8th inch wide lengths of wood cut off of a 2 by 4 (also for brace)
screws
nails
2 bolts
6 washers
2 lock washers
2 nuts
metal tube that fits over bolt. (I used part of a curtain rod)
straps or rope

Step 2: Marking the tray handles

Please use the pictures for clarification of this step.

I decided to make the handles 1 1/2 inches wide.

The hand holes are 1 5/8 inch by 5 inches  Choose a width that matches one of your hole saws.

- I started with a rectangular piece of wood.
- Next I drew a line 1 1/2 inches in from each of the short edges.
- Next I found the center line of the tray. I measured 2 1/2 inches out each direction from that to form a rectangle that would be the hand hole.
- I marked the point for the center of my hole saw. I was using a 1 5/8 inch bit so the center point is 13/16th from each edge of the rectangle.
  1 5/8 = 1 10/16 = 26/16
  26/16 divided by 2 is 13/16
  Yea, I know, Us Americans must be masochistic for not using metric!
- I drew the inner circle.
- I added a second line 3 1/8 inch in from the edge of the tray (1 1/2 + 1 5/8)
- I opened up my compass so it reached from the drill point to the edge of the tray and drew an arc.

For the next part you will wish you had paid attention in geometry class. I used my compass to create an arc in the opposite direction.
- I left the compass at the same distance (from the drill point to the edge of the tray) and used it to draw an arc on the second line using the point where the first arc crossed the first line as the center point.
- I used each of the points where arcs crossed lines to extend another arc to find a center point.
- I then used that point to create the opposite arc.

Repeat the process on both sides of the tray.

Step 3: Cut out the tray handles

Picture of Cut out the tray handles
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Secure your tray to something.

Use your hole saw and jig saw to cut out the pattern you just drew.

The rectangular dimensions of my tray are 16 inches by 23 1/4 inches.

Step 4: Make the tray lips

To make the lips of the tray cut 4 lengths of wood that are 3/4 x 1/2 inches. Two should be longer than the long side and two should be longer than the short side.

Since I did not use a table saw or any kind of jig the pieces were rough and uneven. To make them all the same I held them together on a flat surface with c-clamps and used a plane to flatten them. I flipped the pieces over and end to end multiple times and in different combinations while planing. This was to achieved an even height on all the pieces. If you purchased dowels or cut more accurately than I do than you may not need to do this.

Round off the edges of one of the narrower sides of the dowel. This side would be the top of the lip. When placed on the tray the lip will be 3/4 inches high and 1/2 inch across.

Sand the pieces smooth.

Lay the two long side pieces in place and use 2 small nails to hold them to the tray.

Mark the corners at 45 degree angles. I couldn't find my protractor or something else to draw an angle with so I folded a square piece of paper on a diagonal to make the angle.

Remove the board from the tray and cut the corners.

Use a file and sandpaper to make the corner smooth.

Put wood glue on the bottom of the board and reattach it to the tray. Use the same nail holes from before to align the lip. You may add a few more nails.

Place the short side dowels in their proper place over top of the long side dowels. See picture

Clamp them fast.

Use a sharp pencil or pen. mark where the dowel lines up with the long sides. I chose to do things this way since I don't have the most accurate way to measure and cut. I felt this would result in a tighter corner.

Remove and cut the dowel. Cut slightly outside of your line.

Put the dowel in place to ensure it fits. If you left extra wood when cutting along the line you should be able to file and sand the end so that it aligns up with the long sides perfectly.

Put wood glue on the bottom of the end dowel.

Nail the end dowel to the tray.

Tap all the nails in so they are slightly recessed.

If you wish to you can clamp everything together and wait for the glue to dry. I figured the nails were holding the lips fast so I didn't do this.

Allow the glue to dry.

Put wood putty in the nail holes, and in any gaps that may be in the corners.

Allow the putty to dry then sand.

Step 5: Make the tray feet

Picture of Make the tray feet
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The feet of the tray are there to keep the tray from sliding off of the stand. They also give room under the handles when the tray is placed on a flat surface.

I made the feet using the same material as the lip except this time I made the dowels 3/4 by 3/4 inches. I wanted them a little sturdier so I made them wider. Since they are wider it is easier to drill them and screw them fast to the tray.

Plane, Round off 2 adjacent corners and sand like was done for the lip of the tray.

8 pieces will need to be cut from the 3/4 inch square dowel you made. Four pieces will be 4 inches on the long side with one end having a 45 degree angle. The other 4 pieces will be 2 3/4 inches on the long side with one end cut on a 45 degree angle.

Drill 2 holes in each piece and make a countersink for your screw.

Place the dowels in place on the bottom of the tray and create pilot holes for your screws.

Place wood glue on the square dowels and screw them fast to the tray.

Allow the glue to dry.

Place wood putty in the screw holes and fill in any gaps at the joints.

When the putty is dry, sand the feet of the tray.

Step 6: Make the stand legs

You will need to first determine how long to make the legs. If you are going to place the pivot point at the center of the legs, you can use the Pythagorean theorem to determine the length of each leg. The Pythagorean theorem is a2 + b2 = c2
To do this you need the two known values.
a = the depth of the tray minus the width of the feet.
     My tray is 16 inches front to back and the feet are 3/4 inches  wide.
     16 - (3/4 + 3/4) = 14 1/5 inches 

b = the height of the tray
     My tray height is 28 inches. It is taller than a standard TV tray.

c = Unknown value, the length of the leg.

a2 + b2 = c2
14.52 + 282 = c2
210.25 + 784 = c2
994.25 = c2
(take the square root of 994.25 to find c)
c = 31.53 inches or approx 31 1/2 inches

Cut four pieces of wood measuring 1 1/2 inch by 1 inch by the length you determined (31 1/2 in my example).
Plane any rough edges.
Round off the corners.
Sand the piece of wood.

Using a compass, draw a circle on the wide side(1 1/2 inch) of each end of the piece of wood.
Use a saw, file and sand paper to round and smooth the curve.

Sand down all the pieces and wipe off with a cloth.

Put on gloves and use a cloth to apply stain to the legs.

Step 7: Make the leg pivot point

Picture of Make the leg pivot point
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For this step you will need some hardware.

I used a long bolt, two washers to fit the bolt, a lock washer and a nut.
I also used a cylinder that would fit over the bolt, and a washer that fits over the cylinder. For the cylinder I pulled a curtain rod off of a window and cut off the pieces I needed from where the rods overlap.

Mark the center point on the wide side of each of the legs.
At the center point, drill a hole that is the diameter of your cylinder.

Place two legs side by side so the holes align.
Slide the cylinder through one leg, put on the large washer, slide the cylinder through the second leg. The cylinder should slightly protrude from each hole. Mark where the cylinder comes out and cut it with a hack saw.

Put a washer on the bolt.
Slide the bolt through the cylinder.
Place the second washer on it.
Place the lock washer on it.
Put on the nut and tighten i.

If you want to make the legs look cleaner, hack off the threaded end of the bolt that sticks out.

Step 8: Make the top brace

Picture of Make the top brace
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To make the top braces, place your tray upside down, on the floor. Lay the pair of legs you made, on top of the tray to determine how far apart they will need to be.

For the inside brace:
Measure the distance between the inside legs.

Cut your 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch board to the length you just measured. ( In the images you will see a dowel. I later decided a square piece was better since you can more easily put multiple screws in the end. )

Drill pilot holes with countersinks into your table legs. The cross bar should be about an inch below the top of the stand. Drill two holes on each of the legs the board will attach to. The image shows 1 hole since I attached a round dowel.

Drill pilot holes into your board. (This is important, if you don't do this you may split the board. )

Screw the board fast to the legs.


For the outside brace:
Place the legs on the bottom of the tray (as shown in the image).

Measure from the outside of the left leg to the outside of the far right leg.

Cut a board 1/2 inch by 5 inches by the distance you measured.
     This is a dark coloured board in the images. It was the only board I had that was the correct thickness.

Place the board about an inch from the top of the stand.

Drill 3 pilot holes on each side and attach the board to the legs using screws.

Note: The reason one brace is inside and the other is placed on the outside is so that when the tray is closed it will close flat.

Step 9: Attach the straps

Picture of Attach the straps
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Find a strap. This step can also be done by tying a rope around the braces. I think the straps look nicer though.

Fold over one end and sew it fast so it doesn't fray.

Place the tray upside down.

Place the legs onto the tray and open them.

Wrap a strap around the support braces so the ends overlap.

Cut the strap to length and hem the second end.
Note: If you fold the second end over in the opposite direction as the first end, then both hems can be inside when you put the strap together.

Make an identical strap.

Wrap the strap around the braces again. Make it taunt and pin the ends together.
Do this with the second strap.

Remove the straps and sew the ends together where you pinned them.

You now have two identical loops of strapping. Wrap these back around the braces.





Step 10: Make the bottom brace

Picture of Make the bottom brace
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Ensure that your straps are in place before proceeding with this step.

This is an inside brace. It will be the same length as the inside top brace and attaches the same way.
 
Attach this brace about 5 inches from the bottom of the legs.

For added strength and stability you may attach a second board that attaches to the outside of the legs and the brace. I made this board by cutting a piece off of a 2 x 4.



Step 11: Completion

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Finish staining any components that you did not stain.

Once the stain is set, place a bead of clear caulking around the inside lip of the tray.  This is to prevent spills from seeping under the lip.

Step 12: Use your tray

Picture of Use your tray

This type of tray is great for catering. Stands can be set up and the trays can be carried from the kitchen to the stands. A different set of legs could be made to use this as a bed serving tray.

My helper is demonstrating the stability of the tray and stand in the embedded video. The tray and stand is very solid and has very little play in it.

rachel1 year ago

very nice! And it looks lovely, especially considering the constraints you built it under.

Todd Gehris (author)  rachel1 year ago

Thank you. I was surprised, it turned out a lot better than I expected. It just took a lot longer with the tools I was using.