Introduction: Custom Caddy for Your Party Silverware

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For her birthday, my lovely wife requested a caddy for the 40 sets of basic silverware we use for outdoor parties. The aluminum pan was OK as a temporary solution, but we wanted something that would be sturdier and take up less space. Specifically, it needed to fit on a particular bookshelf in our house for easy access, and thus the custom caddy was born...



I used my Shopsmith for the following tools:

Step 1: Plan

I laid out the silverware to see how big the stacks need to be. I traced the profiles of the spoon and fork to make templates. I decided to use 1" hardwood (actually 3/4" thick). Two of them are wide enough for my forks, but not quite enough for my spoons. I decided to cut each half of the profile of the fork in a square board and the same for the spoon, then add a spacer in the middle for the spoons. It turns out that the stacks of spoons and forks are about the same height and the stack of knives is about twice as high, so I planned for two stacks of knives, one of spoons, and one of forks. I didn't do a full CAD model of this project, so I'm including a few more photos of the finished item to help clarify the goal. I also included a cut list and a .pdf version to make printing easier.

Step 2: Make Profile Templates

I cut out and glued the paper templates onto some 1/4 inch MDF and cut the templates with my band saw and sanded them smooth. Then I transferred the patterns onto the sides of the square pieces as shown. As you can see there will later be a spacer between the two halves of the spoon pieces.

Step 3: Make a Vertical Holding Jig

I made this jig to hold the boards vertically while cutting the profiles with the band saw. The jig is made of three pieces of scrap, each about 5 by 5 inches square and one cut diagonally as shown. I bored three holes inside the triangle and cut out the middle for extra grip, but this is optional. I countersunk some drywall screws to assemble the pieces as shown. I checked squareness and shimmed as necessary with paper to get a satisfactory 90 degrees.

Step 4: Cut Profiles for Spoon and Fork

I clamped the boards to the jig as shown and cut the profiles on the band saw, using lots of relief cuts as shown. I like to clean up using the saw like a router or drum sander, taking a light pass to get close to the line. Finally, I laid the mating halves out top to top as shown to sand evenly until smooth. I start with 60 grit and work up through 80, 100, 150, and 220. The procedure was the same for the fork as for the spoon pieces.

Step 5: Make Separator for Knives

All you really need is a square to separate the two knife stacks. I got very silly at this point and decided to make my own plywood from the same board as the rest. I can't overemphasize the need for safety here. You can easily get hurt trying to rip thin stock on the table saw. I made a pusher to straddle the fence as shown in the first photo. Then I used a push stick a home-made featherboard and the new pusher to control the stock as shown. I ripped the 3/4" thick board into 3 boards each 1/8" thick. I cut three square pieces and glued them together alternating the grain 90 degrees with each successive layer. I clamped the sandwitch together with my drill press as shown. I rounded one corder about 1 inch radius with the disc sander. After glueing, I ripped another very thin slice as a veneer and glued it over the edge as shown. Finally, I trimmed off the excess veneer as shown and sanded lightly to remove the sharp edges.

Step 6: Cut Dovetails

This was my first experience cutting dovetails. I simply recommend you follow the instructions of your jig and plan to make lots and lots of practice cuts. You can see that I accumulated a lot of practice dovetails in my scrap bucket. When you are cutting them for real, you will clamp the bottom piece horizontally in the jig and the ends vertically. Do this for each end so they fit together as shown in the last photo.

Step 7: Cut Biscuit Pockets

I wanted to help align the spoon and fork pieces and give them some extra strength , so I used the biscuit joiner to cut two pockets in each, along with mating pockets in the bottom and one end piece of the caddy.

Step 8: Bore Holes for Handle

I used a 1.25 inch forstner bit to put a hole in each end piece for the handle.

Step 9: Turn Handle

I glued the two long pieces together for the handle. Using the speed square, I found the center of each end for the turning centers. I trimmed off the edges at 45 degrees on the table saw to remove some waste before turning. Sorry I don't have a photo of turning the handle, but I gave it a slight bulge in the middle and turned the ends to fit in the holes. After turning the shape, I sanded the handle while it was still on the lathe.

Step 10: Cut Groove for Knife Separator

I wanted a sturdy joint for the knife separator, so I routed mating grooves in the bottom and end piece. I used scrap to make a template for the groove and routed both peices together as shown. The rectangular space formed by the template was larger than the groove by the difference between the cutter and template guide diameters.

Step 11: Assemble, Glue, and Sand and Finish

Now that all the pieces were done, I glued them together. After the glue dried overnight, I sanded down the whole project, working my way up the grits to 220 as before. I tested a few different stains on scrap and chose a color. After applying the stain, I wiped on a couple coats of polyurethane, per manufacturer's instructions.

Step 12: P.S.

We've been using this caddy for many outdoor parties for about two months with great results. It's handy if you're setting tables outside, or just set out next to a stack of plates for guests to pick up their own silverware in the line for food. It is great to have things like this ready all the time, which reduces the stress of preparing for parties.

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