Introduction: Essential Oils Tray

In this post, you'll learn how to make a simple, cheap tray that can hold lots of essential oil bottles.

With me, I like proportions, so I wanted the tray to be fairly thick so the oils can sit deep. I had some scrap 8/4 knotty alder in the shop, so that's what you'll see in this tutorial. I think walnut would look incredible, but I didn't have any in 8/4, so maybe later. If you don't have access to these kinds of woods, you can simply use a 2x4 and accomplish the same thing. We'll mainly be drilling and cutting here, so no glue or joinery.

This all started out with a request from my wife to make something to hold all the oils that are always scattered all over our house. I first thought something that looked like a cigar box would be cool, or maybe a box with a glass top, but I decided to make a tray since things usually pile up around our house.

While making the first one, I got a bunch of requests by people watching my Instagram feed (@jessemckee). I didn't realize how popular these things would be so I decided to batch a bunch out and they all sold within minutes. Of course, I only made 10... so I'm not that popular.

For this project, you'll need:

  • Table Saw (a miter saw would also work if you are making one small enough)
  • 8/4 Wood (2x4 will also work) - (8/4 = 2" thick)
  • 1 1/8" Forstner Bit (for the most common sized bottles)
  • Drill Press (Hand Drill will definitely work)
  • Router with Rabbeting Bit
  • Danish Oil (Any finish will work)

Step 1: Wood Selection and Preperation

My timber was rough, so I needed to spend a little extra time preparing the wood for all the cuts. I straightened all the wood on my jointer, then to the table saw. To clean all the saw marks, I used my bench plane. In most cases, sanding will fix most of your problems, but I usually order all my wood as S2S to save on costs since I'm set up to clean it up.

Maybe I'll make an Instructable on lumber lingo if there isn't already one.

Step 2: Cutting the Angles and Rabbet

First, I cut my 6° angles. Make sure you cut the angles on the end grain first so you don't get blowout. Then cut the sides. Cutting the sides last will cut away any blowout you may get when cutting the end grain.

Second, I took my pieces over to the router. I raised the blade about 3/8" to give the floating effect I was after. Again, cut your end grain first, then do your sides.

Step 3: Drilling the Holes

Now on to drilling the holes. I made each of these pieces a little different in size since this was my first batch. I wanted to find that perfect shape, and what a better way to find it than to practice on the poor people that bought the first round. In some cases, I tried staggered holes, even holes, room on the ends for easy carrying, long, short ...

Because of all the random sizing, this made measuring for the hole placement a nightmare. If all of them were the exact same, then it would be easy to mark all my holes again and again. I could even make a jig overlay and punch markers. But, in this case, this is where I spent most of my time. Just me, the radio and my pencil and ruler.

I drilled the holes about 3/4" deep. I wanted to still be able to read the labels on the side. I know most companies sell oil stickers that can go on the top, but to me, that's crazy talk.

I eventually got them all cut on the drill press and ready for sanding and finishing.

Step 4: Sanding and Finishing

I sanded each of the pieces down to 220 grit and applied a few coats of Watco's natural danish oil. The color really popped on these alder pieces and the danish oil really leaves each one feeling like real wood.

The end grain will give you quite a bit of trouble if you're not prepared. End grain drinks up most finishes and glues, so you'll need to apply several coats. One thing that will help you out is sanding the end grain with a finer grit of sandpaper. You could go down to 400 to 800 grit and really polish the end grain to block the pores. Going finer on the grit of sand paper, you're burnishing the wood at this point, which will make it really smooth.

Step 5: The End

I hope you enjoyed the process.