Introduction: Serving Tray

I really like projects that can serve more than one purpose. In the case of this serving tray, students are using up a bunch of our scrap wood as well as practicing for the performance portion of WCA's Sawblade certification.

The Woodwork Career Alliance has a certification that students can earn - Sawblade. To earn the sawblade certification, students must be able to perform typical intro to woodworking tasks, be able to measure accurately, layout a board and pass a multiple choice knowledge test. This project incorporates all of the skills necessary to be successful on the performance portion of the Sawblade exam. Additionally, in Wisconsin, Act 59 allows schools to receive additional state dollars when students pass certain certifications - Sawblade qualifies.

What I like about Sawblade is that it adds credibility to the standards we put in place. We often tell students that we are following industry standards, but this certification is grading them on actual industry standards.


Shop Tools:



Table saw enabled to rip, cross cut and able to take a dado stack

Drill Press

Jig Saw

Orbital Sander/Sand paper


Scrap wood - enough for two 12¼ by 1 3/4 rectangles and two 9½ by 2¼ rectangles

¼" plywood, 10x13

Wood glue and clamps

Step 1: Planer

Using a planer is not part of the Sawblade exam. However, the pieces of the serving tray do need to be planed to 3/8". I recommend to my students that they first plane and then cut to length/width - fewer pieces to feed through the planer.

Step 2: Jointer

Once students have planed their wood, they need to joint a side. This is the first of the Sawblade requirements. As part of the Sawblade certification, students must inspect the machine, set up the depth of cut, adjust the guard, etc. Since this is not the first project in my intro to woods class (see Giant Jenga where I initially teach how to use each machine), students are fairly familiar with these steps.

Step 3: Rip and Cross Cut to the Correct Dimensions

The next step in the Sawblade certification is to be able to rip a board. Part of the process is to inspect the riving knife/splitter, adjust blade height, adjust the fence, etc. I am fortunate enough to have two SawStop table saws in my shop and I generally leave one for crosscutting and one for ripping. However, later in this project, students have to use a dado stack. At that point, I dedicate one table saw for the dado stack and students get A LOT of practice switching back and forth between the sled and the riving knife/splitter.

Students need to cross cut two pieces to 12¼ and two pieces to 9½. Then they need to rip the 12¼ inch pieces to 1 3/4 wide and the 9½ inch pieces to 2¼ inches wide.

At this point, they should have 4 rectangles.

Step 4: Making the Handles (Drill Press and Jig Saw)

Time to make the handles. Students work with the 9½ by 1 3/4 pieces and have to layout the holes for the drill press and the angles on the handles.

Measuring 2½ in, and 7/8 inch down, students mark the center point for drilling two 3/4" diameter circles (which will become the opening for the handles). The drill press is another component of the Sawblade exam. Students need to be able to put in the correct drill bit, adjust the clamp correctly and drill a hole at a specified location.

Measuring 2½ in and 1 3/4 inch up, students draw an angled line to shape the handles. They also draw lines connecting the top and bottoms of the holes. These are cut out with a jig saw. This project exposes students to the jig saw for the first time but jig saw is not part of the Sawblade exam.

Step 5: Dados and Rabbets

Each piece needs to have a ¼ inch dado cut ¼ inch up from the bottom of each rectangle. This will later hold the base in place.

Next on the Sawblade exam is cutting a rabbet. Since the dado stack is already in place, students just need to adjust the fence and height of the blade correctly. In this case, the rabbet needs to be ¼ inch deep and 3/8 inch wide on the two 9½ inch rectangles. Since the dado cuts had the blade height already set at ¼ inch, I adjust the blade height between students so that they have practice setting it properly.

Step 6: Sanding

The last part of the Sawblade exam is sanding. Students need to be able to sand to a specified grit, removing all mill marks. I generally have them start with something in the 100's and then move to something in the 300 or 400's. Students should be able to use both hand sand paper as well as a powered sander.

Step 7: Cut a Base

I rough cut the plywood into 10x13 pieces. After the sides of the serving tray are completed, I have them cut the base to fit their work. We have a laser-engraver and once students show me that they can dry fit their work, I have them design something to be engraved on the base of their tray.

Step 8: Glue, Clamp and Add Finish

Yup. Glue, clamp and finish. Go 'Tosa East!

Woodworking Contest

Participated in the
Woodworking Contest