Armchair & Bathtub Cup Tray




About: Learn - Make - Share --- I am a freelance Designer. If you like my designs and would like me to design or build something for you, feel free to contact me.

I'd like to read a book or a magazine, while enjoying a good coffee, longdrink or single malt whisky.
Keeping those drinks within reach but also safe from spilling, I designed this Armchair Cup Tray.
Then I saw this Pin and I designed the Cup Tray to also fit across my bath.

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Step 1: Concept, Parts & Tools


Most of my furniture is made from Oak, but for some time, I wanted to make something with Wenge. Mixing the two woods into one design creates a nice color contrast.

Parts - Materials

Bottom :
* 6mm or 8mm Triplex or similar Plywood : 190mm * 782mm
* 0.15 m2 of Wenge floorboards

Sides :
* two pieces of 190 mm * 35 mm * 9mm Oak
* two pieces of 800 mm * 70 mm * 9mm Oak

Tip : if the parts are not cut accurately, just have them a bit larger. We will trim them down to exact measures using the router, yielding very smooth cuts.

Wood glue and Wood oil

* Ruler
* Saw (jigsaw and optionally crosscut)
* Clamps
* Sander (Belt-sander and/or Orbital sander)

Step 2: Building the Floorboard

Take the triplex base, and start glueing the Wenge floorboard parts onto it.
In my case the base is 190 mm wide (as this fits to the width of the armrest of my sofa), and the Wenge parts are 300mm long.

So I cut a first Wenge part to just a little more than 190 mm, and glue it on the base.
Then I glue the remainder at the second row.
Then I take the next Wenge stick to continue on the second row.

Tip : make sure that all the cuts which are in the middle of the base, are nice and square. Otherwise you will get some gaps.
The cuts at either end are not so important, as the wood will be trimmed down in a next step
After the board is completely glued and dry, it is a good idea to sand the surface of it now. Later we will glue sides onto the board, and sanding will be more difficult. With the belt sander, in the direction of the grain, sand until you have a smooth surface.

Tip : If you have still some gaps in the board, you can use a mix of wood glue and sand-dust to fill them up.

Warning : according to WikiPedia, the dust from Wenge is sligthly aggresive, so take protection using a dust mask and or gloves. 

Finally we need the board to be trimmed down to its final dimensions, cutting away all excess.
It is difficult to cut and glue all the floorboard pieces at 100% exact length, so I ususally make them a little bit longer (a few mm), and then use a saw or router to trim them down to exact measures.
In order to trim along a nice straight line, I used a piece of Aluminum (an L-profile) : Clamp  it to the floorboard. Then use the router with a straight bit to trim it down.

Step 3: Adding the Sides

I want to sides of the cup tray to extend just a little above its base, so any items on the tray cannot slide or roll off of it.
I decided to make this little border 6 mm high.

In order to get an exact 6 mm all around, here is a simple trick : 
* put a scrap piece of 6 mm MDF on the workmate,
* put the base onto it, face down
* glue the side (side is not resting on the MDF piece.)

After glueing the two short side, trim them down with the router or sander as well.

Then glue the long sides. Use again a piece of 6mm wood, to check for a consistent border around the piece.

Tip : I noticed that after glueing the Wenge onto the triplex, the whole base was no longer flat. Apparently the Wenge wood was more alive than the triplex. So I put clamps at the long ends first, then flattened the piece towards the center, and put 3 additional clamps there.

After the long sides have been glued (and dried), use your Jig Saw to cut an S-shape at the end.
I cut a scrap piece into this shape first, then using this as a template, you can have the same shape at all 4 ends.
You could do this even better with the router, but I didn't have the right bit for it.

Step 4: Finishing Touch

Using the Orbital Sander, grain of 120 or 180, sand everything smooth.
By hand, sand down the edges until they are no longer sharp.

Apply wood oil.
I did NOT apply oil to the bottom side, as this side will touch the fabric of the sofa, and may get greasy from the oil.

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    17 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    While I do think your sofa tray is beautiful in many ways, I was disappointed to read that wenge wood comes from an endangered species of tree and from a war-torn, conflict riddle country too no less. I'm sure there are many other more sustainable kinds of woods out there that would be just as beautiful or at the very least a stain that could mimic the wenge wood adequately so that an endangered species did not have to be harvested.

    3 replies

    Walnut is another beautiful dark wood and it is sustainable and not as expensive either. It would work perfectly for this project.

    It sure is. See one of my other instructables, a pen box in Walnut.
    I have also made an office desk using walnut, but that project still needs to be documented as an instructable.

    Thanks and happy making!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Using wood in a sustainable way is a key matter to me. Unfortunately many of the special woods are tropical woods, and come from countries with the problems you mention. Nevertheless I think that simply not using those woods is hardly a solution. Using that wood in a design or product that lasts a lifetime, expresses how much I value its exceptional qualities, and I hope this inspires others to treat those kinds of wood with the same respect.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    If I had something like that in my tub,my skin would be shriveled,I had to start taking showers cause the bath toys are so much cooler than when I was a kid.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent design. I'm making one of these. Thanks for the idea.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable, I'll need to make two, one for each arm of the sofa. Never heard of wenge before I hope you used a mask while sanding since the link you posted said it's quite a bit of an irritant


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I've wanted to take up woodworking and this looks like a perfect first project. It's beautiful and so practical for my 2-hour baths. Thanks!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Adding this to the list of things I plan to do this winter vacations. Beautiful place for a bottle of Scotch! And you have it neat -- the only way to drink it. Kudos.