Project: Lap Tray
Date: December 30, 2014
Description: I wanted a work surface to use while sat on the couch. This meant that I needed a surface that would be just above my lap and be able to hold my laptop, papers and a wireless mouse.
Steps to building the Lap Tray:
1: Tools & Safety
5: Cut materials
Step 1: Tools & Safety
Safety - This always comes first:
1 Eye Protection
2 Ear Protection
3 Table Saw Push Stick
4 Knowledge of proper tool use
Tools - for this project I used the following tools:
1 Table Saw
2 Band Saw
3 Drill and Bits
5 Screw Driver
6 Tape Measure
Step 2: Measurements
To take measurements I knew that I wanted the tray to be just above my lap when sitting on my couch. To do this, I took a tape measure and found the top of my thigh and added 1" to give some room. Then I took the measurement of my laptop footprint, I also wanted to account for some space for papers and a mouse. For this, i guessed the size by laying the material I would use to make the tray on my lap.
Step 3: Design
After making all your measurements be sure to make a clear and easy design. I used a free 3D design computer software (SketchUp) to make my models.
Step 4: Materials
1 Wood: MDF boarding I had in the garage and excess oak trimmings for framing around MDF.
Note: I would suggest something light a tight grain pine/poplar board which is inexpensive and strong. Calculate this cost at about $6.99
2: Stain: Ebony Minwax in the small container costs $3.97
3: Piano Hinges: 1.5"x12" for two of them at $4.99 a piece.
Total material cost: $16.94
Step 5: Cut Materials
Using the measurements I took and dimensions I calculated from my 3D computer model, I marked the appropriate lines on the wood and carefully cut the material.
Remember measure twice, cut once.
Note that I put a oak rim around my MDF boarding to prevent the screws from pulling out when I mounted the hinges. Seen being cut by the band saw, these oak edges outlines all three pieces, sides and top. This was done by gluing the pieces together edge-on-edge contact using TightBond II glue. This step is not necessary if using the solid pine or popular board outlined in the materials section.
Step 6: Mock-Up
After making cuts and adjustments to the pieces of wood, always mock-up your design to make sure that corners and pieces align. If you notice anything that needs to be changed, now is time to do so.
Step 7: Sanding
After the mock-up was complete sanding started. I used a Dewalt Orbital Sander using 150 & 220 grit sandpaper. The reason for sanding was to make sure the surface was flat and smooth for writing as well as there were not edges between the MDF and oak trim around the outside edge of the board. After spending little time the boards looked great. This can also be done by hand.
Step 8: Stain
For this project there were two parts to staining after the materials had been prepped.
1: Work space
I used a well ventilated area where not only could my projects dry but the fumes of the stain would not have to be constantly breathed in. I placed old news paper on the floor surface to catch drips and excess stain. The materials were elevated off the surface of the paper so that I could stain multiple edges at once.
As can be seen in the picture I used MinWax Woof Finish Ebony stain for this projects. I also have a foam applicator brush. This is not necessary, as a old rag or t-shirt material can be used and thrown away after use or the stain has dried on it. Be sure to only apply 2-3 coats of stain to prevent saturation of stain. Allow 6+ hours between coats to make sure for a full cure.
Step 9: Assembly
Make sure that your hinges are the proper length for your project. If they are too long this can be easily fixed by using a hack saw and file to cut to proper length and finish.
Measure the placements of the hinges and mark the pilot holes so that they can be properly drilled. Once drilled, attach hinges using provided screws.
After all parts are connected, stand up and make sure that the leg angles are correct. Make needed adjustments to the hinges and screws to fix leg angles and height.
And there you have it. A simple weekend project to make a lap tray. Easily to build, cheap to make and satisfying to build. Hope you enjoyed. Please feel free to ask any questions.