Making a Rectangular Serving Tray

P. Michael Henderson


If you recall, when I drew out the pattern on the substrate, the field was 14 5/8" by 8 5/8".  I now want to cut my veneer to that size with the vertical and horizontal joints centered.  I do that by dividing the field sizes by two and measuring that distance from the appropriate joint.  If you have a center finding rule, it's much easier because you can use the center finding scale to lay in the actual measurements from each joint.

Draw cut lines for the field and extend the lines all the way to the edge of the veneer.

Before you cut the veneer, there's a way to check if you did your measurements correctly.  It'd be really disheartening to find that you cut the field too small.  Put your field veneer on top of your substrate where you drew the pattern for the design and check if your measurements are correct.

Then cut along the lines. I cut the sides (short area) first, then along the top and bottom.  You can lay your field on the substrate to see how accurately you were able to measure and cut.  The fit is pretty good here.

Next, we're going to prepare the banding.  First, I'm going to cut the narrow (1/16") strips of holly.  To do this accurately, I use a filleti guide to position the straightedge (I demonstrate the use of the filleti guide in my class).  Since I'm going to put a piece of holly on both sides of the larger banding, I need eight strips of holly.

You can see the strips of holly in the picture below. 


I'll next cut the larger pieces of banding (1/4").  I'm using bloodwood for this banding because it's bright and matches well with the ash and the walnut, and bloodwood keeps its color over time (it doesn't fade very much).  I'll need at least four pieces of bloodwood.

It's good to sand the edges of the holly and bloodwood.  I do this by drawing the strip through my fingers over the sanding block.  Other techniques can be used.

We need some method of holding the banding strips in place as we lay them in place.  To do this, I use 1" blue tape.

Start by cleaning the work surface very carefully.  Get as much dust and swarf off the surface as you possibly can.  Then lay your field veneer show side UP (note that the veneer tape is showing), and put a strip of blue tape around the outside of the field veneer.  The blue tape should only cover a small amount of the field veneer, maybe 1/8". 


Then carefully pull the package (the veneer and blue tape) up and turn it over so the sticky side of the blue tape is up.  If you didn't clean the work surface carefully, the blue tape will be covered with swarf and you won't be able to get the banding to stick to it. 


Start by laying a strip of holly against the ash.  I use my fingernail to pull the holly tight to the ash as I lay it.  I simultaneously press the holly down into the blue tape.  Then lay the strip of bloodwood, then another strip of holly.  When you finish, your veneer will look like the following.  

On each corner, make sure the strips overlap as shown.  Do not interlace the strips at the corners.

We need to cut a good, clean miter joint at each corner.  The easiest way to do this is to use a chisel - a good sharp chisel.  Align the chisel with the inside and outside corners where the banding meets.  Be careful not to cut the ash veneer.  If you cut the ash veneer, you're likely to find that the ash veneer will break on the corner, leaving you with a gap in that corner.  It's possible to repair that but I can't go into that here.

Make the cut with one push.  I lean over and use the weight of my upper body to make one good push.  If you have problems pushing by hand, use a mallet and give the chisel ONE good tap, sufficient to cut through all of the banding in one cut. 

This is what it should look like after you make your cut.

Do this same cut on the other three corners.  This is what your work will look like after making the cuts.

Now we need to cut the walnut for the border.  If you recall, I drew a 2" border around the field and banding.  I don't want my border to be too small, so I'm going to cut it a bit wider, about 2 1/8".  The part that's really important is that all pieces of border be exactly the same width.  Since I have four sides, I need four pieces of veneer for the border.

I cut the four pieces to width and sand the edges so they're straight and smooth.

Start by laying in the first piece of veneer tight against the banding and press it into the blue tape.  Then lay in the second piece on the adjacent side.  The way they overlap at the corner is important.  If you're right handed, you want the overlap to be as shown. If you're left handed, you want the overlap to be opposite the one shown.  The reason will be explained in the next few pictures.

After laying all four pieces, this is what your veneer will look like. 

We need to make a miter cut at each corner.  This is done by placing the straight edge from the inside corner of two pieces of walnut, to the outside corner of two pieces of walnut.  We're going to use a knife to make this cut.

And this is the reason why the overlap matters: you want the top piece of the overlap to not be under your straight edge.  As you cut through the veneer, the top piece will fall away and not interfere with your cut of the bottom piece.  I'm holding the knife in my left hand, even though I'm right handed, because I have the camera in my right hand.  I made the cut with my right hand.

This is what your corner should look like after making your cut.

Tape the corner.


Cut the other three corners the same way, and tape them, also.

Then put blue tape over the banding (on the glue face).

Turn the veneer over and remove the blue tape from the show face. 


Apply veneer tape on the show face over the banding and the mitered corners.  Then put it under your bench protector so that it dries flat.



The tutorial continues here.