Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wooden Lap Tray

My girlfriend and I have a very nice dining room table, but when football or Breaking Bad is on TV, we often eat in our comfy recliners in the living room.  My girlfriend bought a nifty little lap try, which I believe she spent $20 on.

I think I want to make one for myself, spending somewhere in the vicinity of $0.  This piece will be made out of palette wood.  First step was to pick a few pieces of wood and remove all the nails that were stuck inside it.

Removing these nails aren't difficult, just time consuming.  After a while I had several pieces of palette wood to choose from.

Next I used my newest toy - my tabletop surface planer!

This awesome tool takes a rough, uneven piece of palette wood...

...and smooths and levels it.

I am still amazed that the very rough, splintery and often ugly pieces of palette wood can easily be transformed into beautiful, usable wood.

After planing several boards, I picked 4 that I liked.

I then measured and trimmed the wood with my miter saw to be the same length.

The length of each board is fine, but the thin sides of each board are uneven. I used my table saw to trim each board, making each side straight.

The thicknesses of each board are also slightly off, so I went back to my surface planer and trimmed each board until they were all the same thickness.

Unfortunately these boards are a little too thin to attach to each other using pocket screws, so I cut another piece of planed palette wood to attach the top boards to.

I cut the sides straight using the table saw, then I cut 3 strips with my miter saw.

2 of these boars will go on the ends, with one in the middle.

I attached the bottom boards to the tops using glue and brad nails.

The brad nails I have were too long... I trimmed them using the saw attachment on my dremel.

Then I cleaned up the bottoms with my table belt sander.

Next I used some more palette wood and cut some strips.

I mitered the corners and created a frame around the top of the tray.

Then I cut some more strips...

...and made some trim for the sides.

So far it's coming along nicely.

Then I applied some wood filler to fill in some small gaps, mostly holes from the nails.

Once the filler dried, I sanded.

I then decided to close off the bottom.  For this I used more palette wood.  Once again I straightened the sides with the table saw...

...and made sure all the thicknesses were equal with my surface planer.

Then I attached the boards with glue and brads.

For the overhanging wood, I trimmed it with my jigsaw.

Then I sanded the bottom and edges.

Next, I wanted the bottom to be contoured so they sit on my lap well.  To do this I decided to use two  2x4's.

Using my saw table at 45 degrees, I began rounding the shape of the wood studs.

The pieces of wood will be at both ends on the bottom of the tray.

Then I used my miter saw to angle the 2 square edges.

Next I rounded all the edges with my belt sander.

Looking good!

Unfortunately I can't simply glue and nail this to the tray, so I drilled some 3/8" holes that went halfway through each piece of wood.

Then I drilled smaller holes that went completely through.  This made it easy to screw the pieces in place.  When everything fit right, I removed the screws, added glue, and then re-screwed them in.

To fill in the holes from the 3/8" drill bit, I used a 3/8" dowel with glue and plugged it in.

Then I used a hand saw to cut it.

Once all the holes were plugged and sanded I added wood filler to the whole bottom.

When the filler dried I sanded.

There are still several spots in need of filler, so I filled once again...

...then sanded once again.

For the top of the tray, I used wood filler to smooth out the edges and corners for each level of wood.  I used a damp rag to smooth it out further instead of sandpaper.

Then I gave the whole tray a good cleaning and prepped for staining.

The stain I used was an espresso polyshades (polyshades is stain + polyurethane).

Next I added finishing wax once the stain dried.

I placed the tray outside to air out.

And I'm done!

I tried it out that evening with my dinner and it worked great!

This whole tray (with the exceptions of the two 2x4's) was made entirely out of palette wood.  I think it turned out great, and I'm looking forward to more projects using palette wood and my surface planer.  Thanks for reading!

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