Everyday Carry Trays (or, Jewelry Boxes?)

UPDATE: The red laminate version of this is available in my Etsy store — go there now1

Admittedly, there’s been a minute since my last post here, but it isn’t because I’ve been slacking.  Rather, my day job has been busier than usual, which means my hobby gets pushed slightly aside.

To be fair, I’ve tried to be busy with that too.  One thing I’ve been doing is collecting junk chairs from the side of the road for repair/refinishing.  One of the chairs will need significant work in refinishing, another will probably need a top down rebuild with about half the chair being replaced.  Why do this repair/refinishing work?  Practice, I suppose.  And also because I can’t stand seeing something that’s basically useful being junked because somebody didn’t want to spend a little time with it.  Do I have a plan for the chairs once they’re finished?  Not really, but that’s not why I do this sort of thing.

Built in — Ignore the shoes on the floor and other clutter

On top of that, I’ve actually gotten three projects completed that I’ve not been able to write anything about it.  One of them is a built-in dresser for the bedroom my wife wanted.  It’s nothing overly fancy, just made out of birch and maple plywood with a bit of a utilitarian look about it.  I’m not sure I actually will post anything on this because when I call it a built in dresser I mean I literally made plywood boxes held together with mechanical fasteners.  It’s not exactly the sort of thing you’d call heirloom quality, even if they are built out of good plywood.

The second project is I built a table for the coffee maker in my office at work.  While the table does look nice, perhaps the most interesting thing about it is I decided instead of using mortise and tenon joinery, I’d use sliding dovetails.  When I get to posting on that, I’ll talk more about the lessons of that.

Now, both of these projects took a little bit of time, partially because the cold weather through January and February slowed things down.  My shop is basically unheated, and even when I run two heaters at the same time I can only ever seem to generate enough heat to bring things up to around 45 degrees in the winter.  Now, the cold I can deal with, because I know how to wear a coat and long underwear.  But I can’t put long underwear on glue, which has a tendency to freeze and dehydrate in the cold, which means it doesn’t actually perform as glue anymore. 

Then, there is an issue of shop space, and how just as I started working on my two projects, my son decided he wanted to build a dresser, which he’s still not done with and we’re now almost into April.  Trying to work around two fairly large projects has not been my favorite.

Still, amongst the slow-going glue process with the table and dresser, I worked on project number three and in some way that’s turned into a dry run for a project my wife has been on me about for years, which is to build her a jewelry box from walnut.

The dry run all started with me making a tray to go on top of the new dresser for all the every-day-carry stuff I lug around in my pockets.  Pens and knife and lip balm and wallet and the like.  The intent here was to work on some small project for myself that would make the top of the dresser look a bit tidier, which certainly makes my wife happy.

Of course, this went through a variety of iterations to explore the type of tray that I liked.

Version #1 — Walnut

The first was made of walnut and I liked it, but it seemed a bit on the small side, and a bit on the chunky side.  And it didn’t look elegant, made as it was from a walnut board with some walnut strips glued to the top.  There was no fancy finishes at all, it was just what it was.  Plus, I was a little sloppy with the glue, so that kind of put a damper on things.

20210330_074542The second go round I tried to make something that might look a little more elegant.  This time I used a piece of solid ash, only instead of gluing on strips I tried to free-hand route out the little divots that everything would fit into.  This was tedious and was basically unsuccessful, and would probably look good if a CNC did the work, but I don’t have a CNC, nor do I want one.  (No shade at people who use CNCs – it’s just not the kind of woodworking I want to do).

Version #3

A third go-round resulted in a much larger tray.  This was made from ash, walnut and paduak, and while it has a generous number of trays, and looks a little more elegant with a fairly steep bevel on the underside, it’s also fairly large and takes up a lot of real estate on the dresser top. 

After the third go-round I actually switched from making one tray to a pair of trays that would fit into a little cabinet.  Which is a long way around of saying I built a tiny dresser to go on top of the actual dresser.  But, even then, I couldn’t really decide which way I wanted it, so I built a two-drawer model (above), and a four-drawer model (at the top of this post), from birch plywood.  These were fun little things to make, finished off with some small pulls, and on the two-drawer models I decided to try applying red laminate to the tops and drawer fronts — that turned out pretty well and I quite like the look of it.  In the end, I’m not sure which of these I’m going to keep and how I’ll move on the rest.  At the moment I’m giving the two-drawer version a test run, and I’ll see about the four drawer model later.  Either way, I have a way to corral the clutter from the dresser, which will make the wife happy.

Anyway, somewhere in there I realized that as I moved from trays to drawers that I was basically building some jewelry boxes, only for a man.  And while I wouldn’t build this sort of jewelry box for the wife, these have informed the project I’m going to undertake for her.  In particular, it gave me more of an opportunity to practice my drawer building skills, particularly building several drawers at once, of uniform size.  It gave me the chance to determine which thickness of wood would be best for the cabinet of this jewelry box.

 Share your opinions, idea in the comments if you like.  Or, visit my Etsy store – maybe one day one of these will show up there.

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