I often make serving trays for friends and clients, using
some decorative veneer on the main part of the tray. Judy
suggested that the panel of a serving tray is very much like
the student panel, and if the students made a panel for a
tray, they could take it home and complete the tray -
leaving them with something useful instead of just a
"student panel". I liked the idea and will introduce it in
my classes. This tutorial covers how to make a rectangular
serving tray, from laying the veneer on the substrate to
making the sides and applying the finish.
This project is somewhat long. There are a lot of steps, and
you have to wait between some of the steps (such as letting
the veneer tape dry). After doing your own serving tray,
perhaps you'll appreciate this story. I had a woman contact
me about my trays. She wanted several as gifts for friends.
After I told her the price, she was aghast - "I thought
they'd cost about $35 each" she said. Needless to say, she
didn't buy any trays.
If you find this tutorial valuable, I'd appreciate if you'd
send me an e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org just so I can know that people
are using the tutorial. Just put a subject line of
This section of the tutorial covers laying the veneer for
To start, let's see where we're heading. The picture below
shows the panel that I'm going to demonstrate how to make.
I'll also demonstrate how to make the sides of the tray
after the panel is completed.
Like the student panel, it consists of a four piece match of
quarter sawn ash, banding of bloodwood (and holly - students
will not be required to include the holly), and a border of
walnut. One thing that doesn't show in the pictures is that
the student panel is laid on a 3/4" substrate, while the
tray panel is laid on a 1/4" substrate. The tray panel is
also larger, close to 20" by 14".
Just as a note, quarter sawn ash is very easy to work with,
and that's why I use it for the beginning veneer class. If
you're experienced in working with veneer, you could use a
more difficult veneer, such as a burl or waterfall bubinga.
Both make a beautiful tray.
Let's get started!
You'll need the following tools and supplies for this
1/4" MDF for the substrate,
approximately 20" by 14".
Four consecutive pieces of field veneer.
Here I'm using ash.
Veneer for the banding. I used bloodwood
Veneer for the border and back. I used
3/4" blue tape.
A sponge in a container of water to wet
the veneer tape.
A 24" rule. If you use a "center
finding" rule some of the measurements will be easier.
A straight edge about 24 inches long.
Used when cutting the veneer.
A filleti guide for cutting the banding.
A 45 degree triangle, about 10 to 12"
long, with a scribe line down the middle.
A veneer saw.
A knife or knives for cutting the
A sharp chisel about 1/2" wide.
A sanding block.
A small combination square is valuable
for laying out the pattern.
A hinged mirror is helpful.
Glue to attach the veneer to the
substrate. I used regular white glue.
A veneer pressing system. I used a
veneer bag and a vacuum pump.
Before we get started, let me remind you of
the two rules of veneer work:
- Always work (cut) from the glue face.
- Veneer tape ONLY goes on the show face. When you go
to glue the veneer, there should not be ANY tape (blue
tape or veneer tape) on the glue face.
I didn't have any ash that was wide enough
for the tray panel so I made up pieces by putting two pieces
of veneer together. A four piece match requires four pieces
of consecutive veneer. This picture shows only one "layer"
of two pieces, which will be joined together. I arranged the
two pieces of veneer to get the best grain match between
them so that the joint will not be noticeable.
I sanded the edges to get a good joint, then taped them
together. I also applied veneer tape to the show face, but
I'll discuss that later. I did the same for all four pieces. When finished, I had
four pieces of consecutive veneer.