The headline is a bit of misstatement…because unlike my students, who did indeed start and finish their dovetailed silverware trays last Saturday and Sunday, I finally got around to gluing up mine today. (What can I say…I was busy teaching!)
It’s a simple but elegant project that can be made quickly (which means it’s a perfect candidate if you need a handmade gift for someone!), and a good piece on which to learn or practice dovetails.
The tray is a classic Shaker design that I adapted from a Christopher Schwarz article in Popular Woodworking – I can’t repeat the article here of course, but it’s free online on the magazine’s site. The difference between that one and the one on the right above is the way the bottom is attached.
In the original, it’s a one-board bottom with rabbeted edges that fit into grooves in the ends and sides. We didn’t have the time or hand tools on hand for that (the weekend goal was for everyone to improve their dovetails); instead, we nailed in 1/4″ x 1/4″ retaining strips flush with the bottom edges, then fit shiplapped boards inside to rest on the strips (with an optional 1/8″ bead on the top tongue…which I think everyone cut, because beading planes are irresistible)! I told everyone that I prefer to leave the bottom boards loose, so that one can take them out for easy cleaning. (I don’t think they believed me – but it’s true!)
Each student went home happy (I hope!), with a glued-up and bottomed tray, instructions for final planing (after the Old Brown Glue set up a bit longer), and suggestions for finish (BLO or oil/varnish blend).