Monday, August 16, 2010

Constructing a Tray Table Part 1

Shown above is a Regency style tray table that I recently made for a client. He provided the tray and I designed and built the table. I have done quite a number of these over the years. It seems to be a very popular way to display and use a decorated tray.

The antique trays that I see are typically mid- to late nineteenth century, made of papier mache, and wonderfully decorated with paint, gold leaf and mother of pearl. In the twentieth century they began to make the trays of metal. These decorated metal items are known as toleware.

The tables are most often black, but sometimes red, picked out with gold. The legs are lathe-turned and have a nice little turn-out at the bottom, reminiscent of a french foot found on many Hepplewhite case pieces.

I start by making a template of the tray by tracing the actual tray. Then using a flat washer of the right size, I run the washer around the tray with a pencil in the hole giving me a 1/4" offset from the tray perimeter. This results in a slightly larger frame than the tray, which protects the fragile edges.

I stack laminate two rectangles of 3/4" poplar and when the glue drys lay on the template. Cut the outer shape using a band saw or jig saw and clean up to the line with spokeshave, rasps and sandpaper.

I figure out the required width of the frame, based on the width of the flat perimeter of the tray, and scribe that dimension on the frame.

All that's left is to cut the inside shape; this must be done with the jig saw. This can be left unfinished, right from the saw. In Part 2 I'll discuss making the legs.

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