Introduction: Breakfast Tray

Picture of Breakfast Tray

For a fun first foray into the fashioning of fine glue-up woodcrafts, this breakfast tray is a pretty fun project. I made this as a Christmas gift for my sister-in-law, and the basic design is inspired by this tray by Roaming Roots Woodwork on Etsy.

Material list: ~ $25

  • 3/4-inch light-colored wood (maple, poplar, birch...)
  • 3/4-inch dark-colored wood (walnut, oak, cherry...)
  • Wood glue
  • Wood finish
  • 4x wood screws and two strips of heavy leather

I went to a local hard-wood store and found a 4-foot long, 6-inch wide board of maple and another of machiche* for under $25 total.

Tools list:

  • Table saw
  • Chop saw
  • Clamps
  • Drill
  • Sander
  • Paint prush

*At least I think it was machiche... I forgot what the guy said it was at the store. It looked nice and was reasonably priced.

Step 1: Review the Design

Picture of Review the Design

I used Inkscape (a free graphic arts program) to draw up a pattern and verify dimensions. Here they are, down to the 1/32-inch.

If you're like me, you don't have the skills to cut that precisely, so you'll be doing some adjusting as you go.

Step 2: Rip to 1-1/2 Inch Wide

Picture of Rip to 1-1/2 Inch Wide

Use a table saw to rip your boards to 1-1/2 inch wide. These will be the building blocks of the design.

Step 3: Cut Dark Strips to Length

Picture of Cut Dark Strips to Length

Use a chop saw to cut eight 1-1/2-inch boards to length:

  • 2x 15-1/2-inch long
  • 2x 14-inch long
  • 2x 12-1/2-inch long
  • 2x 11-inch long

Step 4: Glue Up the Dark Boards

Picture of Glue Up the Dark Boards

There is a lot of lore out there on how to make perfect glue-ups. Basically, it boils down to getting good clean surfaces, smearing them with wood glue, and clamping them well. There are special tools for getting more surface area, special ways of lining up the wood grain, etc., but two good clean square joints are the simplest and arguably the best way to go.


  • Try not to glue more than 3 boards (two glue-joints) at a time.

  • Hold the boards together and check for gaps. If you can see light between them, try to sand or plane the boards until you can't.

If you've got an hour, watch this great video by Jim Heavey of WOOD Magazine; he distills 20 years of experience pretty succinctly.

Step 5: Cut & Glue Short, Light-Colored Pieces

Picture of Cut & Glue Short, Light-Colored Pieces

Cut eight 2-1/2-inch lengths of your light-colored wood and glue them on. I glued them in pairs and used some home-made clamp extensions (since my clamps weren't long enough).

Step 6: Cut a "V" in the Glued-up Board.

Picture of Cut a "V" in the Glued-up Board.

Step 7: Clean Up the "V"

Picture of Clean Up the "V"

Depending on your cutting skills, you may need to do some sanding to clean up the edges.

Step 8: Cut the Final Pieces to Fit

Picture of Cut the Final Pieces to Fit

Rather than cutting these last few pieces according to the original plan, I took measurements directly off of the glued-up boards and cut them to fit, making small adjustments until everything lined up well.

Step 9: Do Final Glue-Up

Picture of Do Final Glue-Up

I used two long clamps with extensions to glue the final pieces.

Step 10: Sand and Trim Edges

Picture of Sand and Trim Edges

Sand the top surface of the tray. I used 80-grit on a belt sander to get everything flush, then moved through 100, 150, and 180 grit on a random-orbit sander to get the surface ready for finishing.

If all your edges aren't perfectly flush, trim them with a table saw.

Step 11: Cut Edge Pieces

Picture of Cut Edge Pieces

Rip a few strips of your light-colored board to 1 inch. Then cut 45-degree angles to make edge-pieces.

Refer to the original design for approximate dimensions, but you'll probably have to adjust for the actual size of your tray.

Step 12: Glue Two Edge Pieces

Picture of Glue Two Edge Pieces

I set the tray on four nuts to position it relative to the edges, then glued and clamped the long edges.

I could really use some longer clamps.

Step 13: Trim and Glue the Last Two Edges

Picture of Trim and Glue the Last Two Edges

With two edges installed, you can make adjustments to fit the final edges exactly before gluing them up.

Step 14: Drill Holes for Handles

Picture of Drill Holes for Handles

Drill holes for the wood-screws you plan to attach the leather handles with.

Step 15: Apply Finish

Picture of Apply Finish

Apply the finish of your choice. I used a few thin coats of water-based polyurethane (Varathane).

Step 16: Cut and Finish Leather Handles

Picture of Cut and Finish Leather Handles

Cut a few strips of leather, punch holes in the ends, and finish however you like. I used a beveler and slicker on the edges, painted them with Edge Kote, and then rubbed on some antiquing gel to give the leather a nice color.

Use something sturdy: 4-8 oz leather would be great.

Step 17: Attach the Leather Handles and Admire

Picture of Attach the Leather Handles and Admire

Use wood-screws to attach the leather handles and enjoy your tray.


sleeepy2 (author)2017-01-19

I love your clamping jig in step 5. Definitely filing that away for future use!

solobo (author)sleeepy22017-01-19

Thanks! I found that tip online somewhere... can't remember where.

solobo (author)sleeepy22017-01-19

Thanks! I found that tip online somewhere... can't remember where.

John Morrissey (author)2017-01-19

Very Nice! Will definitely make one. Many thanks for posting.

Josehf Murchison (author)2017-01-19

Very nice.

TonyB193 (author)2017-01-07

Nice job!

solobo (author)TonyB1932017-01-07


Modern Rustic Workshop (author)2017-01-05

Love the design and the handles look awesome!


mlawing (author)2016-12-28

Lovely! Great project and article!

solobo (author)mlawing2016-12-28


Neeraj Juneja (author)2016-12-25

Looks really good. Very nicely done! I'm assuming it's relatively heavy?

solobo (author)Neeraj Juneja2016-12-27

Thanks! No, it's not bad... about the same as a 13x9 glass baking dish I'd say.

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