Canadian Woodworking

Patio tray

Author: Michel Theriault
Illustration: Mike Del Rizzo
Published: June July 2006

This simple tray will make outdoor meals much easier this summer. You can use it to carry the small items you need out to your patio table from the kitchen, then back inside again.


This tray is made from oak. However, almost any wood will work just fine. We used contrasting screw hole plugs. You could use plugs that match your wood.

The bottom of the tray is made from matching oak veneer plywood, but an alternative is to use contrasting plywood for added effect.

Transfer end pattern using template

Cut out end profile

Rout dados in end pieces

Routed end

Assemble tray

• Use a table saw to cut the end (A) and side (B) pieces to the correct width, and then cut them to length. Cut the bottom piece (C) to size as well.

• Use a template to transfer the end profile to the end pieces. Hold the template in position and trace the template with a pencil, making sure the line is dark enough to see when bandsawing.

• Bandsaw the end profiles by following the line you drew on the end pieces. Stay just outside the line. You could also use a jigsaw.

• Sand the sawn edges by hand or with a drum sander mounted in your drill press.

• Set up your router table with a ¼” spiral bit, protruding ¼” from the table. Set the fence approximately 3⁄16″ from the router bit.

• Using a push stick, run both side pieces through, cutting a ¼” x ¼” dado along the length. If you use the same technique on the end pieces, the dado will be visible on the side, so you need to make a stopped dado (Canadian Woodworking, Feb/Mar ’06, Issue #40).

• Mark the position of the router bit on the fence to use as a guide, then make a mark on both ends of the end pieces ½” in from the end.

• Carefully holding the end piece, lower it onto the router bit, ensuring that the mark on the wood lines up with the mark on the fence. Use a push stick for safety.

• Run the end piece through the router bit, holding it against the fence, until the mark on the other end of the end piece lines up with the mark on the fence. Then, turn off the router and lift the stock off the table.

• Mark the screw holes for the handles on the end pieces, ensuring the handles will be centered. Drill holes for the handle screws and, if desired, drill countersunk holes for the screw heads on the inside.

• Apply glue to the mating surfaces and assemble the tray with the bottom in place. Clamp it together, making sure that the ends are flush on the side and the bottom. If they are not flush on the top where the side pieces meet the end pieces, you will have to sand it down flush. Mark the ends for the screw holes ⅜” from the edge, ¾” and 2″ up from the bottom. Drill countersunk holes for the screws.

• Screw the tray together and insert screw hole plugs. Sand the plugs flush.

• Sand all the edges to soften them, and then sand the entire tray, starting with #80 grit and finishing with #220 grit.

• Apply several coats of your favourite finish. Now you can enjoy fewer trips for refreshments, and spend more time on the patio relaxing.

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