A Tray For Tea Part 3: Fretwork Sides

Back to the tea tray. . .

I had done a lot of focus and worry up to this point about the face of the tray, but there were the sides to consider. I poked around some online antique auction sites until I found a rectangular tray that tickled my fancy and worked from that,

I milled some walnut to 1/2" thick and what felt like the right width and set about dovetailing the corners.

I throw a lot of dovetails together quickly and carelessly. That's not to say they don't turn out tight and functional, but if they're not part of the visible design I pay no real attention to the ratio of my slope angle or perfectly even spacing, Close by eye is more than good enough for functional. When they pop up as a visible part of the design I switch gears and often I make a template to make sure everything looks right before I start. I'll use an offcut of the stock I'm dovetailing to make this template.

Then I sandwich both template and stock into the leg vise. Knife lines are easy to transfer from one piece to another. I'll take out the template, finish marking up the side and cut this half of the joint.

A little dovetail saw, followed by a coping saw and a little chisel work to pare the baselines and I'm off to using one side of the joint to mark the other. It's a pretty standard way to accomplish this and often the way I work. I will change my tricks if the situation calls for it.

I usually get pretty good results, but I cut them a lot. Practice is the key, nothing will replace time in the saddle.

Once all four sides were cut and joined to frame the tray, it was time to start the fretwork. First I drew out some full sized designs for the sides, mimicking the antique I found.

I only drew half a design for a long and a short side. Then I traced over my work with tracing paper and a very fine sharpie. Then I used our scanner/copier to make copies, two forward, two backwards by flipping the tracing paper over, The scanner can read the ink through just fine and makes a mirror image.

I glued the paper down to the prepared sides, drilled some holes, and began the longish process of sawing out the design. You can see my Knew Concepts fret saw in the photo. I'm getting used to it. There are things I like and don't like. I'd switch between this and my coping saw. The thing that worked well was using my version of Don William's Tilting Fretsaw Fixture. You can read more about this quick little marvel to build HERE.

Eventually all the cutting was done, but not all the work.

I'm not sure how much clean up the period piece would have received and some of the surfaces left by the saw were not bad, but some were pretty rough. This tea tray is a gift for one of my daughters so I'm after just about as perfect as I can manage. That meant working into each of the spaces with a selection of small rasps, floats, and files, followed by a little folded up strip of sandpaper.

One more dry fit before cleaning things up, gluing things up, and finishing things up. I am not unhappy with the look. I see mistakes of course and places to improve, but this is a piece I'm certain I will be proud of once finished.

Ratione et Passionis


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