From Start to Finish – Part 3 – Getting a Handle on It

During my last week with Doug there were many unfinished projects that I needed to wrap up including the wooden trays I have been working on for a while. Not only did I need to finish mine so I could bring them home, but Doug’s needed to be finished as well.

Doug decided we would take a day and work on them together; he would finish his and I would finish mine. So far the trays were all glued up, the handles had been cut and almost finished being sanded. The slip feather joints were complete and the edges of the trays had been sanded smooth.

To finish the handles I brought them home to hand sand them. I worked slowly on them until they were done then I brought them back to the shop and set them aside until they were ready to be glued and screwed on.

Looking at the trays Doug and I noticed that there was still glue stuck in corners and along the edges of the inside of the trays. We got chisels and worked on getting rid of it. Doug told me to be carful to not scratch or gauge the sides or the bottom of the trays. I tried my very hardest but was only slightly successful. It took me the same amount of time to remove the glue from one tray as it took Doug to remove it from three. He pointed this out saying, “Not to make you feel bad but I’ve done three and you are still on your first.” I couldn’t help it, it was awkward. But I got the hang of it a little better and the next three for me went faster.

When I was finally finished I used the orbital to go over the outside edges of the trays one last time and round the corners. Doug advised caution when doing this because when you are sanding an edge it’s putting pressure on one small spot on the sandpaper, which can wear it down a lot faster. If you wear it down too much you can go through the paper and ruin the pad underneath. This part didn’t take me too long, at least I though so.

Now the trays were ready to put handles on. The first step was to mark where the screws should go making sure they would be centered otherwise they would end up being crooked. I used the holes I had already drilled into the sides of the trays to figure out how far apart I should mark it. Next I drilled pilot holes making sure the holes were deep enough for the screws but not too deep that they would go all the way through.

The next step made me feel like a pansy. I had to screw the handles on. This in theory shouldn’t have been that hard; I had holes already drilled, everything lined up, all I had to do was stick a screw in and use an electric drill to do the rest. But I just couldn’t get it to go in. I pushed my hardest but the drill bit would just spin. It also make an awful creaking noise that made me feel like my handle was ready to split in half. So Doug drilled the first one for me, and the second one, and the third one. Each time I tried I was able to get it a little farther in before I had to call Doug over to help. By the last two I had it, I actually got them in and tight. Woohoo! And I thought I was strong, boy did those screws prove me wrong.


Handles with plugs glued on

Now it was time to fill on the holes that the screws were in with the plugs I had made previously. I squeezed a small circle of glue onto a piece of wood and dipped the plugs in swirling them around to get the glue up the side. Then I poked them into the hole and whacked them with a hammer a few times to make sure they were all the way in. Then I set the trays aside to dry overnight.

When I came back the next day Doug showed me how to chisel off excess part of the plugs that were sticking out. He had me put a piece of wood underneath to protect the bottom of the tray in case the chisel slipped. This was a really good idea although it didn’t protect the trays form me; I still managed to gauge the bottoms with my chisel. To get off most of the excess I knocked if off one small slice at a time with a mallet and chisel. Then to get the very last bit off I carefully scraped it off with the chisel. I scratched up the sides, which had finish on it, pretty bad but Doug said I would be sanding it a bit anyway so it wasn’t that big of a deal. I also cracked one of the plugs and had to glue it back on and let it dry overnight before I could carefully chisel it off again.


Almost finished trays

The last steps were to sand all the edges with fine grit sandpaper then slather it in a few coats of finish. I managed to get two coats on before the end of my last day. I will still need to sand it with 400 grit paper and buff it; I was able to take some sandpaper and duffy home with me so I will get to finish them.

These trays took me a long time to finish. Doug wasn’t expecting them to take so long but I am a beginner just starting out. I took my time and I did my best and I think they turned out very well. There are so many things I learned from this project. It seems like a small project but there were a lot of steps, I got to use a lot of tools, and I learned a whole bunch. I am excited to give some of my trays as gifts to friends and family and I can’t wait to use mine to see how well they hold up.

Also the last week I helped Doug make salt and pepper shakers and I got to make three sets for myself to bring home. I came close but I didn’t get to finish them, hopefully someday I will.


Salt and pepper shakers