If you have access to a shop, it makes perfect sense to jump at the opportunity to upcycle discarded materials into entirely new designs when creativity strikes. For woodworker Alex Fang, this came in the form of creating a sleek paper tray using scrap wood from his past projects.
After picking out the scraps that will produce the least amount of additional scrap waste, Alex begins by cutting them down to size and flattening with a jointer before bringing them down to a uniform thickness on a planer. To cap off the resizing, he cuts the wood down to a similar width using a table saw while adding a small slit in each piece to hold the tray bottom.
He then lays down the freshly-prepped pieces in what will be their final arrangement and stencils out the angles each board will have to be cut to fit together perfectly. He sets his saw at a 45-degree angle and cuts both ends of each board. To connect the pieces, he applies wood glue and holds them in place using duct tape. Since he still needs space to slit the bottom of the tray into place, he leaves one side of the tray unglued and holds it in place with a piece of tape.
With the borders finished, he can finally take measurements to determine the size of the tray bottom. He then takes these dimensions and cuts out a piece of wood thin enough to fit into the slits of the borders. He then seals off the tray bottom by gluing the final border into place using the same glue-tape method he used for the other edges.
He performs this process two more times; ending with three similar trays that can stack atop one another. He then lets the glue dry before getting back to cutting the bevels for the trays. He sands these edges out and applies some varnish to them to give them a clean finish.
To hold the trays together, he takes additional wood from his past projects and cuts them down to size. Since these pieces have more imperfections than the wood used to make the trays, he wraps these in some MDF panels before applying a mixture of wood epoxy and green pigments to keep them together. With the epoxy dried, he pries the wood out from the panels before running them through a planer to flatten them down.
With the majority of the parts he needs, he puts the finished pieces side by side to see how far the trays can lean back with the current length of the side panels. He then marks the measurements accordingly before cutting the appropriate slits, which allows the trays to slide back and forth from the panels. After cutting additional slits to fit the floor of the file tray, Alex glues everything together and cuts a few more bevels to give the edges a nice, polished finish.
Of course, if you’re following along, you could add a coat of paint to make it stand out a bit more, but Alex seems satisfied with the modern, natural vibe this unpainted tray gives off. Not only did he manage to make something to organize his workspace better, but he was able to make good use of unwanted scrap wood lying around his workshop.