PROJECT: Utensil Tray

PROJECT: Utensil Tray

This silverware and utensil tray has enough spaces in its main compartment to keep your forks, knives and spoons in order. There’s also a rear compartment that can be used to store steak knives or as more divided space for other larger items.

I decided to use my router table to form all the grooves, rabbets and dadoes in this project, but you could also do all the machining with a table saw and dado blade. Feel free to modify the positions of the dadoes shown in the Drawings to create spacing that suits your needs best.

Cutting rabbet for silverware tray joinery
The author used a 1/2″-diameter straight bit, raised to 1/4″ cutting height, to mill a rabbet on each end of the tray sides.

Start construction by cutting all the parts to size as specified in the Material List. Then install a 1/2″-diameter straight bit in the router table. Raise the bit to 1/4″ and set the fence so the back of the bit is flush with the fence facings. Rout a 1/2″-wide x 1/4″-deep rabbet in each end of the tray sides to capture the front and back pieces. Next, cut the 1/2″-wide x 1/4″-deep dadoes in the tray sides for the cross and rear dividers. Be sure to remember that the tray sides are mirror opposites of each other.

Milling More Grooves, Dadoes

Setting up straight router bit for cutting tray joint
The back of the bit was set flush with the fence facings.

Switch to a 1/4″ straight bit, set its height to 1/4″ and position the fence 1/4″ away from the back of the bit. Go ahead and mill a groove for the tray’s bottom panel along the inside faces of the tray sides, front and back, along the full length of these parts.

Guiding cut for installing bottom panel in tray
Plow a 1/4″ x 1/4″ groove along the inside face of the tray front, back and side workpieces for the bottom panel. Locate these grooves 1/4″ up from the bottom edges of the parts.

You can use the same bit at the same height to rout the four dadoes in the tray front and cross divider that will hold the silverware dividers. I found it helpful to tape these two pieces together with their ends aligned so I could rout both parts at the same time. It ensures that the dadoes will line up with one another correctly when the tray is assembled.

Cutting slots for making dividers in silverware tray
Rout four 1/4″-deep x 1/4”-wide dadoes across the inside faces of the tray front and cross divider to house the silverware dividers. Taping these parts together ensures that the dadoes will align.

Now, gather the four silverware dividers so you can draw a large radius on the top edge of each to mark their recessed cutouts. To lay these out, first draw a centerline across the width of each divider, and mark the center point of these lines (it establishes the apex of the curve).

Marking the cutting lines for curved silverware dividers
Lay out the silverware divider recesses with a compass opened to a 4-1/2″ radius. Locate the apex of these curves at the center of the parts. A line drawn on the bench can register the compass point.

Open a compass to 4-1/2″ then set up for drawing each curve. I just drew a line on my workbench, aligned it with the centerline on each silverware divider, and used the bench layout line to locate the point of my compass for drawing the radius. Cut the recesses out at your band saw, and sand the curves smooth.

Assembling the Tray, Adding Optional Parts

Test fitting the parts of the silverware tray
Assemble the tray’s front, back, sides, cross divider and bottom with glue and a band clamp. The silverware dividers are only dry-fitted here, so they can be removed, if needed.

Sand all the parts you’ve made so far up to 180-grit. Then assemble the tray, applying glue to the corner rabbets, bottom grooves and dadoes for the cross divider. I used a band clamp to hold the parts securely. When you tighten it, be careful that the tray remains square; its diagonal measurements should match. I didn’t glue the silverware dividers or rear divider in place so those can be removed if my storage needs change. After the glue dried, I simply top-coated the tray with wipe-on poly to match the knife block.

Using table saw to cut slots for knife holder
Cutting a series of saw kerfs across a scrap workpiece is a quick option for creating a slotted steak knife holder for the tray’s rear compartment.

One option for filling the tray’s rear compartment is with a steak knife holder. Making it is simple: I just cut 1/2″-deep kerfs for the knife blades across the face of a 3/4″ x 5″ x 6-3/4″ piece of scrap walnut. I spaced the knife-blade slots 3/4″ apart, with this spacing centered on the slots. The steak knife holder fits the tray if the rear divider is removed.

Silverware tray for installing in a drawer

Not all steak knives will be long enough to fill the area that’s left for their handles beside the knife block. So, I cut a 3/4″ x 1″ x 5″ filler block and placed that behind the ends of the handles to prevent the knives from sliding out of their blade slots.

Click Here to Download the Drawings and Materials List.

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