Espresso Tray (in Bolivian Rosewood)

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Project by thiel posted 08-03-2009 05:41 AM 2697 views 2 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Two things are clear from this project:

1) If you learn by making mistakes, then I learned A LOT on this one :)

2) This is most beautiful wood I’ve worked with.

I bought some fancy woods without knowing what I wanted to do with them, and I settled on doing some trays for potential gifts and such. I figured it would be a good way to learn about these specific woods without breaking the bank. This piece is Bolivian Rosewood and the handles are scrap Peruvian Black Walnut that I had leftover from my Shaker Clock. It’s ~7.5×15.5 inches.

This rosewood is the prettiest I’ve ever worked with. It has long smooth lines of high contrast—caramel and walnut and ebony colored layers. The grain looks as if it is soft candy that has been stretched and stretched like taffy, and the wood itself is smooth and silky to the touch. On the downside, I’d have to describe it as “brittle” in some ways. Tough on tools. Tough to work. Lots of chip out.

Corners are dovetailed. The bottom SHOULD BE fitted some other way since the wood is bound to expand, but, well, I’ve learned now, haven’t I?

I resawed my boards and then bookmatched them. The bottom is a bookmatch, and the long sides are matched to each other—it gives an impression that the sides and bottom are all from the same board. The narrow ends had originally been cut from the same boards as the sides so it would be continuous, but I learned some more there and ended up using sections from the center of the book. I think it actually looks nice that way too.

This tray is the first of several “quick projects” I’m going to punch out, and while it’s pretty, it’s got some pretty HUGE problems. I haven’t puttied the problem areas yet, but I will. My wife plans to use it to serve espresso. Less than 10 minutes before it was done, I had no idea what to do with “whatever it is I’d made” and then I put the handles on and it occurred to me that it wasn’t a totally useless piece.

Finish is teak oil. I’m thinking of going over it with Arm-R-Seal with a coat of blonde shellac in-between. Thoughts?

I have enough wood left to make an additional one (with a center handle/divider). I’m gonna try not to learn anything on that one :-)


-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

14 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3601 days

#1 posted 08-03-2009 05:44 AM

Beautiful tray

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Innovator's profile


3584 posts in 3437 days

#2 posted 08-03-2009 05:56 AM

Very nice tray.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View scopemonkey's profile


188 posts in 4187 days

#3 posted 08-03-2009 05:59 AM

The wood is marvelous. If you made mistakes, you hid them well which is a mark of good craftsmanship. If you haven’t made many mistakes, you just haven’t done enough. My personal preference would be to leave the finish as is except for perhaps a little wax and rub. Don’t spoil that “candy” by putting a plastic wrapper over it!

-- GSY from N. Idaho

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3672 days

#4 posted 08-03-2009 06:16 AM

this is indeed a beautiful wood… and a nice tray at that too!

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3699 days

#5 posted 08-03-2009 07:33 AM

Sure looks good from here!! What do you mean by: “Corners are dovetailed. The bottom SHOULD BE fitted some other way since the wood is bound to expand”? How did you do the bottom?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View thiel's profile


387 posts in 3315 days

#6 posted 08-03-2009 07:40 AM

The bottom of the tray is simply butted inside the outer fram—that is, it’s enclosed by the four sides, so if it expands, it’s sure to pop the sides of the tray off. Since it’s like 90% humidity here, I’m assuming instead it will contract in the winter and I’m hoping that the glue joint (glued to the sides) will be strong enough to hold it. At best, there will be a gap on the ends.

The bottom really should be shiplapped I think, or it should float in a dado… or perhaps I should have used mechanical fasteners…

-- Laziness minus Apathy equals Efficiency

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18285 posts in 3699 days

#7 posted 08-03-2009 07:54 AM

Butted and glued isn’t good ;-(( You’re right about that. I like to Dado and let the bottoms float. Probably just join and glue the 2 bottom boards. Your dovetails look good. I’ve still got lots of mistakes to make myself ;-)) Carry on!!

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4242 days

#8 posted 08-03-2009 02:58 PM

I love rosewood, but I know what you mean about the brittleness and tearout. Don’t be surprised if you have no problem at all on the expansion issue. Call me an optimist. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4075 days

#9 posted 08-03-2009 04:54 PM

That is great looking, awesome wood.

-- Hope Never fails

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3898 days

#10 posted 08-07-2009 10:49 PM

I really like the simple straight lines on this between the design and the wood figure. Nicely done.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4424 days

#11 posted 08-07-2009 11:30 PM

A great looking tray. I agree that the base should be attached a different way.

I hope that it works out OK in the long haul.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3711 days

#12 posted 02-23-2010 10:25 PM

Surely you have more than two pix to share of your “baby” ! Very nice : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View falegniam's profile


335 posts in 2976 days

#13 posted 08-14-2010 04:13 AM

I agree, that Bolivian Rosewood is beautiful. Nice job on the tray.

-- If you work you eat - If you don't work, you eat, drink, and sleep.

View cwdance1's profile


1158 posts in 3283 days

#14 posted 08-14-2010 04:17 AM

Beautiful wood, great job.

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