Need help routing serving tray

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Forum topic by JosephNY posted 07-31-2016 07:26 PM 1372 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2309 days

07-31-2016 07:26 PM

I’ve been trying to learn woodworking, on my own in my spare time, and boy oh boy it’s not easy.

I decided that a serving tray would be an easy enough project and I found that routing out the tray from a single block looks great.

So I’ve been trying.

I cut, squared and planed a piece of cherry to 1.75” thick, cut a rectangular template out of 1/4” hardboard with rounded corners.

I got a bowl bit for the router and tried to make it happen.

It worked okay, but not perfectly (and certainly not easily).

I then took the piece to the drill press with various size forstner bits and spend quite a few hours.

Below is what I have. And I’m stuck.

I don’t understand how to use the bowl bit to flatten the bottom. The default Dewalt router base doesn’t span the entire top face of the tray so how do I control the depth of cut?

I can’t even round-over the inside edge because the inner vertical wall isn’t straight and the bit follows the wall.

Yes, I know, very basic questions that reveal I have no clue.

Can someone please give me a clue?

Thank you!

22 replies so far

View NoSpace's profile


129 posts in 1382 days

#1 posted 07-31-2016 07:55 PM

Not sure the right way to accomplish a bowl, but using the tools you have, it looks like you need to make a pattern to follow around the edge. Do you have a router table? with a wide mortising bit, you could turn the bowl upside down on the table and the height will be constant.

View bruc101's profile


1243 posts in 3684 days

#2 posted 07-31-2016 09:00 PM

You can do like I do when I have to route a large sign in relief sometimes.

Put a large flat router bit in your router, I use a 1/2 inch bit. Get a flat piece of plywood that will fit all the way across the serving tray wide enough for your router to sit on. Place the router on the side of the plywood and adjust your bit deep enough to take out all the forstner bit marks.

Move your router slowly back and forth across the bottom of the serving tray overlapping the large flat router bit cuts by about 3/4 the width of the router bit. Go slow and take your time and keep the router bit moving flat and not dipping into the tray bottom.

Go across the grain not with the grain.
That should do it with some sanding out the router bit marks.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1062 days

#3 posted 08-01-2016 12:30 AM


This may be the perfect time to build a dado jig for the router. The dado jig could be used, along with a straight bit in the router, to flatten the serving tray and even cleanup the edges. Hang the jig on the wall for when routing dado and grooves is needed in the future.

A piece of ½” thick plywood (the base) with a set of ¾” thick cleats along each long edge is all there is to the jig. The cleats on mine are spaced so that the router can only travel the length of the jig, with no side to side play.

The first cleat is attached to the plywood base. The second cleat is carefully attached to the plywood base to ensure minimal side to side play of the router while at the same time enabling the router to run the length of the jig easily. This exact spacing can be achieved by placing the router base against the cleat already screwed to the base. A piece of folded printer paper is inserted between the router base and the second cleat. The second cleat is held tight to the folded printer paper while being screwed in place. This process continues down the length of the jig about every 6” – 9”. Cleats are installed at the ends of the jig. The base of the router, the sides of the cleats, and the base of the jig are waxed with furniture paste wax to make the router slide effortlessly.

To finish the jig, a straight bit is used to plow a slot down the length of the groove. This zero clearance slot can then be used to accurately position the jig.

This jig can now be used to flatten the bottom of the serving tray. The jig is placed on the serving tray so that routing occurs across the grain. A pair of registration blocks can be clamped on the bottom side of the jig. These registration blocks are clamped to the jig after positioned against the outside edges of the serving tray. After the registration blocks are in place, the router with the straight bit is positioned on the jig and brought up to the inside edge of the serving tray. A stop block is clamped to stop the router from cutting into the edge of the serving tray. A second stop block is similarly positioned at the opposite inside edge of the serving tray. The router bit depth is set to the desired depth. The jig is clamped to the serving tray, starting at one end of the tray and the bottom smoothed. However care is required to avoid downward pressure on the router.

Once the bottom is cleaned up, the same jig can be positioned over the inside edges and these edges cleaned up.

View Lazyman's profile


2486 posts in 1529 days

#4 posted 08-01-2016 02:25 AM

One basic technique for using a box bit is to start (by plunging the bit) in the middle of the area you are going to core and work your way out towards the edges. This way, the base plate on the router is always supported by the areas you have not routed yet. Just be careful not to tip the router as you move it around and make sure that each pass overlaps with the previous one. If you miss a spot, it is hard to go over the spot again later so don’t try to remove too much in each pass. For the rectangular tray, you may have to work toward one end and then move to the other side and work towards the other end. The biggest challenge will be near the edges. As you get close to finishing, there will be less and less of the board supporting the router base so you may find it helpful to have a board of similar thickness (or height at least) to support the router as it hangs over the edge. One problem with this method is that you have plunge down the the final depth all at once. If it is too deep, you will need to make sure that you don’t try to remove too wide a swath as you move the router.

Now, before you start in the middle, it would probably be easiest to rout the outside of the border first. By clamping a straight edge across the board, you can run the router base along the edge to get a nice neat line. After you have gone all the way around, plunge into the middle and work your way out as described above.

If you want to salvage your first attempt, you basically need to build a bridge similar to JBrow’s example above that will support the router across the edges to clean out the bottom. Instead of clamping the jig down and sliding the router in it, I would attach it in place of the router base plate and just move it from side to side. As long as the jig supports the router on both sides you can work it across the bottom without clamping it down. You can use a regular straight bit as he recommends but the box bit will give you nicer edges and tends to give you a smoother bottom especially if you tip the router a little or the jig flexes a little.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2309 days

#5 posted 08-01-2016 04:58 PM

Thank you guys!

Woke up early and began work on the dado jig, struggling through getting the pieces the right size to fit and making the slot wide enough got the bit extension. It’s far from a fine piece of woodworking, but it’s my first.

I then used a bowl bit with the jig for the bottom, and then the same bit up against the rim. The edges, however, aren’t straight (either vertically or along the cutout), so I used a roundover bit. Helped a little.

Below are some pics. Any suggestions as to how to fix this up from here and how to do a better job next time?

Thank you!!

View waho6o9's profile


8406 posts in 2719 days

#6 posted 08-01-2016 05:00 PM

Good job!

View Lazyman's profile


2486 posts in 1529 days

#7 posted 08-01-2016 09:36 PM

Looks much better. Remember that the roundover bit bearing basically follows the contour that you already have so if you are routing along an edge that isn’t straight, it will just duplicate that edge, though it will soften it a little because of the radius of the bearing. Also note that when you are working on an inside edge like this you should move the router in a clockwise direction to get a smoother cut. If you route the outside of a board, you should move left to right (or counterclockwise around the board). You may know that already but I thought I would mention in case that contributed to some of the rough spots.

If you want to try get the edges a little smoother you could reroute each edge making sure that you keep a perfectly straight line while starting and stopping in the exact place your will start the next edge. You may be able to use the jig you already made for this, though you might have to move the stop blocks on the top of the jig out about a 1/16th of an inch (+/-). Use the jig to run the router down each side, counterclockwise, keeping the router firmly against the end of the jig and using the blocks on the bottom to keep it aligned with the outside edges. For the ends, you would have to clamp the jig in place and run the router across to the other side (again, in a counterclockwise direction).

In the spirit of making lemonade when life gives you lemons, another idea is to embrace the rustic nature on this one by accentuating and adding more rough hewn features. For example, you could use a hand gouge if you have one (a little expensive to buy unless you plan on doing more carving) to make it look like you carved it out by hand. Another idea for doing that would be to make the box bit a smidgen deeper and put some short random gouges in the bottom of the tray using your jig to keep the depth consistent and overlapping some of them. This will also help hide some of the router marks in the bottom. If you have a Dremel tool, You could also use that to carve in some random gouges. I would experiment on a piece of scrap before you try this on the piece you have worked so hard on to make sure that you like the way it looks.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Richard's profile


1922 posts in 2832 days

#8 posted 08-01-2016 09:54 PM

I would say you did a good job of coming back from a pretty big mess and making it look decent. Now you have a better idea of what and how to do it again and a better set of basic tools to use for your next one. Don’t let it bother you as this is how we all learned to do what we do with wood and some of us do it better than others , but None of us can say we made a Perfect Project the First Time ( Well some might say so , but I know I can’t ) It took you some time to learn to Ride a Bike and Wood Working is no different than that in that you have to Practice and just keep at it till you do it right.
But all in all I would say you got it pretty close on this one , Now just go and do it again and show us the next one when it is done.
Be Careful and take your time , it will come out right.

View tealetm's profile


97 posts in 999 days

#9 posted 08-01-2016 10:08 PM

Looks good. Any concerns with warping/twisting now that you e mastered the shaping?

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1062 days

#10 posted 08-02-2016 12:32 AM


It looks to me like all that left is to do is lots and lots of sanding and scraping. From the photos it appears you made a nice recovery, which, to my mind, is where the real challenge in wood working lies.

For the next serving tray, looking at some YouTube videos searching bowl tray routing can reveal the various techniques and tools used to make these projects.

View avsmusic1's profile


273 posts in 827 days

#11 posted 08-02-2016 12:47 AM

From the photos it appears you made a nice recovery, which, to my mind, is where the real challenge in wood working lies.

nicely done

View JosephNY's profile


37 posts in 2309 days

#12 posted 08-02-2016 10:59 AM

View pmayer's profile


1029 posts in 3207 days

#13 posted 08-02-2016 02:04 PM

My dad came to me several years ago with the exact same question. I came up with a very different approach for him. In the case of my father, it was not at all what he was looking for, but after building one this way, he much preferred this approach and has been making them this way ever since. It is a bit slower than the approach that you are taking, but it offers more design possibilities and is a more efficient way to use materials.

I’ve documented the process here:

-- PaulMayer,

View AngieO's profile


1267 posts in 2289 days

#14 posted 08-02-2016 03:25 PM

Turned out pretty good. I hope you are pleased with it. Thanks for asking and sharing. This may be useful in the future.

View Lazyman's profile


2486 posts in 1529 days

#15 posted 08-02-2016 08:36 PM

Nice Job!

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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