Sides for a tea tray.

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Andy Kev.

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20 Aug 2013
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I'm making a tea tray for a friend. It will be about 20" x 12" (~50 x 30 cm) and made of two bits of book matched elm which should end up about 3/8" - 1/2" (~9 - 12 mm) thick.

I found a plan in Vol III of the The Woodworker book from LAP. The thing that I'm not sure about is the suggested idea for the sides of the tray. They are effectively made up of four battens dovetailed together and screwed onto the tray top. My first reaction is that if the wood moves, it will surely put the sides under stress. Would it not be better to groove the side pieces, slot the base into the grooves and join the sides with lapped dovetails in the manner of a drawer front?

Or are there other possibilities?
One of my first school woodwork projects was a tea tray as I guess many of a certain age would have been, if I remember correctly the sides were screwed to the base which was plywood with a laminate top so a similar design to the woodworker book & that lasted many decades.

That said if I was making one now I would go for a base rebated into the sides not only to better allow for movement but also from my point of view it looks better.
yes you could use lapped dovetails or mitred dovetails to hide the groove, another option although much cruder is to simply glue the bottom on, on a tool tray I glue and nail it on, it's surprisingly strong.

the dovetailed sides will have almost zero movement problems because it's likely to be less than 2 inches wide, it'll move across the width not length so I wouldn't worry about that.

you could also use a rebate on the bottom instead of a groove.