Tea Tray Repair

Following on from the video highlighted in my previous post; let’s now take a closer look at the repairs I made to the hardwood serving tray.

So, the design was not my own. This was a project I found in a book written by Andy Standing (who may still contribute to The Woodworker magazine) and I followed it very closely, step-by-step. I also believe it was my very first attempt at assembling something with mitred corners (at least, within my own workshop and without the luxury of certain college tools).

I would’ve made this in 2009, if not 2008. I know it was unlikely to have been any sooner as I did not buy my first length(s) of walnut until 2007. These joints somehow survived a number of years and one house move, before capitulating during a second move in July 2014.

My mum claimed it simply fell apart in her hands and, looking again at the fact this was an extremely porous end-grain to end-grain joint, I still have no reason to doubt that. Yet I’m still impressed that it survived so long!

These pieces lived underneath my TV [the stand, for which, I did make in 2007] and spent more than eighteen-months gathering dust before I recently found the motivation to repair them.

First thing I did was to analyse the joints carefully and to try and carefully scrap away any lumps of dried glue with a sharp chisel – this is not a step I would highly recommend as there’s a risk you could affect the tightness of each joint but, I felt it was important in giving hope for the fresh application of glue to follow.

Completing this repair within my flat, I fought the laws of gravity in attempting to re-assemble the tray on my Black & Decker Workmate, which was almost too-perfectly sized…

That was until my patience dried up – at which point, I took it all down to the vinyl-covered floor (which is undeniably ‘not-flat’ in several places).

After the dry assembly, I took a few moments to label each component in an area that would become inconspicuous once the clamps were on. My hope was to maintain a reasonably-good continuous band of grain running around the perimeter of the tray.

Then, it was time to add the glue, where I then returned it to the Workmate in order to save myself from accidentally treading on it.

You’ll notice that I used a ratchet strap for this assembly, with plastic corners that can be purchased specifically for this purpose. It’s a technique I learned at college and one that I’ve always favoured. I don’t really see to spend lots of money on a branded ‘strap clamp’, unless you’re just looking to add to your collection. I did once own a cheap strap clamp and it broke on the one job where I used it.

I left the glue to cure overnight and then, the next day [which was more like six-days later], I cut a pair of saw kerfs in to each corner, which were then filled with splines cut from scraps of oak veneer, for contrast.

Each joint was covered in masking to tape to aid the marking out on a surface that was already finished. My selection of veneer came from an assorted bag of ‘offcuts’, purchased for only £5 at the Yandles Woodworking Show back in 2008… It was about time I did something with it!

Those splines were then left to dry overnight before I trimmed then flush with a chisel. Originally, I’d used an Osmo Polyx hardwax oil, which had held up very well. As I only really needed to seal and finish these freshly-cut splines (and I didn’t have any of the Osmo oil left), I found a tin of wax polish (from Smith & Roger) and buffed than in to the grain.

It would be difficult to look and say that the tray has aged at all, in its appearance. Perhaps it hasn’t been used an awful lot! Not one of the four mitre joints was as neat or tidy as (hopefully) when I first made the tray but those small splines really do add a lot of reinforcement where there had always been a tendency for the ends to ‘flex’ away from the sides.

I think they look quite good as well and don’t overpower the piece with its clean lines.

Thanks for reading.


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