Plywood End Grain Tray

When people hear the word plywood, I imagine they would think ugly, after all it is a utilitarian product in most cases. But a furniture grade plywood like birch can be very beautiful. I especially like the stripey end grain.

We’ve used the end grain of plywood to build a pair of lamp bases….

square lamp,plywood
Still going strong 3 years later.

We’ve also made candle holders from plywood…

candle holders,plywood,woodworking,crafts
Set of 3 laminated candle holders.

Although not end grain, we have make wood maps from plywood…

Custom map of the Atlantic Provinces.

Even cribbage boards

map of newfoundland,newfoundland crib boards,nl crib boards,scroll saw,wood map,wood map of newfoundland
Newfoundland crib board.

Jim just loves for me to come up with projects that involve his help. Ha. So for something a little different…I thought we would build a plywood end grain tray. We started by cutting strips of plywood about an inch thick.

Strips of plywood.

After a quick hand sanding, we turned them so the end grains were all facing up and glued them up like so…

Lots of clamps.

After a few days, we headed out to start trimming up the plywood. First, using a circular saw, Jim cut a straight edge down one side.

You will see why soon.

This is the result…

One straight edge.

Then it was back to the tablesaw, where we decided on 2 inch strips for the tray.

So far so good.

Here are the strips all cut out.

2 inch plywood strips.

We gave them a quick hand sanding and then the magic began. We fitted them together and turned every second one over…

Oh my, I’m already in love.

Once we had the stripes lined up, we drew a pencil mark so we could easily line things up again after they were glued and before the clamps were tightened.

More glue…more clamps.

A few more days of drying.

Going to be awesome.

Once the glue dried we passed it through the planer a few times just to remove excess glue and smooth out the two sides. You can see the joy on Jims face right? Smiling on the inside he says!

Very loud and messy!!

With that done, we had to decide on the finished size of the tray. Believe it or not this was originally supposed to be a round tray. As things progressed I realized it wouldn’t be as large as I would have wanted and a lot of the pattern would end up as firewood. So…changing direction we are now making a rectangle shaped tray.

We cut it to size…

Squaring off the ends.

The next step was to trim out the sides. We cut four strips of plywood about 2 inches wide and turned them on their side, and mitered the corners like a picture frame.

More plywood for the win.

Before we attached the trim, we had some sanding to do.

Getting close to being finished when the sander comes out.

I took the scrap plywood and tried a few different finishes: Early American stain…too dark, High gloss Poly…too yellow, and good old wax…just right.

Test finishes.

Decided to just use wax on the tray, rubbing it in with a soft cloth.

Quick and easy finish.

I felt like it needed a little contrast set off the chevron pattern so I headed to the paint room. First I painted it the same green as the walls. Um…no. Too pale.

Green is usually my favorite color but not this time.

Take two… I painted the sides and top of the “frame” with three coats of navy.

Ready to see…


Love everything herringbone or chevron and try sneak it into a project where possible. Plywood is an easy way to really see the pattern.


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