I often bring ramekins with a dessert in them to dinner invites. I usually put them in an old wooden box, along with some cream and granola to add to the dessert.
I had some figured maple that was given to me as firewood and used that as the material.
I started by squaring it up on the jointer, then resawed it to boards on the table saw. The table saw makes a relatively smooth surface without tearing out the figured grain.
A good size would be for four ramekins, with room to stack four more on top of those for larger dinner parties.
I marked the size I needed straight off this arrangement without taking measurements.
I joined the corners with my screw advance box joint jig.
As I often do, I made 1/4" box joints without using a dado blade. I have a separate article on setting up box joints like this.
I first made a test joint with some cut-offs to make sure the fit was good.
Now loading the four pieces in the jig at once, plus a piece of scrap behind to prevent tear-out. I'm offsetting the two shorter pieces by 1/4" so that the fingers in one piece will line up with slots in the other.
Cutting the joints. Each 1/4" wide slot is made by making three cuts, one with the crank handle nearest the meshing gears, the next with the first black piece of tape by the gears, and another with a second black piece of tape near the meshing gears. After the third cut, I turn the crank further until the handle is left again, then another turn, and repeat. More about that here
Checking the joint. Nice and crisp in the hard maple!
I then ripped the pieces to their final width, and checked how the box fits around the ramekins.
Before gluing the pieces together, I need to figure out how to attach the bottom.
Traditionally, this is done by insetting the bottom in a rabbet (A), but this uses up a lot of height, and is not that strong because the rabbet weakens the side of the box. A simpler and stronger solution is to just glue the bottom on flat (B), but this doesn't look that good, even if the bottom is beveled. I could also rabbet the bottom in (C), but that leaves a relatively narrow piece of side on the bottom. I decided to put the bottom in with a very shallow rabbet (D), though this requires cutting the bottom very precisely so that there is a good glue bond on the surface (pointed at by the arrow). I cut that rabbet on the table saw.
With the rabbet cut, time to assemble the sides. I made a wooden comb for applying glue to multiple fingers at once.
The thin layer of glue in tight finger joints can dry very quickly, so I check that the assembled corner is square before going any further.
Second side going on...
... and now the fourth side. Two glue joints need to be joined at the same time.
I glued wooden splints into the ends of the rabbets to fill the gap. After the glue dried, I flush trimmed the splints.
The bottom needs to be made to fit very precisely. Here, marking how wide it needs to be. I checked both ends of the box. One end was about 0.2 mm wider. I used a folded piece of paper to shim one end of the wood against the fence of the saw as I ripped it for the final cut (not shown in the pictures)
I didn't get the length of the wood as precise. There is a half a millimeter gap on one end of the short edges.
It's easier to sand and clean up the insides before the bottom is glued on.
Then gluing on the bottom, with lots of glue. I weighed it down with a 10 pound barbell as it dried.
I wanted a carrying handle, sort of like a basket.
I switched from the 48-tooth gear to a 35-tooth gear to cut narrower joints for that handle.
I wanted the handle to flip over to the side but also lock in the upright position. I wasn't sure how to do this. For starters, I drilled some small holes and used finishing nails as pivots while figuring out a mechanism.
I ended up drawing the mechanism in SketchUp. I printed that 1:1 using my BigPrint program, then copied the shape onto a piece of wood and cut that out with the bandsaw.
You can get the template in the free plans
The latch temporarily clamped in place, trying it out. It works!
After that, rounding the handle edges...
... and then all the exposed edges of the box.
The latch is screwed on from the inside. I figure I'll varnish the latch separately and attach it afterwards. This makes the finish job easier and ensures the latch won't get gummed up with varnish.
More testing it. The latches make such a satisfying click when the handle is raised to vertical. I have a latch on each side, though just one would have been enough.
A small block of wood glued to the side of the box keeps the handle horizontal when it's flipped down.
I made a piece for the bottom of the box that fits around the ramekins to keep them from sliding around. First I traced around the piece with the ramekins on top...
... then cut it out on the bandsaw.
The piece is attached with screws from the bottom. Like with the latch, I figure it will be easier to varnish the box without that in place.
I varnished it with an oil based varnish. Oil based varnishes are much better at preventing moisiture from getting into the wood, and I figure that's important for something like this.
I used some thicker cut-off nails for the hinge pin. I drilled a hole slightly smaller than the nail in the handle, and slightly larger than the nail in the box. With the nail driven into the handle, it stays in place and makes for a nice pivot.
The completed tray.