Honeycomb tray
Posted by
evansd2
 
Joined Sep 18, '17 

Hello, I am the keeper of the comb. You may look but not touch.

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Figured maple, Figured Walnut, Padauk, Cowhide

My exploration of trays is apparently not complete yet. This time, instead of an abstract geometric theme of spirals I decided to ground the design in more natural forms, specifically honeycomb.

I don’t have a lot of process details to share that I haven’t already in my other tray posts, you can search the forum for them if you want to dig deeper into how I do this sort of thing beyond what I share with the photos below.

Some notes:

  • The inlay process was labor-intensive. Each hexagon of maple in the comb is glued in individually, and since it was figured maple, I kept the orientation of the pieces, but scrambled them to make the individual hexes shimmer at different angles.
  • Each side piece is unique. No two comb patterns are the same.
  • The bee design was a free download, but as with all most free downloads, it was terrible on a technical level and required being completely re-drawn to have a clean path and true symmetry. (And to make it suitable for inlay, fixing too-thin elements and sharp angles)
  • Speaking of true symmetry, I wanted to idealize the keeper, so I drew just one half and then flipped and joined it. This has the effect of subtly making you realize it’s not an actual bee. I don’t know how else to explain it, the pure symmetry just makes your brain go “huh, that’s not real”. This seemed like a good plan so that no one ever got freaked out by a giant bee outline and smashed the tray. :slight_smile: The end goal is “that’s obviously a bee” and “that’s obviously not really a bee” at the same time. How did I do?
  • The hardwoods were all sanded to 600 grit and finished with 2 very thin coats of Watco wipe-on clear satin polyurethane. I literally wipe it on and then immediately wipe it off to give the absolute thinnest coats I can manage. It saturates the wood well and leaves no surface artifacts.
  • As usual with my trays, I round my corners by hand with a sanding block, and the woods are all 1/8", with a double-stacked 1/8" baltic birch base that’s glued in.

The dimensions are roughly 6.5" x 8.5" x 1.5". The tray has small screw-in rubber feet to keep it off the table.

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Figured maple, Figured Walnut, Padauk, Cowhide

Some detail of the side of the tray really lets you get a look at the figuring in the maple. It shimmers nicely in the light.

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Figured maple, Figured Walnut, Padauk, Cowhide

The back face, with its figuring. Note that the combs are different from each side. This was a fun detail but definitely ups the labor factor, both on design and assembly phases.

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Figured maple, Figured Walnut, Padauk, Cowhide

The 4th side. More figures.

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Figured maple, Figured Walnut, Padauk, Cowhide

Some detail on the keeper. It never photographs well, but trust me when I say that the chatoyancy on the padauk really sells the entire piece. It shines almost like rich red copper.

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Figured maple, Figured Walnut, Padauk, Rubber feet

So, that’s about it. Not much more to say about the finished piece, I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

A quick bonus pic or two about process.
I glue the base in and clamp it absolutely flat to ensure it sets flush with the base. I use a reference flat surface (a 12x12 stone tile from home depot) and clamp it down while it sets. This prevents any warp in the baltic from making the base uneven.

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I also ensure that I don’t sand at weird angles and get thin spots on my sides by using sanding frames.

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Pictured is one of the long sides inside a sanding frame. The frame is 1/8" baltic, and as I sand the surface it prevents me from getting off angle with the sander or sanding block. The baltic doesn’t stand up to much sanding, so I go through a new frame for each side. Before I started doing this, I was unable to safely use an orbital sander on the pieces for fear that I would oversand an edge and I’d get inconsistent thickness in the final result. With these frames, that worry is all but eliminated. I still keep an eye on it, but I haven’t had any trouble yet.

Eagle-eyed readers will spot very small protrusions on my sides at the junction between the maple and the walnut. These allow me to sand it flush and get a perfect interface on the clean edge. This process was outlined in a previous post about trays.

Even more eagle eyed readers may that all this sanding is happening on my sanding platform.


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