Portable work tray

In my job as an I.T. Coordinator and Teacher I find myself spending part of my day in my office, and part of my day in the computer room, but not necessarily teaching, two periods every day is just supervision. So, I can’t just sit there twiddling my thumbs, I have to continue working. But, sometimes I have to carry an armful of stuff back and forward… I have been using a shallow rectangular plastic basket, but it is woefully inadequate.┬áMy solution? I slightly larger, and much deeper basket, that has handles for carrying that become legs for standing!

  • I had some scrap 5-ply left over from a kennel that I built for our dog a few years ago, so I decided it was time to put it to use. I cut the floor of the basket, the measurements loosely based on the plastic basket I have been using at work, but a little longer, and somewhat wider. I also put to use some rough-cut timber with square cross-section that I found on the side of the road recently.

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  • The rough-cut frame was mitred, but I didn’t bother with half-laps, I didn’t really see the need. Behind you can see the sides of the basket cut out of the same plywood.

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  • By this time I’ve cut the sides to length, and as you can see the side pieces overlap the end pieces, and were tacked through with thin nails, and glued. They are nailed along the bottom into the rough-cut wood, with the nails at each end going through the mitre joints which very simply lock them together. I’m using a lot of recycled and rough materials, so my joinery, or lack of proper joinery if you prefer, reflects that..

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  • The legs/arms of the basket were made out of new material. To mark the curve at each end I just used a tube of sealer as my pattern.

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  • I used my recently completed handdrill-powered drum sander to sand the curves into each end of the legs/arms. I’ve featured the sander in another post.

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  • When I assembled the legs I must confess that I took a rather nasty shortcut, which I will never take again. I mortised the crossbars into the legs, but I didn’t cut tenons into the ends of the crossbars. Big mistake. Even though I’ve used wedges on the outside of each joint the legs can still slip inwards. The joints are quite tight, but under pressure one of them has moved a little. The next time I do something like this I will definitely cut tenons into those crossbars!

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  • A very nice hot chocolate diversion! Notice the red gaffer tape wrapped around the drill bit, which served as a depth gauge when drill the holes for the 1 inch long joinery dowels, left over from a flat pack shelf we bought years ago, which the legs/arms swing on. I hope they are strong enough!

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  • The legs/arms are now fitted on the tray. All is looking good so far!

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  • One of the mortised joints, you can see the wedge in the left side of the crossbar. I used an electric cutter to cut the mortises, and missed the mark a couple of times, hence the cut marks, but that’s ok, it’s in keeping with the rough-wood look that I want anyway.

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  • Ok, time to test it out, will it stand? YAY! To make it stand properly though I had to added a few appendages. On each end are swing-tabs, and on the sides fixed tabs, that work together to stop the basket from falling. A nice little side benefit is that they provide short feet for the basket to stand on when the legs are arms!

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  • Time to apply the first coat of gloss stain. Next weekend I’ll sand it back and give it another coat.

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  • It’s a basket.

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  • Umm… it’s a tray! A few people who have seen it so far have said it looks like a manger, so perhaps for the Christmas nativity play in our church it might get used to hold the baby Jesus!

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  • Serving its purpose in the computer room within easy reach of the desk. Some of my students are quite impressed!

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