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A Three-Tiered Tray with Lazy Susan, Part 2

This is a continuation of Part 1. This part gives the procedures for making the middle and top trays, the two supports, and the finial for the top.

Turn the middle (or top) tray.

Except for the dimensions, the middle and top trays are identical so the procedure is the same for both. It is quite similar to that of making the bottom tray.

1.  Jam the blank against a flat surface and form an inset tenon not more than 7/32” deep on the side that will become the top of the tray.

2.  Mount the blank in a scroll chuck and true up the edge. Clean up the bottom surface as required and attach a waste block. After the glue has cured, turn the waste block down to a thickness of 1/2” or less and form the tenon.

3.  Use a 1” Forstner bit to drill a hole through the waste block and 1/4” into the blank. Then use a 7/32” twist drill to continue the hole the rest of the way through.

4.  Reverse the blank and hollow the top surface to a depth of about 1/4”. Flatten the surface and shape the rim and edge of the tray. This step is identical to what was done for the bottom tray.

5.  Install a small faceplate or a flat disk and apply double-sided tape to its face. Then, using the live center of the tailstock to apply pressure and center the piece, press the top surface of the tray against the tape.

6.  Using tailstock support as much as possible, finish the bottom of the tray. Remove the waste block. Flatten the area around the hole so that it will seat nicely on the central support when the three tiers are assembled.

7.  The tray is now complete. Remove it from the flat surface and use lacquer thinner to remove any residue left on the wood by the tape.

Top Tray, No-Finial Version

Omitting the finial at the top will allow an object to be centered on the top tray. However, because the finial holds the top tray in place, another means must be provided to secure the top tray. My suggestion is to attach a section of a 10 – 24 machine screw to the bottom of the top tray. This will allow it to be screwed onto the upper support.

To make the top tray, you can follow the same procedure as above for the middle or top tray, but skip Step 3. Do not drill the holes! That is, jam the blank against a flat surface and form an inset tenon. Reverse the blank and attach a waste block. Reverse again and hollow the top. Then use double-sided tape to reverse the blank yet again, and finally remove the waste block and flatten the bottom.

Then, when you get to Step 6, after finishing the bottom, drill a hole 5/16” deep at the center. Use a #13 bit from a set of number drills, or use a 3/16” bit for a slightly tighter fit. The machine screw will be epoxied into this hole.

Cut the head off a 1”-long 10 – 24 machine screw. A Dremel tool with a small cut-off disk works well for this. Check to see that when the screw is inserted into the hole, at least 5/8” of the screw sticks out from the surface.

Put a dab of epoxy in the hole and wipe a bit onto the screw threads that will go into the hole. Use a Jacobs chuck mounted in the tailstock to hold the screw and stick it into the hole. This ensures that the screw will be properly aligned.

Remove the tray from the flat surface after the epoxy sets up and it will be ready for the finish.

Make the Center Supports.

The diameter of the seating surfaces at the top and bottom of each support needs to be at least 1.75”, in my opinion. A larger diameter will make the unit stronger.

For the chucking methods suggested here, the blanks need to have a diameter about 3/8” larger than the seating surface to allow for the shallow tenon formed on each end. This means the blanks should true up to a diameter of at least 2 1/8”.

Cut the blanks to a length about 3/8” longer than the desired separation between the trays. This will provide 1/4” for the tenon and 1/8” to allow for squaring up the ends.

1.  Mount the blank between centers. Form a tenon at each end.

2.  Install the blank in a scroll chuck. Square up the exposed face. Drill a pilot hole for the hanger bolt using a 5/32” drill bit.  Drill the hole to a depth of about 1.25”.

3.  Reverse the blank in the chuck. Form the 1”-diameter tenon that will fit into the recess on the bottom of the tray. The width of the tenon should be just under 1/4”.


4. Drill the hole for the captured nut to a depth of 3/8” using a 3/8” drill bit. Use a 7/32” bit to extend the hole to a depth of about 3/4”.  

5.  Reverse the blank using a scroll chuck to grip the 1” tenon on the end of the blank. Use tailstock support on the other end. Turn the profile to a shape that you like, but don’t reduce the diameter of the seating surfaces to any great extent.

If you don’t have a chuck that will grip the 1” tenon, mount the blank between a mandrel and a cone center. The tenon on the mandrel should fit snugly into the 3/8” hole at one end of the blank.

6.  Seat a 10 – 24 nut in the 3/8” hole. To do this, put the nut on a screw and then drive the nut in until it seats. Be sure the nut sits flat in the hole.

7.  In use, the force on the nut will tend to pull it out of the hole. To prevent this from happening, epoxy a small bushing over the nut, as shown in the diagram at right.

Turn the little bushing. Mount a short spindle blank in a chuck. Use a 7/32” bit to drill a hole in the center to a depth of about 1/2”. Turn the diameter of the blank down until it will fit into the 3/8” hole in which the nut is seated. Cut off a length of about 5/16” and you will have your bushing. Epoxy the bushing into the hole, over the nut. Sand the end smooth after the epoxy cures.

8.  Install the hanger bolt and the support will be done.

Upper Support, No-Finial Version

The top tray in the no-finial version does not have a recess drilled in the bottom. Therefore, the support on which it sits should not have a tenon; it should be flat on top.

Without the tenon, you cannot use a scroll chuck to mount the piece in order to shape the profile, as suggested in Step 5 above. However, after drilling the 3/8” hole, it is a simple matter to mount the blank between a mandrel and a cone center.

Make the finial.

First, sketch a design that you like. Beyond decoration, the finial serves as a convenient handle for lifting the unit so take this into consideration.

1. Mount a suitable blank between centers. It’s length should be at least 1” greater than the finished height. Form a tenon on one end of the blank.

2. Install the blank in a scroll chuck. Square off the end. Use a 5/32” bit to drill a pilot hole for the hanger bolt to a depth of about 1.25”.

3. Using tailstock support, shape the finial to your liking. Work from the base (tailstock end) toward the top, sanding as you go. Part it off and finish the tip off the lathe.

4.  Install the hanger bolt and the finial will be complete.

And that’s it for the construction part of the program. All that’s left to do is add a finish of your choice and then put it together.

Some Assembly Required

It’s obvious how you put the unit together: screw a support onto the base, install middle tray, another support, install top tray, install finial. Done!  

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