Our life is frittered away by detail . . . I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail . . . Simplify, simplify.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Last spring, I wrote a post about my hewing of a maple serving tray inspired by an entry in Thoreau’s journal. Thoreau wrote that the miller recommended three months seasoning, but I allowed this one nine before completing it.
The former post documents all of the axe and adze work from log to the piece in the photo above, ready for drying. I rubbed a chunk of wax on the end grain before putting it up in the ceiling of the shop. When I came back to it last month, things had moved around a bit. I flattened the top and cleaned up the sides and ends with a hand plane.
Once flat, I placed the tray top side down on the bench. The benchtop now served as a reference surface for marking the lower edge of the tray and the feet. A compass works for this, but in this case, I rested a pencil on a couple sharpening stones that were close by and ran them together around the tray. Then maybe it was a scrap chunk of board as a spacer for the upper line.
I planed the areas for the feet then worked across the board with a gouge to leave loose rows of texture. This silver maple didn’t feel very “soft” during that process.
Now it’s all oiled up and ready to serve. Trays similar to this could be made by starting with a dry sawn plank in less time, but it was a lot of fun tying this in with Thoreau’s description. My last tribute to him with this piece was designing and carving the word “simplify” in a corner of the top.
The dimensions are 17″ long, 7 3/4″ wide, and 1″ high.