Thursday, January 22, 2009

VERY late Christmas presents

I have so much to write about and never enough time or motivation to do it.

But I wanted to write a quick note about the Christmas gift I finished for my husband last night. I know, I know, it's a bit late but hey! It's not a MONTH late. Barely.

Anyway, I wanted to make him a tray because in the summer we eat outside and it takes forever to carry everything in and out of the house before and after meals. I saw a beautiful sunflower tile tray, but it was expensive, and I thought, I can make something as cool as that! No problem!

Well, I did get knocked down off my high horse by this project - it was tough. The first problem was to actually construct the tray. I decided to tile it using tile samples from my sister's office which would otherwise be thrown away (hooray for reusing perfectly good materials!). So I would need a solid base able to withstand some heavy tile and grout, and I would have to figure out a way to frame it and add handles.

I figured out my tile design, laid it out, and measured, so I knew how big the decorative surface had to be. Then I had to figure out the frame. This was hard. I wanted not only for the sides to be high enough to frame the tile, but also to form a bit of a lip to keep errant dishes and such from sliding off while being carried. A simple corner molding wasn’t tall enough – after tiling and grouting it would be flush with the tile rather than forming a lip. I ended up deciding on a bigger corner molding that would create a lip, and bought a long, skinny piece of wood and cut it down to act as a filler between the base and the molding, to create the height for the lip. That took some serious calculations, especially as my sister and I were deciding how to construct this “on the fly” at the hardware store.

Since my dad’s tools are rusty and under mounds of crap in my mom’s garage, I had to cut the molding with my trusty hand saw and miter box. THAT was a royal pain – I’ve never used it to cut molding, which I wanted to line up perfectly at the corners to form a frame. Luckily, everything fit beautifully, and in a relatively short time, I had glued the filler and the frame together around my base. Whew!

Next, I had to attach some handles. I bought some cabinet handles that I really liked, only to realize that they were a bit small to comfortably carry a heavy tray with a heavy load – and that was for my hands. It would probably be even harder for a man. Finding large enough, stylish handles was a neat trick, and it was expensive. Drilling holes through my frame in exactly the right spot was an even harder trick, which took me several days of attempts, several moments of almost-swearing, and one episode of me nearly crying. I won’t go into details. Let’s just say it was really difficult.

Finally, I glued down the tile. I didn’t actually mosaic it – just picked a random pattern of colored tile with two large terra cotta stripes, and I also didn’t realize that it would be so hard to line up the square tiles so that they were all even. I didn’t worry about it too much, and in fact you can see that they’re not in perfectly straight lines, but I think that just adds to the charm. It looks handmade.

Last night I grouted it. I got some grout on the frame, so I’ll have to lightly sand it, but it’s DONE. HOLY COW!

Pictures to come. I hope.

Whoops, did I say "quick note?"

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