Peter Lutz demonstrates the jigs he uses to make handsome stackable trays that are light, and strong
Synopsis: Light and graceful but quite strong, coopered containers combine elegance with approachable construction. Whether you make a design with vertical sides or sides that angle outward, one of the challenges is figuring out how best to cut, joint, and rout the small parts. Here, Peter Lutz demonstrates the jigs he uses so that he can work safely and accurately. The technique is for a group of three stackable trays with vertical sides.
Recently I’ve been exploring coopered forms. I find the shapes elegant, yet the woodworking involved is very approachable. Because all the coopered parts are edge-joined, the whole vessel goes together without mechanical joinery or hardware. And though coopered work is light and graceful, it’s quite strong.
In the first half of this article, I’ll explain the techniques I use for making coopered trays with vertical sides. You could make a set of three, as I did, or just one. In a separate article, I describe making a coopered basket whose sides are canted outward. There are formulas you can use to ascertain the angle for the appropriate compound bevel, but the technique I use for creating the splay removes the mathematical hurdle.
A Trio of Trays
I designed the trays to be made in a batch of three partly because it would be safer and simpler to machine the staves in long blanks, then crosscut them after I had the bevels just right. Since I was going to have multiple trays, I decided to shape the top and bottom edges of the staves with coves—the top one inside, the bottom one outside—so the trays would stack neatly.
Coopered containers have far more potential for cross-grain seasonal movement…