I got my start in woodworking because of the problem of fitting our silverware into the drawer. The drawer was about 12 inches wide but commercially available plastic silverware organizers were huge and would not fit in the drawer. I figured it would be a simple job to whip up a basic silverware organizer, so we went to Home Depot and got a hand saw, some wood, and some screws. My design did not have a base. The bottom of the drawer would keep the silverware from going anywhere, I figured.
I discovered that it was impossible to cut the wood straight with my hand saw. I tried a mitre box without success. I finally went ahead and assembled the thing anyway, but when I screwed the pieces together it warped so that if three corners were down the fourth corner was 1/2 inch off the bottom of the drawer. This meant that the silverware wasn’t very well confined.
My second effort was more successful. I learned from my first effort that
- A base would be a good idea.
- The dividers between the silverware needed to be shaped to allow easier access.
I started with wood provided by a friend with a tablesaw, but I provided the wrong dimensions so I had to cut two of the pieces. I used a jigsaw to cut the pieces and to shape the dividers. The dividers were sanded to fit. The base is of luan plywood and the two blocks were to keep the short spoons and forks from slipping back and sneaking over the dividers.
I finished this tray with “tung oil” (actually some kind of wiping varnish) and the finish didn’t hold up to the silverware, but the tray served us well until we moved into our house where the drawer is a scant seven inches wide.
A silverware tray for this location presented a new challenge: I needed to cut 50 degree angle dados to house the dividers. I didn’t think that friction fit would hold up since in this case the silverware would actually press into dividers when the drawer was shut.
I asked several people for advice on how to do this and didn’t get any great answers. Finally I cut these dados with my dozuki. This Japanese hand saw is so much better than the sandvik saw I started with that I gave the sandvik to Salvation Army. However, the dozuki has a flexible blade so guiding the cut is tricky. I used a wedge cut off at 50 degrees and pressed the dozuki against the wedge to guide the saw and this worked reasonably well.
This time I used quarter sawn beech for the dividers and baltic birch for the base. I finished it with shellac followed by a top coat of Duralesce, a waterborne finish. We’ll see whether this holds up better to the ravages of the silverware.
Addendum: We have used the tray for years. Of course, the finish can’t handle assault by knife tips and fork tines. But otherwise it has been working great. Occasionally people have contacted me and asked if I will make them one. In one case, somebody asked for 20 of them and I actually found someone willing to take the job.