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Colourful Trivets


So, I got the urge to make some new trivets...

I made these trivets almost 15 years ago. The one on the left is cherry, and the one on the right is maple. They've been used almost daily since then. These were an extremely simple project, as you just take a piece of square wood and then run it over the dado blade to make those grooves. The cuts are halfway through the board, and after each cut you flip the board over, turn it 90 degrees, and make anouther cut. The result is the pleasing waffle-type look to the trivet.

The downside is that the one on the left is rather fragile, since the cuts were so close together. First the remaing strips of wood are just very narrow, so they break easily. But also remember that half the cuts are cross-grain cuts, which means the leftover wood is that much more fragile since it is across the grain.

The maple trivet was not so fragile, as I left wider strips of wood behind, but this one warped almost immediately. You can see the curve in the photo. This is possibly because it's a trivet, so it may be exposed to damp pots. Or more likely it is because I removed so much wood that it removed some of the strength and rigidity from the original board which allowed the wood to move in this way.

Bear in mind, I'm a woodworker. So I like making new things, and I always have extra scraps of wood laying around. So it is really no big deal to make some new trivets. But on the other hand, that doesn't mean that I want to inentionally make something that is fragile or prone to warping.

In order to avoid warping, I thought to glue up small strips of wood, much as I do when making a cutting board. This would also allow me to put together contrasting wood, which I love to do as I think it makes for a lovely piece. But I also wanted to come up with some sort of a design to cut or drill into the piece. At first I was thinking to come up with some overlapping holes, and I tried a few designs in sketchup, illustrated here. (These two images are the front and back view of the same trivet. The holes go halfway through.)

(And yes, those overlapping holes are partially inspired by the 2019 macintosh pro case.)

But I was not liking the look of the overlapping holes which led me to think about trivets in general. I am so used to seeing trivets with some sort of air gaps cut into it that my inclination is that they are "mandatory". But are they really? Here is a trivet that my dad made for us about 30 years ago. It is a ceramic tile set into a frame (in fact a spare tile from a renovation of my childhood home). It doesn't have any holes at all and works fine. On reflection, a trivet is there to insulate the table from a hot pot -- protect the table top from burns or similar damage. Does it really even need holes? Probably not, but I still kind of like the look.

In the end, I settled on this as one design that I wanted to make - a series of holes. There is one hole in the center, then another set of holes arranged in a circle around that, and then a second set arranged in another larger circle. I printed this out at 100% and used it as a template to drill out the 3/4" diameter holes.

I made a prototype trivet out of a piece of scrap cherry to see if I liked the pattern, and I did. In fact, this turned out so well that I think I'll keep it as a trivet.

I went digging through my stash of exotic offcuts and glued together small strips to make up my trivet blank. I am aiming for a finished thickness of about 1/2"-3/4" (1.5-2cm) and a size of 6" by 6" square (15.25cm), so you can use quite small pieces.

I actually used very thin pieces, because my plan was to make a blank that was 1/4" thick (7mm) and then glue it together at right angles -- for strength and for looks. In this photo I am gluing up strips of Padauk, Maple, Cherry, Osage Orange, and White Oak. In the other blank I used Walnut in place of the Osage orange.

After they were glued together I planed them down and the results were stunning, as shown below.

I cut the pieces in half and glued them together. My rough blanks were wider than 6", so I could use some 23-gauge pins right along the edge to prevent the two pieces from slipping around when clamped. It looks like a ridiculous amount of clamps in the next photo, but I want to be sure to get a good connection along the whole surface -- I'm not clamping that tightly, I'm just making sure there is pressure everywhere on the two faces.

I was almost tempted to stop at this point, since the two pieces were gorgeous when cut to size. Having the two faces oriented at 90-degrees to each other gives a cool look.

Note that I also prepared a walnut 6x6 blank out of some scrap wood that I had found. The cherry prototype had turned out so well that I thought I'd make another.

I used my template to drill the holes through the walnut piece and the one laminated piece that had the osage orange strips.

I then set up a 1/4" dado blade in the tablesaw and set that to just a hair above halfway through the trivet blank. I then cut three times through each face of the piece. One cut was centered on the central Padauk strip, and the other two cuts were centered on the the two walnut strips.

I then took the pieces to the router table where I used a 3/16" roundover bit to round the edges of the piece. After that I used a roundover bit in the palm router to round over the edges of the holes that I drilled through the trivets. (I had tried this on the router table, but it just felt safer to me using the palm router)

After that came finish sanding and a few coats of spray lacquer.

And I must say, I thought the results were stunning. The colour combinations were beautiful. The solid-wood trivets -- the cherry and walnut ones -- would have been fine if I had only made them. But they do kind of pale in comparison to the multi-strip trivets. To be fair, the solid-wood trivets were far quicker and simpler to make. I will have to wait and see how they perform over time. I'm hoping that they will not warp, but I'll just have to see.

On the other hand, I am fully confident that the multi-strip rivets will NOT warp. First, because I glued up multiple strips of wood. But more than that, the fact that it is two section of wood face-glued together with the grain oriented at 90-degrees, should result in a piece that is very stable.

I'm also glad that I cut dados into the one trivet. It did radically change the look, since each wide walnut strip was turned into two narrow walnut strips (and so on), but I think it looks very attractive and interesting.

More photos follow...

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)


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See Also:

Serving Tray

Box Joint Trivets