It may be difficult to believe, but the end of October marks the beginning the crazy season.
You know exactly what season I’m talking about. The holiday season is now officially upon us.
You have to buy airline tickets for lots of family visits. Tense negotiations between husbands and wives begin to decide which family gets each of the holidays. Who is going to cook? Will you try to do the big Thanksgiving holiday dinner at two separate celebrations?
It’s almost enough to make you wish the holidays would already be over.
Woodworkers often look at this time of the year and get a little shaky as well. After all, now is put up or shut up time when it comes to the craft. Sure, all year you were bragging about the cool projects you built. Maybe it was that dining room table in April, or that grandfather’s clock you finished in September. Family members were taking note, and maybe they even suggested that perhaps they would like a little something from your workbench.
When it comes to building gifts for giving during the holidays, I’ve discovered a few immutable truths. First, I always go small. Sure, I could build an entertainment center for someone, but come on, there’s no way that would ever ship. Some of the favorite projects have been keepsake boxes, clocks, desk organizer sets… things you can put into a box and send to those distant relatives. But, after giving them for a few years, well, how many clocks does your dad really need?
The past few years, I’ve also come to believe that the best way to go is to build items that get some frequent use. Something like a cutting board is always a good choice, because it gets a whole lot of work through the year.
This year, however, Tim Walter of Eagle America brought my attention to a new project that really caught my eye. They now offer bowl and tray kits that can be easily made using the most versatile tool in your shop, your router!
You know the kind of project I’m talking about… You go to a friend’s house for a get-together, and someone breaks out the potato chips and onion dip. If your friends aren’t animals, they may offer a classy serving option – something like a tray that is sectioned for the chips and the dip, so they stay in their own cubbies, but they are easily accessible. Imagine the pride you would feel serving up the chips and salsa to your friends in a wooden chip tray set you built yourself.
The kit comes with the acrylic templates to pattern to cut the sections, and the specialized router bit that removes the wood to form the cubbies leaving a rounded edge flat bottomed section in the tray. “This is really an insanely simple project that has so much impact,” said Tim of the kit. “With just a plunge router and some imagination in gluing up the blanks, you can have an impressive tray set to give that will amaze any recipient. And, since they are so easy to build, you can knock out gifts for both sides of the family without any additional hassle. That makes it twice as easy!”
The basic kit offers the standard wedge-shaped pattern you expect to see on a round chip tray. For the holidays this year, Tim and his busy little elves have come up with a surprise for woodworkers. “While the basic shape is great, we’ve gone a step beyond and developed some holiday-themed patterns – Christmas trees, snow men and a stocking. Grab a handful of M&M’s, Hershey’s Kisses, cookies or roasted nuts out of those trays while Gene Autrey croons Frosty the Snowman on the radio, and you will be in the holiday spirit before you can say Jack Frost.”
While the patterns are new for this holiday season, the special bit is usable for every one of the patterns. “As with all of our bits, the Bowl and Tray bit is made of the highest quality materials and ground to a very fine edge. Once your relatives see the first bowl or tray you make,I guarantee you’ll be very busy building more.” Besides, Tim said, “you never know when we may come out with templates in other holiday shapes… Stay tuned.”
A small, easy to build, easy to ship, ready to use gift that can be brought out at parties any time of the year? It looks like Tim and the elves at Eagle America have been reading your holiday wish lists.
P.S. For some other easy to build ideas for holiday gifts, Eagle America also offers a few more helpful suggestions…