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Lap desk or bed tray ... sturdy but lightweight.

Lap desk or bed tray . . . sturdy but lightweight

A removable top turns this portable lap desk into a bed tray that rests comfortably on your legs. Its appearance is deceptive: its thick cloth base is filled with light-weight styrene foam beads that keep the overall weight at about 5 pounds. The beads let the tray conform to uneven surfaces while keeping the top level.

Its top is a 14- by 20-inch tray that's like a slender box. When you use it as a writing desk, you can store pen and paper under the top. Since a pair of short dowels holds the top in place, it tends to stay on even when you carry the tray vertically by one of its handles.

A fabric store, lumberyard, foam or plastic store, and hardware store will supply all the materials that you need. Total cost is about $25.

For the cloth base, buy:

3/4 yard 45-inch-wide fabric, enough to make the base and two matching napkins

14 quarts of styrene foam beads (sold in 3-cubic-foot bags for about $9)

For the wooden desk-tray, you'll need:

6 feet of 1-by-2 fir

Two 14- by 20-inch pieces of 1/4-inch birch plywood

1/4- and 5/16-inch hardwood dowels

15-inch-long piece of 1/2-inch quarter-round molding

Two wooden drawer handles, about 4 inches wide, with screws

Eight 1 1/4-inch (3d) finishing nails

Eight 3/4-inch-long #6 woodscrews

You'll also need thread to match the fabric, woodworker's glue, white craft glue, masking tape, wood putty, light-colored stain, satin-finish polyurethane or varnish, and both medium- and fine-grade sandpaper.

Tools include a sewing machine, saw, nailset, and an electric drill with a 1/4-inch bit and a long-shanked pilot bit for countersinking the woodscrews (this bit has a 5/16-inch-wide upper flange).

Building the wooden tray

Start by cutting the 1-by-2 into two pieces 12 3/4 inches long and two 20 inches long. Center handles and drill holes for their screws in the shorter 1-by-2s. Then glue and nail the sides together as shown in the sketch above; countersink the finishing nails and fill with wood putty.

Position and tape this frame under the plywood top. Mark two holes in the top for the keeper dowels, then use the 1/4-inch bit to drill through the plywood and just slightly into the frame. Remove the plywood top and tape on the plywood bottom.

To make a visual stopping point on the pilot bit when drilling screw holes, place the bit against the side of the box so the bit's tip will slightly penetrate the plywood bottom; wrap tape around the shank, level with the top of the wood. Then finish drilling the two holes into the frame for the keeper dowels and drill six holes for the other woodscrews.

Cut two 1-inch lengths of 1/4-inch dowel and glue them in the holes drilled in the plywood top. These keeper dowels will slip into two slightly oversized 5/16-inch-wide holes drilled in the frame to hold the tray top in place.

Center and glue the quarter-round molding along the edge of the desk top opposite the keeper dowels (this is a pencil rail).

When the glue has dried, sand all the wood pieces, rounding the corners slightly. Affix the wood handles. Then stain and seal all surfaces with polyurethane.

Sewing the fabric base

Referring to the diagram on page 115, cut a 22- by 28-inch rectangle from the fabric, then cut 3 1/2-inch squares from each corner. Mark a 1/2-inch seam around each cut-out section; slip corners. Sew fabric seams right sides together to create the shallow fabric "bag' for the base.

Next, on the bottom plywood piece, pencil a margin 1/2 inch in from the outside edges. Slip the plywood inside the fabric base; then glue the edges of the cloth to the top of the plywood on one long side and the two short sides, aligning fabric edges with the margin. Let glue dry, then fill the bag with the styrene foam beads (see picture at far left, opposite) and glue the unattached side to the base.

Position the frame on the plywood and fabric base so the predrilled holes align with the holes beneath the cloth. Check that no cloth extends past the margin into the center of the tray; trim if necessary. Glue and screw the frame to the bottom, using all eight woodscrews.

Two of the holes in the frame receive the keeper dowels. The other six are filled with 5/16-inch dowels glued in place and cut flush with the top. Fill any voids with wood putty. Sand, then seal exposed dowel ends with polyurethane.

You will have enough fabric left over to make two small (about 13- by 13-inch) napkins, if you wish. Turn under the raw edges 1/4 inch and zigzag-stitch around perimeter.

Photo: For writing outdoors or eating in bed, this dual-function desk-tray has a contouring fabric bag base filled with styrene foam beads. The plywood top lifts off to turn the desk into a tray with wooden sides

Photo: Exploded view shows pattern for fabric base and plywood pieces that sandwich the 1-by-2 frame. Holes in top of frame are for countersunk woodscrews and keeper dowels

Photo: Fill the fabric base with styrene foam beads after gluing three of its sides to the plywood bottom. To catch runaway beads, work over a plastic-lined garbage can

Photo: Seal unattached fabric edge with glue (cloth should extend 1/2 inch onto the plywood). Before mounting the frame to the base, cover seam with a top coat of glue

Photo: Secure frame to the base with woodscrews that run through predrilled countersunk holes and into the plywood bottom. Glue-covered seam is sandwiched between

Photo: Short 5/16-inch-diameter dowels fill holes above all but two of the countersunk screws. Cut dowels flush with frame top, sand smooth, then seal with polyurethane

Photo: To convert tray into a desk, dowels glued in top slip into frame to keep top in place. Store-bought oak handles woodscrewed to short sides make carrying easy
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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