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Squirrel serving tray

I had seen these router templates in woodworking magazines before, but had never had the urge to try it.  I decided to buy the Squirrel template because I thought it looked neat, and I liked the contrast between maple and walnut.


Unfortunately, no instructions were shipped with my order.  My kit included a collet extension for the router, and it did have an instruction sheet [don't bottom out bit in the extension, and take light cuts since the collet length puts more bending stress on your router].

I went to the Eagle American web site, and all they had was 1 video about how to make a different type of serving tray.  Highlights of video were:

-leave a minimum of 1/2" thickness at the bottom of your project

-first remove excess wood with Forstner bits and the drill press, then route

-you might have to buy a wider plastic router base to straddle the template

-hold the template on with 2-sided tape to your project

-use round-over bit on outside and inside when done

-use flush trim router bit to trim the OD

My Project

Blank Thickness

If you are supposed to leave 1/2" thickness at bottom, a standard 3/4" thick board is not sufficient because you would only have a 1/4" lip left on top.  That is probably not enough to hold candy and items.  So if I glue up 2 thicknesses of standard 3/4" thick wood, I get 1.5 thickness and I route the pattern 1 inch deep.  This sounds ok.

Router bits and bearings and collars

My kit came with 2 round bottom router bits. Each bit has a bearing and collar.  One has a 3/4" cutting diameter, eagle america #144-1205.  The larger bit has a 1.25" diameter cutting diameter and is #144-2005. I found the specs for the 2 bits on their web site and they are shown below. 

Bearing position and routing project

With the bearing against the cutting part of the bit, and the bearing riding next to the template, the minimum cutting depth is about 7/8".

So if you remove most of the material with the Forstner bits first, you will have to feed slowly into any non-removed material because you are cutting 7/8" deep.  Guess I will just have to play with the first project and see how it goes.

Verifying the bit will reach into all the corners in the template

Since the guide bearing is the same diameter as the cutter on the bit, you are routing equal to the outline of the template.

I copied the template pattern into Sketchup.

Squirrel template in sketchup

I took the smaller 3/4" cutter diameter bit and ran it around the template with my hand.  It will not fit into 2 places on the pattern.  I guess these will not be very noticeable to people.

Flush trim bit won't fit in 3 places

My flush trim bits are 1/2" diameter, so they won't fit in 3 places.  I guess in those places, I scroll saw exactly to the pattern line and do not use the flush trim bit.  These 3 spots are shown as 1/2" red dots below..........

How to get 2 different pieces from 1 template?

In the photos above of example projects, the squirrel body is walnut and the tail is maple.  I can't tell for sure, but maybe the thickness of where they join is still 1/2" like the rest of the pattern, except at this intersection, they will have to be 1/2 of that or 1/4" thick.

I don't see how to do this, unless one cuts the pattern into 2 pieces at the joint line?

I used Sketchup to more accurately split the template in half, versus just free hand drawing it.

Thoughts on How to make this item

So my plan right now is to glue up 2 thicknesses of standard boards, to give a total thickness of 1.5 inches.

If you are supposed to leave 1/2" on the bottom, this means the pattern needs to be routed 1-1/4" deep.

So a lot of waste material needs to be removed.  The video from the company says to remove it using Forstner bits.  Although drill press drilling is fairly quick, another option would be to scroll saw the pattern on the top piece, leaving 1/8 to a 1/4" of material to route out.  This just leaves a 1/4" of material to remove from the bottom.  A Forstner bit could remove some of it, but you must keep the point of the Forstner bit above the final bottom of the maybe just simpler to route it out.

Another thought is about whether to use the smaller or larger round nose bottom bit to remove the material.  The small bit hardly removes anything compared to the larger one.   If you use both, they must be set almost perfectly for depth when you switch from one to another.

Choosing lumber

I have a 1 inch piece of rough sawn walnut about 8 foot long from Forrest, but I decided not to use it yet. I may make some furniture from it someday.

Instead, I chose to use a 48 long piece of Menard's walnut that is 5.5 inches long.  I glued up 2 pieces per layer and since 2 layers, 4 boards.

For the maple, I used a wide board plus a 5.5 inch wide regular board to make the blank.

Gluing up blanks and drying in oven at 120F

Scroll sawing main body blank - top piece

I marked the outline using the plastic template, the scroll sawed the inside to within 1/8 to 1/4" of the pencil mark, to leave material for the router bit to clean up.

Marking where to scroll saw the plastic template into 2 pieces

I printed out the pattern from Sketchup, then marked it with a pencil. I scroll sawed the plastic pattern into 2 pieces.........but I had some issues with the saw cut melting and the 2 pieces not coming apart. I had to  use the hand scroll saw to help separate them.  I sanded the cut on the drill press drum sander.

Used heavy duty 2-sided carpet tape to hole plastic pattern to work piece

Ordered smaller diameter bit

I went ahead and ordered a 1/2" cutting diameter bit, with a 1/4" radius, and a bearing.  This will let me get closer into tight curves on this project, or future project.

Router problem

I briefly tried routing on the router table, but gave up and took the router out of the table.

I started with the bigger diameter 1-1/4" bit. I ran into a problem because even if you move the thin bearing as high as you can, so it still rubs on the 1/4" thick plastic template, you leave a 3/16" or thinner lip at the top !!!!!!!

I ended up using the Dremel with the 1/2" diameter drum sander to remove the thin lip at the top. If you are careful, you won't knick the plastic template.  I also used the dremel to remove the material in the tight curves that neither the larger or smaller bit can reach.

If I had a shorter cutting depth flush trim router bit, I could use it to remove the lip. The flush trim router bit I have is too long to use on this project.

Finishing with the bigger bit

You can use the smaller bit to get into the tight corners better, but you want to finish with the bigger diameter bit because it leaves less steps and swirls to sand out. The main advantage of the bigger 1-1/4" bit is its ability to flatten the bottom and not leave much sanding required after routing.

I also added the circle template piece to my plastic router base, to better straddle the whole cut-out.  I could buy a bigger clear cover later.

Excessive swirls from using 3/4" smaller bit

I used the Dremel with a deburr tool to shape the spots too tight for the router bit bearing to fit into.

Squirrel Body interior routed and ready to finish outside

Band sawing outside of squirrel body

Scroll sawing tight curves on outside of squirrel body

I used the scroll saw to saw the curves that are too tight for my 1/2" bearing to  fit into on my flush trim router bit. I had to be careful and not saw the plastic template.

Cleaning up outside of Squirrel body using long flush trim router bit

Removing 2-sided tape carefully with Chisel

Outside of squirrel body flush trimmed to final size

My 1st squirrel is going to face left instead of right

The magazine photo shows the squirrel facing right.   Since the patterns can be flipped 180 degrees, I did not pay attention which way I placed the squirrel body pattern when I made that my squirrel will be facing left instead of right.

Getting smarter on making maple squirrel tail

I had trouble with a lip left on the inside of the squirrel body..........and I had to remove it with the dremel drum sander.  On the maple tail, I decided to change the process I used on the body as follows:

1. Pencil mark tail onto workpiece.

2. Scroll saw 1/8" inside the pencil marks

3. Apply 2 sided tape and 1/4" thick plastic template

4. On the router table, use the long flush trim bit to route inside to pattern edge. Feed piece counter-clockwise to avoid grabbing.

5. Glue top to bottom

6. Use round bottom bit to route inside.

This worked fine and avoided the problem of the lip.

Don't leave too much stock on OD of maple tail

My tall flush trim router bit likes to bite and rip out pieces on hard maple, especially if too much stock is left from bandsawing.  If I make some more, make some multiple passes on the bandsaw to try to  leave less than 1/8 of stock for the router bit to remove.

On my 1st project, the flush trim bit ripped out a piece of maple near the bottom of the joint between the squirrel body and tail.  I could not find the piece that was ripped out, so I filled it with a mixture of maple chips and yellow titebond glue.  The grain is parallel to the flush trim bit area, so it is prone to tear out here.

Mineral Oil

The kit I ordered came with a small bottle of mineral oil, so I used it on this project.

Finished Squirrel Tray

Closing Thoughts on this project

I spent more time learning how to do this project, than actually making the parts !!  It was a lot more complicated than I originally thought.

The thin 1/4" plastic template creates some issues like not enough height for the bearing to remove the side wall material at the top.  If one had a thicker template, like 3/8" thick or 1/2" thick, it would eliminate this problem.  Using a short flush trim bit, like 1/2" cutting depth, could be used first to get the top of the wall cut done.  One could make their own templates from 3/8" plywood cut on the scroll saw instead of paying $25 for a piece of plastic.

Early on, decide which way you want your squirrel to face, right or left........then make sure both patterns are put on the right orientation on their respective work pieces.  You don't want the squirrel facing one way and the tail the opposite way !!

To avoid tear-out, minimize the amount of material you leave on the exterior for the flush trim router to clean up.

I have no tools for sanding the recessed flat area of these type of trays........except hand sanding.  I think they make a circular rotating sanding pad that will do this?

Since you can never set 2 different router bits to the exact same height, use the smaller bit to get into the corners, then finish the depth using the larger bit.  If you only use the smaller diameter bit, you will get excessive swirl marks to sand out.

Remember to wipe off the dust on the plastic pattern and work piece before you apply the 2-sided tape to temporarily attach the pattern to the workpiece.