Hand Carved Leaf-Shaped Tray

3 Materials
2 Days

Wood carving is really fun and relaxing. And it's not hard to learn. I used a minimal amount of hand tools to carve this tray. Just imagine serving candies or nuts on this beautiful tray. You could also use it to store your watch or jewelry.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
I used a leaf from a white oak tree right out of my own yard. I scanned it to a sheet of paper and this became the template for my tray.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
Fortunately, I had a piece of Mesquite hardwood on hand that was about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. If you're new to carving, you might want to get a piece of Basswood which is easier to carve. I just prefer the Mesquite because of the beautiful wood grain.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
Here is a picture of the 2 carving gouges I used. I clamped down the board and used my rubber mallet to tap the back of the gouge. Work with the grain, and don't dig too deeply with the gouges.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
After carving our the bowl for the tray and doing some preliminary sanding, I clamped the board down and used my jigsaw to cut out the tray from the board. Take it slow and let the blade do all the cutting.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
Here is the tray after I cut it out with the jigsaw.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
I used my straight carving knife to start shaping the bottom of the tray. Be very careful and practice with your carving tools. Always know where the blade is going to travel and don't have a finger or other body part in the path of your blade. Again, practice makes perfect. A beginner might want to invest in a carving glove or finger wraps.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
Heres another option in place of using the carving knife. I used a Shinto rasp saw, and it takes off a lot of material to shape the bottom of the tray. The Shinto has a course side and fine side, but the way it's designed it keeps the wood from clogging up the rasp.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
Now the fun part begins -- the sanding. And more sanding. And more. I started with 80 grit sandpaper and then moved to 120, 220, 320, and 600 grit. I then pulled out my micro mesh sanding sheets to finish the sanding.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
The final step -- I added my homemade mineral oil / beeswax mixture to the Mesquite and it instantly brought out the beautiful grain and color of the wood. This mixture is easy to apply and will go a long ways to protecting the tray. And it's food safe.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
Don't forget to check out my woodworking and DIY blog and subscribe. If you do, I will send you the Home Shop Safety & Tool Checklist for free. This is a great checklist to inventory your shop and help you be safer in your shop.
hand carved leaf shaped tray
The finished tray. Please consult the full tutorial over on my site. Thanks!
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Stephen Scott Johnson

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 questions
  • Rachel's Trash~2~Treasures
    on Apr 20, 2018

    That is just beautiful! I have a similar one that my mother made for me when in was in high school. I had No idea that mineral oil was food safe, can I use it for my cutting boards? Is it a specific brand?

  • Holly Palladino O'Grady
    on Apr 20, 2018

    is there a specific wood that you use for wood carving or could you use any type of wood

  • Melodie
    on Apr 21, 2018

    Hello. I love tour leaf tray. I can’t do this kind of work. Do you sell them

    i would love to have one

    Thanks Melodie Fevreau

    e mail


    • Stephen Scott Johnson
      on Apr 22, 2018

      Melodie ... Thanks for the question! Unfortunately, I'm not set up to sell them at this time. Perhaps I will in the future.

Join the conversation

3 of 40 comments
  • Kim
    on Apr 21, 2018

    Not only is your finished bowl beautiful, your tutorial was so clearly written that it makes me want to try this!!!

  • Theresa Konkle Walls
    on May 2, 2018

    This leaf tray is beautiful, I know it took some time to make! Great job!

    • Stephen Scott Johnson
      on May 3, 2018

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, it did take some time, but carving is very relaxing and therapeutic. I also like to carve wooden spoons.

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