If angles and bevels get you all flustered and frustrated, fear no more! I have an almost fool-proof method for making compound mitre trays!  Hint: there is almost no thinking involved!

There has been one project that I have wanted to do for YEARS, but just couldn’t get my head around it.

I watched the YouTube videos, I checked out building plans, but I still just couldn’t put together how to make one…

A compound mitre tray.

In english?  A tray that has mitred corners – I can do that – but also has edges that slant outwards (the bevel part).

Adding in that beveled portion changes things considerably – but makes the tray that more more decorative and special.

I finally worked up the courage – yes, I found this project THAT intimidating – and made not one, but TWO compound mitre trays in an effort to dumb-down the directions enough that anyone could make one….

Even me.

Compound mitre tray

  1. I used 1″ x 4″ pieces of wood, but you can use any thickness you like.
  2. angle your table saw to 15° and set your rip fence to ¼” away from the blade.
  3. run both sides of your board along the rip fence to create the 15° bevel cut.  Note: the cuts will be parallel to each other, so be sure to flip the board accordingly.bevel cut on table saw
  4. In the photo above I created a rabbet groove to hold a mirror I wanted to use as the base of my compound mitre tray.  This was reaching too high for a first attempt, so I’ll leave that step out for now.  (if you do try this and get “good” at it, then adding a groove to inset your base is as easy as running the wood over the blade which is set at about 1/8″ depth).
  5. Now comes the tricky part, but I have truly dumbed it down to almost fool-proof.  (Almost)    setting your mitre saw for a compound-mitre cut
  6. Set a piece of wood at the length you want the top section (bottom opening) of your tray to be.  In my case I clamped a scrap bit of 4″x 4″ at 12″ from the mitre saw blade.
  7. Turn your mitre saw to a 45° angle and lock in place.
  8. NOW comes the tricky part – but not too tricky… cutting a compound mitre tray
  9. line the beveled edge of your wood (the narrow edge) FLAT with the base of your mitre saw – not flush against the fence.  You want that angle to run along the base plate which means it will stand out from the fence as in the above photo.
  10. Butt the end of your wood up against your the wood you have clamped in place (your jig) and then cut.  cutting a compound mitre tray
  11. Repeat on the other side of the board – flip your board and then cut this time with the point from your last cut butt up against your jig.   It sounds awkward, but as long as your mitre saw is set at 45°, and the cuts run perpendicular to each other, this should become an easily repeatable move.
  12. cut 4 boards this way and you will have the frame for a square compound mitre tray.Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray
  13. As you get more comfortable with this, you can change up the jig (the scrap wood clamped to your mitre saw) to make two sides longer and therefore make a rectangular compound mitre tray – but try the square one first for practice.
  14. Sand your boards smooth before assembly, then use wood glue and finishing nails to hold everything together.
  15. Measure the bottom of your tray and cut your base.  I used ¼” plywood.  This can be glued in place and then nailed with finishing nails for extra strength.
    using a mirror as a base for a compound mitre trayI had a mirror I picked up at Michael’s a couple/few years ago and that’s what I wanted to use for the base of my tray.  In this situation you’d need a rabbet cut into the sides of your compound mitre tray to hold the mirror in place (since you can’t glue or nail it).   

There was a LOT of swearing trying to get everything measured properly and then tucked into place so I had tight corners….  A LOT.

I also had to stain the tray prior to assembly or risk getting stain all over the mirror.

In the end it all worked out, but stick with the square tray if you are a first-timer – you’ll feel much more successful with a lot less grey hair in the end.

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray

The perk of the mirrored compound mitre tray is that whatever you put in it will double.  Add a few decor pieces and the tray immediately looks full from the reflection.

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray


Add in Christmas lights and/or candles, and it will reflect twice the light.

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray

This tray is all about Christmas – I have a candle and small Christmas tree in it right now, but I’m debating on putting a few Christmas village houses in so that it will look like a little glowing town.

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre trayCompound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray  My corners are pretty close to perfect and I just LOVE how this turned out.


The square compound mitre tray?  That’s going to be a present for friends.

I did have one corner that didn’t quite fit… because of inserting the base of the tray into the rabbet slot – you shouldn’t have this problem if you attach your base after the sides are glued up.

Pretty easily fixed/hidden;  I poured some wood glue into the crack and then over-stuffed it with the sawdust I’d collected from sanding.

fixing a gap in a mitred corner

Once it’s dry, sand it smooth and stain as per usual.

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray

This is a fair-sized tray, so don’t worry that it will be too small for a nice server or a coffee table vignette.  It’s quite nice actually; I’m not sure I’d go much bigger.

I filled it with treats and then wrapped it in cellophane.  The treats were just filler, the compound mitre tray is the real gift since it will last and can be used anywhere.

Compound-mitre tray gift

You can cut holes for handles, or attach leather strips if you like.

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray

This project gave me a real sense of accomplishment – they all do I guess – but this one should have been a kinda-sorta beginner build, but I was just too intimidated to try it.

I’m hoping my instructions are clear enough that you can whip a few of these out with no problems.

Compound mitre trays for Dummies

Then dance around the garage because you are so awesome!

Compound mitre tray, compound-mitre tray

Amp it up with taller sides or a more obtuse angle.

Yes, a LOT of people will be getting these as gifts. lol

Have a great one!