Wikipedia defines a "trivet" as "…an object placed between a serving dish or bowl and a dining table, usually to protect the table from heat damage."
Here is a wood-working project to make your own decorative trivets. While these would work adequately for the stated purpose of protecting the table from heat damage, what we are making are more suited for decorative wall-hanging display.
Backboard for Trivets
I use laminate wood, typically reclaimed bottom panels from discarded clothes dressers. Using an inverted serving bowl to trace the circumference onto the recycled wood stock, a 7 or 8-inch diameter trivet isadequate.
Rough cut using an electric jig saw. There is no need to sand the edges smooth at this point. This will be done in a later step. Set these aside until needed.
Several Different Diameter Wooden Dowel Rods
We need to create ‘buttons’ from cut wooden dowel rods which will be glued to the trivet backing board in an attractive pattern.
I find that three or four different diameter dowel rods is enough variety. My preferences for these diameters are usually 1/4-inch, 3/8th-inch and 3/4-inch wooden dowel rods. These are commonly available in any home-hardware/woodworking materials, crafts and wood-working tools section.
Miter Box Required
We also require several different angles to be cut. I prefer 90-degrees, 45-degrees and 22.5 degrees for each of the chosen diameter dowels. Here we see a 45-degree trivet button being cut.
Using a miter box and a secure backstop ensures proper thickness of each cut.
I try to make all my ‘trivet buttons’ one-half inch (0.5-IN.) thick irregardless of the angle, which gives enough tolerance for sanding to ensure that all buttons are fairly level when glued to the backing board.
We will be sanding the trivet buttons flat and smooth later, so the actual finished thickness will be closer to 1/4 to 3/8th-inch thick when we’re done so slight variation in the half-inch actual button thickness can be compensated for.
The Trivet Buttons, Multiple Diameters and Multiple Angles
We have a bowl of half-inch thick trivet ‘buttons’ ready for use. Notice the different angles and diameters. They are all exactly (or very close) to one-half inch thick. A quick sanding or buffing of either cut end to remove any slivers or ‘toothpick ends’ may be required. We will be gluing these to the backboard so the cut ends need to be square and flat.
Apply a Layer of Wood Glue to Backing Board, Affix Trivet Buttons in Circular or Other Pleasing Pattern
Thinking ahead about the intended trivet pattern you want to create, apply a thick layer of wood glue or other adhesive to the backing board and begin applying the trivet buttons.
Begin at the center of the circular backing board and expand outwards towards the edges as you affix the trivet buttons. You may occasionally ’squeeze’ or ’round up’ the buttons closer together to fill-in any void spaces and spatially centered any deviation from true-center as your from the center outwards.
Periodically you should be pressing the glued buttons flat with your hand to ensure a good contact with the backing board.
Allow the Glued Trivet to Fully Dry Before Sanding Flat
Using a Dremel sander with the ‘drum sander‘ attachment, shape the edges of thetrivets as shown above. This shaping highlights the irregular perimeters of the dowel rod buttons on the edges, giving each trivet more individuality and character.
Note that the trivet buttons in this example are not exactly the same height. This is where the electric sander will be required.
Sanding the Trivets Smooth and Flat
With an electric sander and at least 60-grit sandpaper, sand the irregular heights of the trivet buttons smooth and level. Finer grit sandpaper can be used thereafter.
Any trivet buttons that are not fully glued and break free can be re-glued, and sanded level once dried.
No stain is required but you can apply a light wash of stain on these if you so desire. Likely however, the stain would highlight the adhesive used and produce an undesirable effect.
All trivets shown here are un-stained, just coated with clear spray urethane.
A small hole can be drilled or gouged through from the backside, aligned to pierce any one of the larger diameter trivet buttons nearer the outer edge is best.
Finished Trivets, Ready to Hang or Give as Gifts
Because these are spray-coated with clear urethane varnish, these are probably more suited for display than for actually holding a hot dish or plate. Because they are coated in spray urethane, they can be damp-cleaned using a wet wash cloth or rag to remove dust, built-up soil or grease from kitchen cooking fumes.
Summation of How to Build a Wooden Trivet
There is much room for variations of this project. Imagine making a coffee table tabletop using this method as the countertop. A router-recessed ‘pit’ of perhaps a quarter inch in a tabletop could be made and the trivet buttons glued into this recess and sanded smooth.
An epoxy leveling agent could be poured over the entire tabletop to produce a completely flat and glass-smooth surface
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