The tool tray on my sharpening station is actually broken into two parts: a shallow tray and a deep tray. I plan to drill a few holes in the shallow tray to hold my burnisher and some screwdrivers dedicated to disassembling my hand planes. There will also be some open space to hold small odds-and-ends. The deep tray will hold all my sharpening jigs, oil, and a spray bottle for my waterstones.
While both the laminated top and wood top segments are fixed in place, the two tool trays are free-floating, and can be easily removed. They both hang between the two top segments, which are mounted at the same height. The deep tool tray is constructed using simple rabbet joints, and the bottom of the tray is held captive in a 1/4" wide groove to allow for wood movement. I reinforced the rabbet joints with some 1" brads. The shallow tray has a small ledge at the back to keep items from falling off and landing behind the cabinet.
I debated whether I should put a finish on the tool trays and the wood top. In the end, I compromised by applying a single coat of Tried and True Traditional Wood Finish. This product is a polymerized linseen oil and beeswax mixture; it's my go-to finish for shop surfaces. I like that this finish is non-toxic and non-flammable, which works well for me since my shop is in a poorly ventilated basement which contains a hot water heater with an open pilot light. It doesn't offer as much protection to the wood surface as a varnish finish, but it's easily renewable, and makes cleaning up glue drips a snap. Tried and True is the only product I will use on my workbench top.
If you want to give Tried and True Traditional Wood Finish a try, you have to understand what you're getting yourself into. The product has an unusual consistency... it's essentially a paste. You must apply it in extremely thin coats and use a lot of elbow grease to rub it in. Also, don't expect to apply a second coat a few hours after the first. Tried and True takes a long time to dry, which is the downside of a non-toxic non-flammable formula. The single coat I applied to the tool trays and wood top took almost four days to dry, but I also applied it during a rainy and humid week. If you're in a hot dry climate, it will dry faster.
In the end, I decided one coat was enough protection for these pieces. This decision was part pragmatism and part laziness; time will tell how the trays hold up. In the next (and final) post in this series, I'll show the final setup of my dedicated sharpening station and how I use it. Stay tuned!