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If you read the post about my big old house project list last week, you may have noticed that one of the little projects on my list was a wooden tray for the dining room table. Welp, I can already mark that one off because I made a DIY rustic wooden tray and I’m in love with it.
This was such an easy and affordable project to make, and wow, what a bang for the buck! Trays are great for tables, kitchen counters, bookshelves, the tops of dressers. So basically anywhere with a flat surface is a great place for a tray! It’s a nice way to group items together and it keeps things from looking scattered and a little messy. There’s just something about a tray that makes a random collection of objects look cohesive.
DIY Rustic Wooden Tray
I knew I didn’t want anything too fancy. Just a basic wooden tray with simple and clean lines. I didn’t need any handles because I’m not planning on serving anything. Actually, I’m trying to picture myself walking around with a serving tray, offering refreshments to my guests…and I’m just not seeing it. All I can see is June Cleaver and that definitely is not me. Unless June Cleaver secretly drove a Camaro, which I somehow doubt.
There are only a few supplies needed that you can pick up at any craft store and hardware store.
- 1 sheet of thin plywood or a basswood sheet (or some type of craft wood panel)
- 1x2x6 (if you want a higher side, you could use a 1×3)
- Stain in the color of your choice
- Polyurethane or some type of sealer
- Wood glue
I picked up a 12×24 Basswood sheet at Joann one day when Alex and I were out shopping. She thought it was a little too big but my table is 66 inches long and 37 inches wide so I knew it would work. They do have smaller sizes but you could also buy a thin sheet of plywood at Lowe’s and cut it to the size you need. My sheet was 1/8″ but you could go thicker too. I can’t find the one I bought on Joann’s website so maybe it’s an in-store only item. This plywood sheet is close though.
I didn’t want to mess with mitered edges and instead opted for a super easy straight cut. When I measured for the sides, I cut 2 pieces that were the exact length of the wood sheet and 2 pieces that were the width of the sheet plus 1.5 inches. The nominal size of a 1×2 is actually .75 x 1.5, not 1×2. In order for my sides to match up perfectly around the outside of the bottom, I needed to measure to the outside of the front and back pieces, not the inside. In the top picture, you can see how the sides overlap the front piece so it’s nice and square.
And of course, my Basswood sheet wasn’t exactly 12×24 either so there was some math involving fractions. And cursing. I hate fractions.
So roughly my cuts were 2 @ 24 inches and 2 @ 13 1/2 inches (12 + .75 + .75).
Sand And Stain!
After my 1×2’s were cut, I lightly sanded all the pieces, just enough to rough it up a little and get rid of any snags or ridges on the cut ends.
Then it was time to stain! I used my favorite Weathered Oak stain from Minwax on the table so I wanted to go darker for the tray. Nothing too dramatic but something that would provide a little contrast. After spending way too long in the stain aisle at Lowe’s, I finally chose Honey, also by Minwax.
The two colors work really well with each other, which is great because I did not want to spend more time at Lowe’s picking out another color! I let the stain dry overnight and then I applied 3 coats of my absolute favorite Polycrylic protective finish. I use that stuff on everything I paint or stain.
It’s hard to see in this picture, but the Polycrylic gives the wood a nice shine. I also think it brings out the color a little more since it’s not so dull-looking. I could have added more coats for even more gloss, but I was looking for more of a rustic wooden tray so I stopped at 3.
Putting It All Together
Once the Polycrylic was dry (again, I let it dry a full 24 hours because…full-time job) I started to assemble the pieces. I used wood glue and nails to put the sides together first. There was a minute there when I thought I might have to drag out the nail gun and compressor but it turned out to be pretty easy to hammer the nail in. I only needed one nail in each piece. The wood glue really helps to keep things together.
Here’s a super dramatic close-up of Mr. Nail. I recently bought my first DSLR camera and I find the most ridiculous excuses to take pictures of things. The nail heads are small so it’s barely noticeable they’re even there.
I ran a thin line of wood glue around the edges of the Basswood sheet and popped it right into the bottom of the frame the sides formed. I made sure it was aligned to the very bottom, wiped off any excess wood glue with a damp towel, and waited rather impatiently for it to dry.
This picture is from before I wiped off the extra glue so you can see where it squished up a little around the edges. A quick wipe down took care of that.
Time for the Fun Part!
Once the glue was dry, it was time for the fun part – loading the tray up with pretties. I normally have a vase of flowers on the table and maybe another little doodad or two. Now that I have a tray to corral my stuff, I feel like I can add more to the table and it won’t look messy.
I cannot wait to decorate this tray for all the upcoming holidays! But I’m so happy that my fall decor looks right at home.
Ready to try your own DIY Rustic Wooden Tray?
As far as projects go (or at least my projects anyway), this DIY tray was so simple I wish I had done it sooner. Other than waiting for things to dry, the actual amount of time to build this wasn’t that much.
Wooden trays can be so expensive to buy. If you already have stain and sealer on hand, then the cost of this project is under $10! You’ll just need to buy the 1×2 and a wood panel for the bottom.
I love DIY projects because it gives me the flexibility to create pieces I love that are one of a kind. Not all spaces are created equal so if you’re struggling with an area where “off the shelf” items just don’t work, maybe a DIY solution is what you need. The beauty of this tray is that it’s totally customizable. You could make one that’s smaller or bigger; just remember to add the additional width to 2 of your side pieces.
If you’d like to see what’s left on my great big house project list, you can check out that post here.
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