With all this staying at home and keeping away from other people, there can be days when all you want to do is kick back in bed or on the couch when it comes to brekkie, lunch or dinner. If you have kids, it’s more like supper time (when they are all in bed), or you might be lucky enough to have a gorgeous partner who will give you that odd sleep in, with brekkie in bed as a bonus. Either way, chances are there will likely be an occasion that calls for a serving tray.
But with strained finances being all too common right now, it can be too much of a luxury to justify purchasing one, plus it’s likely that many of the stores that sell them are closed, so popping down to the store to get one isn’t likely an option. However, did you know that you could make a serving tray out of recycled wood and other things you may have lying around the house or shed?
I made this serving tray from pallet wood and some brand new corner brackets I found in a drawer that obviously came with a piece of furniture (or perhaps a smart TV, for wall mounting) at some point in time. I couldn’t remember though, and so I decided to use them for this project. I didn’t just make a regular serving tray though, because why make an item that only has one use and sits in the cupboard waiting for the opportune time to make an appearance? This tray doubles as a storage tray, for all your organizing needs in the kitchen, dining room, study or bedroom and transforms into a handy serving tray, with the help of an insert.
Now you can make this tray exactly the way I did if you have all the same materials I used, or you can get creative and use what you have at home to make something similar. If your not much of a handyman and would rather buy one, and you have the funds, then you can purchase one from me, as I’ve just started selling these on my new Etsy store (and yes, I will definitely get a commission if you buy one, haha).
This page contains affiliate links that may earn me a commission (without any extra cost to you) if you click on a link and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you.
Tools & Items you’ll need:
This is a list of the supplies and tools I used, and the links are suggestions of where you might buy these items online if you don’t have them already. For the sake of full disclosure, yes they are affiliate links.
- Pallet wood (Heat-Treated only, should have an HT stamp on it), or any scrap wood that will do the job (as long as no chemicals have been spilled on them)
- Nails 30 x 1.6mm (I use bullet head nails as they are harder to see in the finished product)
- Small screws (black)
- Steel Brackets (whichever size you like)
- Drawer handles (From an old set of drawers or bought new)
- Can of black spray paint
- Wood stain (I used brown japan)
- Boiled Linseed oil (or you can use tung oil)
- Mitre saw and/or Circular saw or table saw
- Nail gun (if you have one, otherwise you can use a hammer, I did!)
- Wood clamps
- Vice (you could do without one, but it’s easier with one)
- Belt Sander (or you could just use the orbital, but I like to use both)
- Orbital Sander
First, if you’re using pallet wood you’ll need to remove the wood from the pallet. I’ve tried a few different ways of doing this but by far the easiest way is to use a hammer. Stand the pallets up vertically and use the hammer to hit the wood away from the supporting beam. When there is a big enough gap, use the prong end of the hammer to lever the wood away from the supporting beam, repeat this for all nailed sections. If your feeling strong, you could also use a crowbar to lever them off the supporting beams or pallet blocks. Then hammer out all the nails.
I found a good article about choosing the right wood to use for DIY projects. You can read it HERE.
Time to measure and cut. You can make this tray to any size you like, I went with 45cm x 30cm (on the inside) so the longer base pieces and longer side pieces were 45cm long. The two shorter side pieces needed to be 30cm plus the thickness of the two smaller side pieces. My wood was approximately 1.5cm thick so I needed to add an extra 3cm to each of the smaller side pieces.
Sand your pieces back with an 80grit sandpaper first. I find the belt sander is a little faster than the orbital and great at getting down to the bare wood. Then I go over it with the orbital at 240grit.
This is what my cut and sanded wood looked like.
As you can see I used some pretty rough wood, as I was aiming for an authentic rustic look.
Now for the nailing. Here is where a nail gun would come in handy and make the job a lot quicker, but that’s on my list of “tools to get next”, so I used a hammer and 30mm x 1.6mm bullet head nails. You could use wood glue on the bottom boards if you wanted to as well, but you would need to let the glue dry overnight before putting in the nails. I found it easiest to nail on the longer side pieces first, then work my way from there. I used a vice for some of it, to hold a base piece while I nailed a side piece to it.
The completed box is the storage tray, with sides 7cm high. This is a little high for a serving tray, so I made an insert that could hold a plate or bowl at a comfortable height.
Your insert will need to be slightly smaller than your inner measurement so mine was 29.5cm wide and I made it square so 29.5cm x 29.5cm.
Try to use wood from the same pallet or similar wood to whatever you used for your tray. I didn’t have any wood from the same pallet left so I used wood from another pallet that was wider. I only needed two pieces to get the 29.5cm width I was after. Cut and sand your wood and cut two smaller pieces to fix to the bottom of your tray to raise it up. Like this:
Just a note: Only the right piece is in position, the left one should be parallel on the left side. I forgot to take a photo of the completed insert.
The idea is that they hold the two (or however many pieces you use) together. If you use more than 2 pieces for your insert, I would recommend gluing them together first, for extra strength before putting on the base pieces. These two base pieces are like feet, they hold the boards together and lift the tray at the same time so that your storage tray becomes a serving tray.
Time to stain, with whatever stain you have chosen. I used brown japan but instead of painting it on as is, I added it to boiled linseed oil for a one-step application. Be sure to consult the directions on the back of the tin as to what ratio of stain to oil you use if you decide to go this way. I used a low ratio of stain to oil, so it came out quite light and I ended up doing three coats of stain and oil, with 24 hours drying time in-between. The next time I made one of these I used a higher ratio of stain and only had to do two coats of stain and oil. You should have at least two coats of the oil though in order to achieve the level of sealant you want.
Raw linseed oil is more natural but can take up to a week to dry completely and fully penetrate the wood. Boiled linseed oil has drying agents added so that it dries faster and makes the wood more durable and reduces the likelihood of a sticky finish. Boiled linseed oil as apposed to raw linseed oil, dries faster and lighter and is best for indoor or decor items (not recommended for food prep because of the drying agents), whereas raw linseed oil is better for outdoor items as it helps wood retain its natural moisture content while aiding water repellence and retards cracking and shrinking. It also improves and delays weathering (great for outdoor furniture).
Once your last coat of sealant is dry, you’ll want to add your embellishments. I spray painted my brackets with black paint & primer in one before adding them to the corners of my tray and used small black screws.
I found the brackets were not only a great decorative feature but also served to re-enforce the joints to make the tray stronger and more durable.
Last but not least you want to add your handles. Measure out where your holes need to go and drill pilot holes on each side of your tray, before attaching your handles with the screws provided with your handles (if you bought them) or use flat tipped screws.
And now your tray with insert should be complete:
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