How To Build A Wood Serving Tray

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The winner is: Jessica Bellow Little-Greenberg!

I have been thinking of making a serving tray for awhile but never found the time. Since I had to take a break from our bathrooms, I thought this would be the perfect time to tackle this project.

Isn’t she cute? And now my boys have no excuse for not bringing me breakfast in bed. Actually, I overheard my 6 year old tell my 9 year old that he can’t wait to get sick so he can have me bring him soup on the tray. Silly boy :)

I could have just built a simple tray and called it a day. But sometimes it is all about the little things. Sometimes the small details really make a project. I decided to make “wood tiles” to line the bottom of the tray.


Before I share the tutorial I wanted to also let you know that YOU will have the chance to win a $250 Home Depot gift card! Woot! Woot!

P&G, Home Depot and I have teamed up to show you how to clean up a messy DIY project. And one lucky winner will receive a package with Bounty paper towels and a gift card :)


Paper towels are a DIY staple at my house. I use them every single time especially with building, staining, and painting.

Alright, since there are so many little steps I thought I would put the pictures in a collage and then discuss the steps below. That way you are not scrolling like crazy.


1. I bought 1×2 boards at Home Depot for $1.25 per 8 feet. I bought 2 but didn’t use it all. It depends on the size of your tray how much you would need, but 2 board should be oodles even if you build a really large tray. I used my miter saw to cut them into squares. It would also look super cool to cut them into long rectangles and tile it brick style to look like subway tiles.

2. Figure out how you want them arranged. I purposely had the grain going all different directions. I like the look of it being random. But you certainly don’t have to do it this way. It is totally a preference thing. I did the same thing to the drawer fronts of my card catalog. I numbered the “tiles” so that if they got moved around I would still know where they went. My 3 year old knocked them off the counter so I was glad I opted to do this. Measure the size you need the bottom to be. I used an old piece of plywood and cut it to size using my jigsaw.

3. Glue the “tiles” to the base using wood glue. I spread some on the bottom and also added it to the right hand side and top so that the next tile going on was stuck to it. You will have a little leeway to slide them around to line up the corners but you do need to work fast because the glue starts to bond pretty quickly.

4. Make sure to have a damp paper towel handy if the glue seeps out of the cracks. Glue does not stain well (even if it says stainable) so you don’t want any on the surface.

5. I sanded it down until it was all smooth. Because I used 2 different boards to create the tiles, there were slight differences in thickness.

6. Wipe off the dust from sanding so you have a clean surface to stain.

7. I cut 1×4 boards to go around the base to form the sides. I used my miter saw to cut at an angle. Mitered joints are prettier than butt joints. (If you are not sure what that means see my floating side table post) I nailed them with my brad nailer (nail gun) then used putty to fill in the nail holes. I used dark colored putty since I would be staining it dark. Pick your putty according to the color you will be staining and make sure it is sandable and stainable.

8. Use Pre-Stain Conditioner! This will ensure you get even coloring ESPESCIALLY with soft wood like pine.  Minwax has a water based version and an oil based version. If you plan to use oil based stain then use an oil based conditioner (and vice versa). If you aren’t sure if it is water or oil based read the label or visit the website.

9. Staining is a messy part of this process. I line my work area with paper towels especially when working with oil based products since they are harder to clean up. I wear gloves and use a foam brush to apply the stain. Once it has sat on the wood for a bit, I wipe it off with a paper towel. The longer you leave the stain sitting there, the darker the color will be. If it is still not dark enough for you, do a second coat.

10. After the stain has had time to completely dry, apply a sealer like polyurethane, with a high quality brush.

11. Once the first coat has dried, use a very fine grit sand paper (220 or higher) to buff it. Wipe it off with a damp paper towel and apply a second coat. I actually did three coats of poly on this project. It helped seal all of the cracks in between the “tiles”.

And last of all, add the handles to make it easier to carry :)


All I need is a good book and I am all set!


Another one of my favorite tricks is to stick a paper towel over a can before I hammer it shut. This works for any liquid in a can. I have learned the hard way that sometimes there is excess liquid sitting in the rim of the top of the can. When I hammer it down it squirts all over me. Having the paper towel there prevents it from making a mess. Some of you are nodding your head saying “Oh!!!!”

You’re welcome :)


Here is a quick 30 second demo of how easily Bounty cleans up spilled paint (and who here hasn’t spilled paint a time or twenty :P ).  You can buy Bounty and all your other DIY supplies at that wonderful, magical place called……The Home Depot.


How to enter for the $250 gift card:

*Must be at least 18 years old to enter and a US or Canadian resident. Winner will be chosen by on July 8th. Winner has 48 hours to reply or another winner will be chosen.

If you have any issues with the Rafflecopter widget please email me to let me know. Good luck!

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  1. Gretchen says

    Love the tray! I haven’t used a conditioner before and it makes sense. Adding that to the list!

  2. Maureen says

    The messiest project is one we are doing at the moment–the bathroom. New toilet new floor and painting the walls. Then new caulking on the floor and new edging.

  3. Elizabeth H says

    Every project I do is my messiest. I am just messy! I love that tray. You are such a DIYer and all your projects are great and you are talented!!

  4. says

    well, I was good until I saw you whipped out the sander- something I do not have!! Boo! But I love the tray and yup, my kids would be thinking that they would NEED all their snacks served to them on it too :0 Cool Home Depot share!!

  5. says

    I have been following you for a while, but have recently changed my blog name (formerly We are near the end of the conversion of a barn into a house and will be moving in at the end of this month. I would use this Home Depot prize to purchase materials to build some furniture and would use the Bounty paper towels to stain the furniture and clean up the big mess I am sure I will make in the building and staining process. Bounty is the ONLY paper towel brand we use in our home.

  6. Shanan says

    I love this tray! A great project that everyone in the family could do! I’m definitely adding this to my To Do List.

  7. Shanan says

    My messiest project, is ongoing….. redoing all the floors in the house… wood floors and stain! Stain is so messy!

  8. says

    My messiest project was when I painted my home’s upstairs hallway bathroom. It was my first time painting and I was trying to get the job done in a day. Needless to say, I need to repaint that room! (But it’s been years since I painted that room.)

  9. Sandi Allen says

    Love the tray..
    I always seem to spill my paint, or knock it over.
    Watching a t.v. Show in the living room while painting.
    Knocked my paint over on the carpet. Yikes!

  10. Andrea D. says

    You should see the floor of my garage. It looks like abstract art. It’s a good thing that my husband is so supportive. So, I guess, every project I do is messy. I haven’t quite figured out how to do it neatly. Thanks for the chance to win a great and very useful prize.

  11. Lela says

    I think my messiest DIY will probably be the upcoming project of painting kitchen cabinets white. From what I’ve heard it’s not only messy but it’s a long process! :)

  12. says

    Painting is always messy for me. Every time I paint I somehow get paint all over me, all over a surface that is a real pain to clean up, and anywhere else I can think of that should not have paint!

  13. says

    My messiest DIY? Would have to be the one I’m working on now. My sun porch had grass-like outdoor carpet covering every bit of the floor. We’ve pulled it up. Unfortunately, whoever put it down spared no expense in the glue department. Not only are we fighting with old spider webs, but now we are fighting with old adhesive gunked onto concrete. There’s even old black rubber from the under side of the grass carpet. I cannot wait until it is all finally scraped up! A Home Depot gift card could really help speed up the process and make it a beautiful space to hang out in this summer!

  14. Jonathan Baker says

    That is an AWESOME tray! My messiest DIY project was installing a deadbolt lock on an existing door that didn’t have the hole prepped. My drill didn’t have enough power so it took forever with a hole saw attachment to get it prepped!

  15. Lacy C. says

    The messiest project I’ve ever attempted was making a large word out of pool noodles that spelled “love”. I hot glued coffee filters on the noodles, it was a disaster with all the glue, paper clippings, pool noodle remnants, etc. etc. Definitely won’t be trying that again! It ended up in the trash can shortly after starting :)

  16. Heather says

    My messiest project was painting the house. I just can’t seem to paint without making a mess!

  17. Kelly D says

    My messiest project was when we pulled the carpet and put down hard flooring in the second level of our house. There was a lot of rug to get rid of and it is a lot of clean up.

  18. Stephanie Cleveland says

    I love Bounty and Home Depot!! I need that giftcard so we can finally finish our screened in porch!

  19. Tammy C says

    Lots of painting needs to be done here….so the Bounty towels and the HD gift card would be awesome! Thank you!

  20. Annaliza R says

    My messiest project would be any sewing project I tackle. I have fabric and scraps everywhere when I’m cutting out the pieces of a pattern.

  21. Kelie says

    Definitely painting my ceiling fans. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t keep it clean. I made a giant mess, and it took longer to clean it up than it did to paint the darn thing.

  22. says

    Probably painting my kitchen has been the messiest so far however I am considering redoing our kitchen table and something tells me that’s going to be a huge mess.

  23. Jamie says

    Every project I do is messy! The most recent was painting a reclaimed pallet as an American flag – it turned out really cute but there sure was a mess to clean up!

  24. Rebecca M says

    we tried to paint our table outside–little flying gnats kept getting stuck to the paint!!! yuck!

  25. Erika W. says

    To date, my messiest project has been making a starburst mirror with skewers. I took over the garage and spray painted…and then had to do a wood glue coating and spray again…and again… :)

  26. Lisa M. says

    We are remodeling a house and everything we have been doing so far has been messy. Right now we are removing popcorn ceiling, sanding it and patching it! There is dust everywhere!

  27. Stephanie says

    Every project I do is messy with my little helpers! I love the serving tray, I always make subtle requests for breakfast in bed which would require such a handy, pretty thing!

  28. kate says

    tearing down the wallpaper in the bathroom has been SOOOO messy… and now a much larger project than I imagined. :)

  29. Joann says

    My messiest project was definitely taking down the old tile backsplash in our kitchen. the tiles were stuck on with some kind of extra strength mastic and chipping away at the grout was brutal and created a layer of powder over every thing. i ended up having to replace all the drywall.

  30. Mary Happymommy says


    The messiest project we did was using paper towels to paint our walls and create a faux texture.

  31. Amanda Sakovitz says

    painting my bedroom. I didnt prepare properly so I ended up getting paint all over the floors

  32. says

    I am not handy at all, so thank you for so clearly writing out the instructions to this project. I think I may attempt to make a tray later this summer! Who knows… maybe everyone I know will get a homemade tray for Christmas this year. :)

  33. NaDell says

    Switching my craft room from the laundry room to a back storage room was quite messy, but nice because now I have more room for crafts!

  34. Shannon says

    We just finished installing windows, the caulk got EVERYWHERE somehow. Then to smooth it down we used Dawn on our fingers……..a mess!

  35. MeganM. says

    I like to paint so just about every project is super messy! :) And I’m about to switch bedrooms in my house so I’m sure that will be really messy. :)

  36. Alina C says

    Messiest moments would have to be when the kids are in the backyard eating bbq! Definitely need BOUNTY for that!

  37. Sean says

    When I was baking a pie and dropped it right out of the oven. That was indeed MESSY! Bounty please help :-)

  38. Sarah Z. says

    The project we are working on now is the messiest by far…stripping and staining our kitchen cabinets.

  39. Kellie Wilson says

    Seriously? Where do I begin. I still want 2 more light fixtures for the outside of the house and then that update will be done. Next we could move onto the yucky kitchen floor OR finally get paint on the walls other than white… would be spent in a jif! Fun!

  40. Juli says

    This would SO help with all the crazy messes I have in my new house! Maybe I will get a project or two finished this week!

  41. says

    The messiest DIY project would have to be making my own fruit roll ups using real strawberries, sugar and a tinge of lemon. Bake for 4ish hours. Came out half way burnt and not so rolly. At least I tried it though right. My intentions were there, but the out come wasn’t not ;)

  42. Stephanie Grant says

    So I have had so so many messy DIY projects but my latest mess is my study room! I decided to redo the entire room in black, purple and silver so the walls window frames, doors and footboards had to be painted as well as the huge book shelf my dad made for my room that I panted the frame black and the inside silver….what I thought would be couple weekends project turned into almost an entire year of painting and making shelving and other things so this gift card would really come in handy!

  43. Natasha says

    My messiest project was when I tried to retile my own floors! Yikes! I don’t think I would do that again but I am in the process of redoing my guest bedroom so this would really come in handy!!

  44. Brenda says

    My messiest DIY project was creating a valentine’s day canvas painting for my husband! My hands, arms and even parts of my face were covered with paint by the end of it!

  45. says

    My messiest DIY was spray painting wooden chairs outdoors!! First I thought the driveway would be an ideal flat area for spraying them not really though because I stained the driveway with huge paint marks and that was the moment I realized windy days aren’t good for spray painting outside…I don’t exactly plan out my DIYS, it’s something I need to work on ; )

  46. Cassie says

    My messiest project is probably the rooms I’ve been painting. We’re replacing the carpet next week, so I haven’t needed to be neat. Slinging paint is fun!

    Love the tray!

    • LyndaV says

      oh wait…messiest project was refinishing a bunkbed for my boys. Lots of pieces in a bunkbed and little boys REALLY want to help! Looked great in the end.

  47. says

    From cooking to cleaning the house to DIY projects, paper towels are a must have in our house and I only buy Bounty – gotta love the Costco-sized packages. Never thought of using one to cover paint as I close it up, but will from now on! I recently splattered green paint on my dark-stained cabinets because closing a lid!

  48. Katrina Larsen says

    My messiest DIY project was probably making small wood block nativities for Christmas presents. Between sanding, painting, cutting paper and vinyl, and going crazy with mod podge, it made quite the mess!

  49. Mary Beth Elderton says

    I did a sideboard sort of piece for an apartment. I only had the tiny porch to work on, and my clothes were a mess from the stain!

    **I love your serving tray! Gorgeous!

  50. CC says

    my first attempt at shabby, chic painting – it was just flower pots. It took me days to get the turquoise paint off my hands.

  51. Deborah says

    I’m good at textile DIY (sewing, knitting, etc.), but when I try anything else I really do make a mess. Thanks for the inspiration to try some woodwork (keeping the paper towels handy).

  52. taysha r says

    My messiest DIY was a tile mosiac table. I broke up the tile myself in my living room and it was messy…. I ended up finding bits of tile for months. BUT the table was super cute

  53. says

    My messiest DIY project is anytime I have to sand anything! We live in a small apartment, so no garage or yard, and in the middle of winter when there are two feet of snow outside, I’m definitely not heading out into the alley to sand! So I just do it inside in a large cardboard box and hope that the dust doesn’t get everywhere. Usually does though so it requires some serious cleanup with a wet rag after. :-)

  54. T. Foster says

    I spray painted old lamps to give them new life. It was the speckly, textured spray paint and even though it looks great, it is very messy.

  55. robin says

    My messiest DIY project was when we were painting our kitchen with oil base paints several years ago. The lid didn’t get securely fastened on the paint pail one evening. The next morning we were getting ready to go to work, and one of us accidentally knocked it over. All over our low pile kitchen carpet (once popular – why???). I called my boss to see if I could stay home to save the carpet, as we had no $$ to replace the flooring. He let me, and I spent the day scrubbing the carpet with paint thinner. Then soapy water. Then rinse water. Long day. Carpet saved. Carpet was still ugly! BIG MESS!!!

  56. Roger says

    My messiest project was unstopping the 4 inch main drain in the basement. Ended up having to pull the toilet and using an auto auger. Unfortunately since the main is in the basement, when I pulled the toilet all of the backed up water in the house came out there, close to 50 gallons.

  57. Erin says

    Adorable tray idea! I just made a moss-covered letter W for my wall. Moss was EVERYWHERE! I was finding it for days. Sooooo messy! :)

  58. Gabrielle says

    I came across your website yesterday through a fellow math teacher’s Pinterest on Quadratic foldables! I was up for hours just browsing through your projects. You inspired me to get started on some ideas I’ve been putting off, because before yesterday, I would have rather hired someone else to do it. I started painting the baseboards today, and right before I finished, my 2 year old daughter woke up from her nap. She told me to go wash my hands outside, because It was getting pretty messy towards the end. We both went outside, and the hose nozzle was on “jet” when I started cleaning all the paint supplies. White paint splatters covered us both! We look like human Dalmations!

    I don’t know what’s come over me, but I’ve got list now- cabinets are next after the baseboards (after reading your spray paint cabinet tutorial). Thank you so much for sharing your passion. It is contagious. :)

  59. Christina Z says

    My messiest diy project was when I stripped and stained a dresser. It was alot messier than I thought would be but fun and well worth it afterwards very rewarding.

  60. Connie Kersten Haack says

    Our messiest was knocking off the bumps on our popcorn ceiling. It looks great now but boy oh boy what a mess we made.

  61. Marie says

    My messiest projects are the painting projects. Most recently I did flower pots and picture frames, and let me tell you, blue paint everywhere. On the table, the chair, my clothes, my hair… I even had little tiny paint flecks on my glasses. I should probably plant a few trees for all of the paper towels I’ve used in my day.

  62. Rebecca mayfield says

    I just painted a lamp navy blue with spray paint and got it all over my hand tryin to hold the lamp not to mention the fan on the porch was on and it sprayed back on me. It took me a whole roll of bounty, finger nail polish remover, go jo and paint thinner to get it off

  63. Cheryl B says

    My messiest diy project was painting and glittering pinecones for Christmas. We had paint all over us and the kitchen and glitter tracked throughout the house!

  64. Jennifer says

    messiest? I think every day is messy with 7 kids! finishing an entire basement ourselves with lots of custom features was messy for about a year. yea, I guess it took awhile. Lots of messes to clean up, too.

  65. Keri Crimmins says

    WOW that is great. I’m glad you chose not to go ordinary and you alternated the tiles. It was worth the work and looks amazing. I’m feeling inspired!
    I think my messiest project was painting my Son’s wall. I did a dark blue on one wall then painted a road on it so that I could hang the wood classic cars my dad made on it. Well I tilted the paint dish and spilled it all down my left side and a big ol’ splatter on the carpet. I just covered that spot with a rug ;)

  66. Margot C says

    I have two old wooden plant containers that I want to disassemble and make into a bench for the cats that has a trough to put catnip plants in; it’s in pieces in my shed and will be a mess to clean and create.

  67. Stephanie Hobson says

    I think the messiest projects I have done have been those I did with my grandkids. Also the most fun ones.

  68. lizzy says

    Last week, I painted my sons room and our dog knocked over the paint can, stepped in the paint and ran everywhere. Just like something you would see in a movie.

  69. Wild Orchid says

    Tiling my kitchen backsplash was a really messy job!

    Entered the rafflecopter as “Wild orchid”

    Thanks for the chance to win!
    wildorchid985 at gmail dot com

  70. Nicole Stone says

    I just made some snow globes for Father’s Day…used Gorilla Glue that got EVERYWHERE, including my hands & new desk. I had to resort to some funky home remedy that included oil, vinegar & baking soda…not to mention the entire roll of paper towels to get that combo off my hands, LOL!

  71. Tricia Cooper says

    My messiest DIY project is painting. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s something around the house or a craft project – it’s always messy!!

  72. Grace says

    Messiest cleaning job is when your cleaning the inside of the refrigerator that has turned into a science project!
    I need the Home Depot GIFT CARD to by more Bounty Paper Towels!!!!!

  73. margaux says

    I craft! I have to say, that’s a pretty messy DIY project. Also, Painting shirts. Yikes. I stain so many of my clothes.

  74. Carolyn G says

    I tried to paint our guest bathroom and it went pear shaped. I spilled the paint on the tile and then hubby took the paint brush away. I am banned from painting anything now.

  75. says

    Ummm every DIY project I do is messy!! Actually staining is one of the messiest!

    I just figured out the paper towel over the can trick last week, awesome!

  76. Lara says

    Painting our smaller guest room, I posted on Facebook: “You know you’re done painting for the night when you step backwards and step in the paint tray.”

    My parents both chimed in. Dad: “Done that.” Mom: “Yeah, your dad’s done that.”

  77. Betty Baez says

    The garden i just built a month ago was pretty messy i was covered in dirt from head to toe by the time it was finished

  78. Taylor says

    I think it will probably be building our deck! Hoping to use this giftcard to help smooth out the messy process :)

  79. ann w says

    My messiest project was painting the bathroom. I’m not very good at painting so it was all over me and the floor (which at least I had the sense to cover up before I started).

  80. Tammy S says

    My messiest project has been working on my great grandmother’s rocking chair. Someone through the years decided to paint the wood instead of staining it. so I have been working or restoring it to it’s original wood and re covering the cushion.

  81. Litsa Jackson says

    My husband has wood at his shop that needs a home! We may just have to try this project….thanks!!

  82. Jennifer says

    My messiest project is just about anything I decide to stain. I manage to get that stuff all over me. Thanks for the giveaway!

  83. Laura Jacobson says

    Oh our messiest DIY project was redoing our picnic table! Oh we made such a mess with the sanding and painting!

  84. Jenn McClearn says

    Helping my husband make granite tile counter tops was very messy, between cutting the tiles, gluing them and grouting them we probably went through 20 rolls f bounty

  85. Jacob L. says

    My messiest DIY was when I was younger; refinishing a junk table I found. I wanted to do a copper inlay and had never experimented with that OR refinishing before. Needless to say, when you don’t know what you’re doing, things get out of control.

  86. Sandy McFadden says

    Taking on painting the whole inside of the house just after removal of my thyroid because of Cancer I was so sick and it was a mess but I got it down with help from a friend.

  87. Jennifer Dysart says

    I don’t do tons of DIY, but we made nail polish racks recently and they were messy until i spilled a can of paint everywhere :(

  88. Cheryl says

    When my youngest was just learning to pull up on things she pulled up on an open can of paint. The lid had been laid lightly on it, but I had already cleaned up the drop cloths. Paint was everywhere.

  89. Amy L says

    Painting the metal stair railings was very messy. The black paint seemed to dribble everywhere, especially when we painted the spirals.

  90. Jennie Sanderson (@jenpsht) says

    Haven’t done it yet but I am about to try some finger painting with my son. I am going to buy a canvas and make some paints so we can decorate his room! I will need some bounty for sure!

  91. April J says

    Anytime I paint, it ends up being messy! We use at least a roll of paper towels cleaning up spilled paint, cleaning up mistakes and cleaning our hands!

  92. says

    What turned out to be a terribly messy DIY project was when I got my hands on some Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint even before it was released. (Don’t worry, she helped me get it, I didn’t do anything bad!) I mixed it up, sat it on this huge tool cabinet I had laying in the garage, and was painting away when I lifted the lid to a door and it went flying all over the garage floor. Talk about messy! Milk paint is very thin. It was not fun cleaning it up. It was also not fun wasting the whole quart I had just mixed.

  93. says

    I”m still trying to refinish an old desk. LOTS of grooves and curves. Probably not the best for one of my first stripping projects.

  94. Elena Vo says

    Teaching my kids how to paint! We got the entire house painted in less than two weeks, though.

  95. Charissa says

    Beautiful tray! So simple. One of the messiest projects that I’ve undertaken has been with our two kids (under 3 years old). Water and corn starch exploration.

  96. Jeff Morgan says

    This is a great idea. Every year, I look for a DIY project that kids can do with their parents as gifts during the holidays. This looks like one of those projects. Great idea!