How to Make Your Own Wooden Tray

wooden tray with coffee

Audtakorn Sutarmjam / EyeEm / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 days
  • Yield: One wooden tray
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20 to $35

Whether you use it to serve breakfast-in-bed or simply as a catchall on your ottoman, a wooden tray is a beautiful accessory that will effortlessly cozy up your home. While you could buy one from a big box store, what's the fun in that? Building your own wooden tray is an easy and fun DIY project that lets you decide exactly how the end product turns out.

Before You Begin

From wood varieties to stain colors to general layout and design, there are seemingly endless ways to make your wooden tray.

Wood Species

Our tray will be constructed using pine, as it’s inexpensive and highly accessible. However, you could upgrade the wood to poplar or even oak, as these are readily available at most hardware stores. Additionally, you can choose clear pine or opt for knotty pine, which will give your tray a more rustic look.

Handle Options

For handles, you could easily attach drawer pulls to the sides of the tray, but we’ve opted for rope handles to lean into the rustic aesthetic. If you’re an experienced woodworker, integrating handles into the wood itself is a beautiful option.

Design Touches

If you desire a more intricate design, using multiple wood species is a great way to add visual interest. Combinations like walnut and maple make for a beautiful contrast. You can also add a unique artistic touch by wood-burning or stamping a design in the center of the tray before oiling or sealing the wood.

Safety Considerations

If you plan to serve food directly on your wooden tray, there are a couple of things you must do to ensure it's food safe. First, it's wise to choose a wood variety that produces edible fruit or nuts, such as cherry, walnut, or maple, as this is the easiest way to ensure the wood you're using is food safe and non-toxic. Second, the finish you choose much also be food safe. Avoid standard stains and sealants and instead opt for food-safe alternatives such as butcher block oil, tung oil, or linseed oil.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Clamps
  • Orbital sander
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Wood finishing supplies
  • Scissors
  • Rag
  • Router (optional)
  • Router bits (optional)


  • 1x6 x 6' clear pine board
  • 1x2 x 8' clear pine board
  • Wood glue
  • 2' x 3/8" sisal rope
  • Masking tape
  • 120-and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wood stain and clear sealant (optional)
  • Food-safe wood oil (optional)


How to Make Your Own Wooden Tray

Follow the steps below to build your own wooden tray that is 16 inches by 22 inches. To make the tray larger or smaller to suit your needs, adjust the materials list and cut dimensions as necessary, but follow the same steps for assembly.

  1. Cut Wood to Size

    Cut a 1x6 into three pieces measuring 22-1/2 inches long. Cut a 1x2 into two pieces measuring 22-1/2 inches and two pieces measuring 15 inches.


    The tray's width is based on the 1x6 boards, which have an actual width of 5-1/2 inches, being joined along their factory edge. If you plan to remove the factory edge for a tighter glue-up, such as with a jointer, factor in the amount of removed material when planning the tray's overall width and adjust as needed.

  2. Sand the Edges

    Lightly sand the edges of each 1x6 and 1x2 board to help the glue bond, then remove all dust.

  3. Glue the Base

    Lay the 1x6 boards side by side and apply an even layer of wood glue to each side of each joint. Press the boards together and tightly clamp until the glue has dried according to the manufacturer's instructions. Wipe away any excess glue.

  4. Sand the Base

    Once the sides are attached, sanding the base will be much more difficult, so do so before adding the sides. Thoroughly sand the entire base with 120-grit sandpaper, followed by 220-grit sandpaper.

  5. Glue the Sides

    Place the 1x2s on top of the base, positioned along the perimeter. Apply an even layer of wood glue to each side of each joint, as well as to the ends of the 15-inch pieces. Adjust until perfectly aligned, then tightly clamp in place both down to the base and side to side. Wipe away any excess glue, then let the glue dry thoroughly before removing the clamps.


    If you don't have enough clamps, split this step into two steps and first glue the 1x2s together before gluing the entire piece to the base.

  6. Trim the Sides

    To clean up the outside of the tray and trim the thickness of the sides, use a table saw to remove 1/4-inch from each of the four sides.

  7. Sand the Tray

    Sand the entire surface of the tray to remove any splinters and smooth the wood.

  8. Rout the Edges (optional)

    If you desire to alter the look of the edges, use a router fitted with a round over or chamfer bit to subtly change the edge profile.

  9. Apply Wood Finish

    Apply the wood finish of your choice following the manufacturer's instructions for proper application. If you plan to stain the wood and used pine or similarly soft wood for construction, apply a pre-stain wood conditioner to prevent blotchiness.

  10. Add Rope Handles

    On each short side, drill two holes equidistant from the center and approximately 4 inches apart. This position can be easily found by measuring 6 inches from each corner. We chose 3/8-inch sisal, but this can be altered according to preference. Whatever you choose, match the drill bit size to the size of the rope.

    Slide the rope through the holes and tie it off in knots. Adjust as necessary to make room for your hands and match the sides to one another. Cut off the excess.


    To make threading the rope through the holes a quick and easy task, tightly tape around the ends to bind any loose threads.