Hey y’all!  I know I haven’t been posting much over the summer but… Today I’m excited because it’s been a while since I’ve been able to “build” something or use any power tools.  This is the day that I get back to it!

I love the smell of sawdust in the morning (or any other time of day).

This one is a simple, long overdue project.  It’s a custom serving tray.

You might be wondering why I would build a serving tray when I could just buy 1 for any given budget.  Couple of reasons:

  1. Speaking of budgets, I built this 1 for free*.
  2. Did I mention I love power tools?  I’ll take any excuse to use the miter saw on any given day.
  3. I might never find a tray that would be the exact size I want & need.

Speaking of wants & needs…

I have a lot of serving trays already but each of them serves a purpose.  Which brings me to why I wanted this one in particular.

Wine.  Not so much the wine itself, but wine storage & serving.

Lots of people have some really great wine racks, wine fridges, & some even have a wine room or cellar. For a good while I wanted a big wine fridge, then I thought it would be cool to have a whole room. But that would mean DH would have to give up his media room since it’s the only 1 in the house that can be totally climate controlled.

I thought I wanted those things, until I saw this…

I started out thinking this idea through on a much smaller scale. In our current home we have a little niche that we keep our wine & wine gear in. Here’s what it looked like when we bought the house:

Pretty plain huh?

Truth is, I have a love hate relationship with niches.  They’re okay if they have a purpose, but whatever you do with it has to look like it “belongs”.

When we first moved in, I wasn’t sure how we’d use that little space.  But after living with it a while it made perfect sense – a wine bar!!!

It’s in an ideal position right next to the kitchen but in the middle of all the action between the family room & breakfast room.

Only problem is was, it’s an odd size.  No wine fridge would fit perfectly in that space & any wine rack(s) would have to be either customized or very strategically placed to look like it belongs there.

I already had this cabinet from the move so I put it there while I decided how to treat the space.  I added a shelf above with a wine glass holder underneath & a basket to catch corks.

It’s convenient.  But it doesn’t quite fit & drove me a little crazy, especially when I dropped something (like a tossed cork that didn’t quite make it into the basket) fell down the side or back.

Finally I decided that while I think through this wine wall thing, I really should do something to make this space more “us” & a little more functional.

Sometimes I make things so much harder than they have to be.  The simplest, quickest, cheapest, & chicest solution turned out to be this…

DIY Custom Serving Tray

I say “custom” because it can literally be any size & any finish.

It’s cheap/free because I used reclaimed wood from the deck we pulled up last spring & IKEA Sultan bed slats that we weren’t using anymore.  Even if you didn’t have those things, it would still be pretty cheap to make from a pallet or even a few 1×6’s or 1×4’s.

See for yourself why is simple & (kinda) quick.  Here’s how I made it.

The process is very similar to how I made this grill tool holder, only bigger & (maybe) simpler.


  • 1×6 cut to length to fit the width & depth of the space.  I used 3 for a total of about 17″ deep, cut to 31 ¾” wide (to give it room to slide in & out).
  • 2 – 1×4 cut to the total width.  These will be the sides & will have carry handles.
  • 1 ⅝” wood screws
  • Paint (optional) & polyurethane
  • 2 cabinet pulls & cabinet hardware
  • wood glue & filler (optional)


  • Miter saw
  • Sander (optional – this can be done by hand) & sandpaper – 80 grit, 120 grit, & 220 grit
  • Clamps – at least 3
  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil

The Process:

For the “top”:

Measure the 1×6. Cut all the 1×6 boards to the exact same length.

Here’s a tip I learned browsing the woodworking forums & websites… You know that saying measure twice, cut once?  Well now I measure once (actually 3 times), mark once, cut several times.

Make sure your measurement is exactly what you want/need & cut your 1st board. Stack any remaining boards that need that exact same measurement with the initial cut board on top to use as a template.  Then you can adjust the saw to make the same cut as the original & all the boards will be the exact same length – whether it’s right or wrong. 

For example, for this project I measured my space – it’s exactly 32″ wide & 17″ deep. I measured a 1×6 to 31 ¾” (to give it room to slide in & out).  I marked that length across the board then cut it just outside that mark.

Why “just outside the mark”?  Another thing I learned from the woodworkers – the kerf.  It’s the width of the saw blade.  If I cut directly on the line it will be just slightly shorter than my measurement due to the width of the saw blade.  If I cut just outside my mark, then I don’t have to account for that & I should get a cut that is more exact to my measurement.

That’s my best non-technical non-woodworker explanation. (smile!)

I took my cut 1×6 inside to make sure it fit the space exactly as I wanted.  It does.

Now I can use this 1 board to cut the other 2. Stack & clamp the 3-1×6 boards making sure to line 1 end up perfectly.  Then saw through the 2 remaining boards using the top (cut) board as a template & making sure that the saw blade is snug against that top board.

Now there are 3 1×6’s cut to the exact same length.

For the “sides”:

Follow the same basic process as for the top.  I had to go rummaging through my wood pile thinking I’d miraculously find something the length I need.  These are close…

Still I need to make some cuts.

Measure the width of the 3 1×6’s when they are laid side by side.  Measure & mark that length on a 1×4.  I also chose an alternative method to lay the 1×4 underneath the “top” & draw a line along the edge.  Both the measurement & the line where the same.


Here I took a shortcut because these are so small.  Clamp the 2 1×4’s together with the marked line facing up.  Cut both boards at the same time just outside the marked line.


This part is a little tricky…

Lay the 1×4’s on your work surface approximately the length of your 1×6 boards.

Place the 1×6’s side by side lengthwise on top of the 1×4’s.

Align the length of each 1×4 perfectly with the edges of the 1-6’s on each end.  Clamp to hold in place. If you choose to use wood glue, this is where you would use it – in between each 1×6 & between each 1×4 and the 1×6 “top”.

  • 1 clamp across the 1×6’s – it should be parallel with the 1×4’s on the ends
  • 1 clamp on each end to hold each 1×4 in contact with the 1×6’s

It should look like this from the side:

And like this from the top:

Now using a 1/8″ bit, pre-drill holes about ½” from the ends & sides of the 1×6’s.

Screw wood screws into the pre-drilled holes.  It should look something like this:

The wood screws should sit flush with the surface. If you don’t want the nails visible at all, you can fill the holes with wood filler. I didn’t do it because

  1. This is the bottom of the tray so most likely no one will ever see it.
  2. I want to keep all the little knicks – I even left a random nail on the top side because I think it looks kinda cool

Flip it over.  The tray is almost done at this point.  All it’s missing is the finish (i.e. paint, stain, poly) & the hardware.  It was a hard deciding which hardware to go with but I knew it had to be large scale to hold up to this tray.

Here I go rummaging again.  I have so much leftover hardware from past projects – kitchens, bathrooms, furniture makeovers.

Sand all the surfaces smooth – start with 80 grit sandpaper if your wood is really rough or has a finish on it.  Work your way up to 220 grit sandpaper for a super smooth finish.

I also like to sand down all corners and sides so that they are rounded a little.  I use 120 grit sandpaper for this step.  It’s one of those small things that make a big difference in how the piece feels.  No rough or sharp edges, just really smooth & natural.

If you like the rustic or farmhouse look, you could apply your stain of choice (optional) + polyurethane.

DH & I are not so into that look, even though it was kinda hard to paint over that gorgeous wood grain. I had all these fancy (& not so fancy) ideas, things like a gilded (silver or gold leaf) top, marble top, marble top with gilded sides, contact paper… the options are endless.

But… we already knew what we were going for – an almost lacquered look the same color as the niche, SW Naval.

I applied 1 coat of paint & 2 coats of semi-gloss poly, with a light sanding between the poly coats.

After everything was dry, I added my hardware.

And here’s what DH & I decided on… Our finished DIY custom tray:

DIY Custom Serving Tray

This tray is pretty big.  I thought this niche was pretty small, but seeing how big (& heavy) this tray is really shows how big it is.  Here’s a few shots for reference:

And here it is installed:

I love the way it turned out & that it’s so versatile.  I do have to say that this is not the kind of serving tray to carry things around on.  It’s super solid & HEAVY.  But it’s great for sitting it in 1 place for folks to serve themselves – whether it’s wine & drinks or appetizers.

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  1. Love the color and love the style; want to be invited over for drinks 😉
    and….wear shoes in your shop–those flip flops are dangerous! (says Mom)

  2. I love this project and your directions are very clear. Thank you so much for sharing. Now I wish I had a niche!