DIY,  Home & Decor

DIY Custom Serving Tray

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.



Want more from the 4th House?
Get the Newsletter 

Sign up for tips & updates on all things home and let me know what you'd like to see more of.

Invalid email address

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More in DIY
DIY Wine Bottle Tiki Torches

My Grandmother’s Mahogany Veneer Dresser Makeover

DIY Customized Grill Tool Holder