Fill These Decorative Table Trays for the Season


These wooden trays can go in the center of your dinner table and be filled with whatever is appropriate to bring in the atmosphere of the sesason.

I find it interesting that when it comes to do it yourself projects we will sometimes go out of our way to make something new, look old and something old, look new. For example we will purchase a piece of unfinished furniture and paint and faux finish and stain the piece to make it look like an antique, then on the flip side we will purchase an antique, bring it home, sand it, prime it and paint it to look like a brand new piece.

I’m just as guilty, I have done projects over the years from distressing to re-furbishing in what seems like a reverse circle of the new – old, old – new cycle. This became glaring to me when Shari asked me to build several small trays that could be placed on a dining room table. These trays would be used to hold small ornamental gourds and pumpkins for a fall table setting.

When I asked her what type of finished look she would prefer, she mentioned an older barn type look. Enough said, I went to my shop pulled out a couple of pieces of right out of the mill 1 x 8 pine stock and was ready to go into build, stain, distress, and age mode. It hit me like a 16 pound hammer that I was doing this all wrong. Why wouldn’t I purchase recycled wood and build my old look trays from old lumber?

So, off to the lumber yard I went to purchase several pieces of barn siding guaranteed to be older than Shari’s son Cameron. (I was going to say me, but I was afraid the barn may have been younger than me!) So back to the shop I went and I created 4 wonderful “old” trays. The instructions that follow will give you the steps to build your own trays, old lumber optional.

Materials List:

  • Miter Saw
  • Table saw
  • Wood glue
  • Finish nails and hammer
  • 1 ¼ inch galvanized box nails
  • 1 x 6 barn siding or pine boards.

Cutting dimensions:

  • 4 x 1” x 4” x 12” tray bottoms
  • 8 x 1” x 2 ½ x 12” sides pieces
  • 8 x 1” x 2 ¼” x 4” end pieces
  • 8 x 1” x 1” x 6” end detail piece
  • 8 x 1” x 1” x 4” bottom feet

The siding cost a couple of dollars per board foot more than new pine stock. However, purchasing it will save me time when it comes to painting and distressing.


1. Start by using a wire brush to clean any dirt or loose wood fibers from the board. I avoided sanding to keep the older wood looking as natural as possible. Sanding would reveal newer grain underneath the old.


2. Using the table saw, I ripped the 1” x 8” x 6 ft board into a 4 inch wide board. This would be for the bottom of the tray.


3. I then ripped the remaining side of the board down to 2 ¼ inches. This lumber would be used for the sides and ends of the tray.


4. Cut the 1” x 4” x 6 ft board down to 12 inch lengths using the miter saw. This will give you 6 bottoms, the project calls for 4, so you will have two extra 12 inch lengths, run those two extra lengths through the table saw cutting the pieces into 2 ¼ inch lengths, these will be used as side pieces and end pieces. The remaining lumber will be used later for the detail pieces and the tray feet, so keep those handy as well.


5. Repeat step 4 with the 1” x 2 ¼ “ board, cutting them to 12 inch lengths. You will need 8 of these side pieces. Cut the remaining 2 ¼ inch boards into 4 inch lengths, you should end up with eight end pieces.


This little photo gives you an idea of what I’m talking about when I say side pieces and end pieces. To make four trays you’ll need 8 sides and 8 ends!


6. Attach the end pieces to the ends of the tray bottom by running a thin bead of carpenters glue along the edge and securing with finish nails. I used my air compressor and nail gun, but doing it the old fashioned way with a hammer and nail always works great. Make sure to check for and wipe away any excess glue that may creep out.


7. Next, attach the two side pieces as above with carpenters glue and nails. The tray will now have two ends and two side pieces and (Hey!) start looking like a tray.

And here’s an option. To give the piece a more aged look, right next to the previous nails, add two galvanized box nails, 2 per end, into the ends of the side rails. This is more for decorative effect.


8. Using the left over 1” x 2 ½” stock, I used both the table saw (to cut the width) and the miter saw (to cut the length) of 8 pieces of stock measuring 1” x 1” x 6” to use as detail pieces on the top edges of the ends.


I also cut 1” x 1” x 4” pieces to become tray feet.


9. Attach the detail pieces to the end of the tray using glue and nails. Flip the tray over and attach the bottom feet to the bottom of the tray two inches in from the end.


The completed trays were left unfinished to maintain the texture and look of the old barn siding. I think you will agree by the final photo that these trays were a great addition to the table setting that Shari created. Try tiny pumpkins in them at Halloween, Easter grass and eggs in the spring. These tray are a simple project that you and your family can enjoy all year long!


Speak Your Mind

nineteen + 8 =