How to Make a Pretty DIY Serving Tray

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Me and my patio–we have a love-hate relationship.

Since moving into our house over 5 years ago, it’s gone through a cycle of patio makeovers.

For the longest time, we weren’t able to actually use the patio because it was a hot mess. I’m talking green slime growing everywhere…no grill….and a patio table that went through three makeovers because the paint kept getting destroyed each season due to the elements.

Last summer was the first (and only!) time that my family has been able to use our patio in 5 years. Five years!!

Now that spring is here and summer is rolling around, I’m pumped to get my family and friends together again! I mean, isn’t this the whole point of having a patio??

There are still some things I’ll need to do for the patio, like more comfortable seating (those wrought iron chairs I got from the thrift store years ago, unfortunately, feel like I’m sitting on a pile of bricks!)

I’ll be doing another patio overhaul in the months to come, but for now, I was on the hunt for nice dishes for a fun summer DIY serving tray I was making!


How to Make a Pretty Summer DIY Serving Tray


I headed over to Big Lots to check out the selection of melamine plates, cups, and bowls.

….’Cause you know glass and kids don’t mix, right??

They had some awesome stuff!


If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I love me some turquoise, right??

I spotted these pretty turquoise, yellow, and red ones and knew that I had to have them (styles and assortment vary by store).


Big Lots Melamine Plate - turquoise


And I was just excited to have something matching! You don’t even want to look in my cabinets….I think if there was an award for Most Mismatched Dishes, I’d be reigning queen. 🙂

Anyhow, let’s jump into how I actually made this cute little summer DIY serving tray!

How to Make a Pretty Summer DIY Serving Tray

First, you’ve got to go grab these things:

  • 1/2″ thick MDF board from the home improvement store for the base (the MDF was cheaper than real wood)
  • A long piece of 1″ x 4″ common board from the home improvement store
  • Chalked paint & brush
  • Tape measure
  • Straight edge (or speed square)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Handles for the sides
  • Wood glue
  • Wood filler
  • Jigsaw
  • Nailer (or hammer and nails)
  • Power drill
  • Sandpaper
  • Clear wax to seal the paint


STEP 1: How Big Do You Want It?

I figured the base would look good at 18″ long and 14″ wide, but it’s all up to you. You can make yours any size you’d like.  Use your tape measure to mark the length and width.


how-to-make-a-DIY-serving-tray-measure 18 inches


Here’s a little helpful tip: make sure you use a speed square when making drawing straight lines. It allows you to get your right angles perfect every time! Just lay the edge on the board and draw your lines after marking the length and width!




With lines drawn, it will look like this:



STEP 2: Get Jiggy With Your Jigsaw

The jigsaw is one of my favorite tools because you can make a bunch of quick and easy cuts. The edges aren’t as crisp and straight as a miter saw would be, but it’s easy for the most beginner DIYer. And they only cost about $60 to buy one. If you don’t have one for this project, ask a friend to borrow theirs, if necessary!

I sorta of messed up a little when figuring out the size I wanted mine to be, and ended up drawing a bunch of lines.

Pretend you don’t see those lines. 😉

Just draw your two lines and cut out your 18″ x 14″ or whatever size you chose.




STEP 3: You’ll Need Sides and Ends

Go ahead and cut your sides and ends.

The thing to remember is that your side boards will be longer than the 18″ length. Each other those will be 19.5″ long.

Your end boards will be the exact measurement of your width, at 14″ each.

You’ll end up with 5 pieces that look like this.




STEP 4: Paint It Pretty!

You don’t have to paint right now, but you can, especially if you’re doing a fun design on the base of the DIY serving tray, like stencils or something where you need your board flat for easy access.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do decoratively, so I just went ahead and painted the boards.

I used a chalked paint, which allowed me to skip priming and allowed me to jump right in to painting!

TIP: Don’t paint the outside of the sides and ends yet. You’ll be nailing them together and the nail holes will have to be filled before painting.




STEP 5: Sticky Business

Always use wood glue when making something with wood. Always. It just helps to reinforce those joints.

I used my finger and applied a little to the edges of the ends and sides where I would be joining them.




Once there is glue, attach it.

You’ll need to let it set for a second or so.

Then use your nailer (or a hammer and nails) to join the sides together.

Silly me was on the phone while completing this step and wouldn’t you know my forgetful self forgot to snap a picture of using the nailer?? Yikes! Sorry, guys!

But you get the idea…right?




STEP 6: Embellish Until Your Heart is Content

One of the things I love about being crafty is the fun way you can think of ideas as you move along in a project.

I was a little bored with just white trim, so I decided to pull in some red from those pretty Big Lots plates.




Then I decided to bring in more white into the inside of the DIY serving tray.

I used painter’s tape to create a white boarder around the inside.




STEP 7: Wax On….Wax Off, Danielson

Okay, this isn’t Karate Kid, but you know what I mean.

You’ve got to protect that chalky paint!

I used a clear wax (just 1 coat), but later I may want to add another coat because if there is food and drink spilled here, I don’t want to ruin the paint!




STEP 8: Don’t Forget the Handles!

How are you going to carry your new DIY serving tray? Don’t forget the handles!

Most home improvement stores have affordable little handles like this. Just use your power drill to screw them on once they’re centered.

(P.S. I did NOT paint the bottom of my DIY serving tray. Hopefully at a party no one will turn it over to look. HA!)




Ta-Da! My New DIY Serving Tray!

I’m so excited how it turned out!

I wanted to add more red inside, but there is such as thing as too much detail so I stopped where I was and let well enough alone. 🙂




I absolutely love these plates and bowls from Big Lots!

Now the next order of business is picking a date of when I’m going to invite people over!






And whether we’re inside or outside, I’ve got this cute little DIY serving tray to impress people with, along with the cute dish set! 🙂


Did you guys know that Big Lots has all your spring and summer entertaining “must-haves”??



And now tell me…..how do you guys get ready for entertaining?

Leave a comment below and let’s chat about it!




Linking up:

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  1. Rosie Walsh says:

    This would make a great gift, color customized to the recipient. I hope you’ll paint the bottom, though. MDF can be badly affected by moisture, plus it will look even prettier.

  2. What a beautiful tray, I love it and such great instructions!!

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