My Partner likes to paint her nails herself and is forever struggling with holding the nail polish and leaving her nails to dry without touching anything.

As valentines was coming up i decided to make her a present that i know she would love and need.

So i came up with this - wood nail station / lap tray.

It turned out great and she loves it which is most important.

See the full build on my youtube channel -


Step 1: Step 1: Find a Board / Tray

I wanted this to be big enough to hold everything she would need, but also small enough to use whilst sat down and on her lap.

The wood i ended up using came from two small drawer fronts joined together with 8 dowels and wood glue.

Once the glue was dried fully i went over and filled in any imperfections or holes and made sure it was flat and square, i used white filler as i was planning on painting this in her favorite colors so i didn't need to match any grain or wood colors.

Step 2: Step 2: the Palm Rest

I wanted her to be able to rest her hand while the paint was drying.

I achived this by using a cut off from a round fence post and foam.

I cut my palm rest to size and sanded with 80 grit sandpaper to get rid off all the dirt and old finish, i wasnt bothered about making it 100% smooth as it was to be covered with foam and fabric.

I purposely left a small angle on the top and bottom so that the rest would angle towards her while she used it.

Once i had sanded i used a small strip of foam, rolled the rest in the foam and used some stapled to hold it down.

I made a second rest for her wrist , using a small scrap of wood with a standard cleaning sponge glued to it.

Step 3: Step 3: Holes

I wanted a space for her to keep her nail files and clippers within reach so i decided to chisel out a shallow recess for them to rest in.

I did nothing fancy , just made a few pencil marks for the size and shape i needed and used my drill with a small wood drill bit to take out most of the waste, i then used a small chisel to refine and smooth out the recess.

Once that was done i could see where i wanted the nail polishes to be in relation to the palm rest and files, i played around with where to put them and once i was happy with the position i used a 22mm spade bit (which fit her favorite brand perfectly) to cut the circle holders out , going down just enough so they would not topple over during use.

Step 4: Step 4: Sanding

Next was sanding , i started on 80 and went through 120, 180, 240. making sure everything was smooth including the holes i had made, i also rounded over all the edges with the 80 grit paper to give it a nicer shape and feel.

Step 5: Step 5: Paint & Top Coat

Once everything was smooth and i had wiped off all the dust it was time to paint.

I used a grey color waterproof and child friendly paint and grey is one of her favorite colors and i wanted to make sure the paint was safe enough for continuous skin contact , hence the child friendly kind.

I put two coats of grey paint on making sure to cover every part of the tray including holes and the edges.

Once all of that was dry i gave it a very light sand with 400 grit paper and moved onto the clear top coat.

For the top coat i used a ronseal clear satin varnish mainly to protect the wood and paint from fading or chipping away over time, Nothing special to do here just put 3 thin coats on leaving about 4 hours in between to dry properly.

I ended up with a grey tray with a nice semi gloss finish that was smooth to the touch , even in the holes.

Step 6: Step 6: Assembly and Lights

Once the finish was dry and i was ready to assemble the tray , i started by pre drilling some holes for the palm and wrist rest and glued and screwed it in place.

while the glue on the rest's where drying i moved onto the lights, i picked up some single LED mini desk lights for this to provide better lighting than she normally has , and again in pink one of her favorite colors.

I just lightly sanded the bottom with 80 grit paper to give the glue a better chance of holding and used super glue to keep it in place. thankfully the battery's are in the head of the light so i would never need to remove the base!

Once all the glue was dried and everything was secure i did a last check to make sure it was all as needed eg. the lights worked and the file, clippers and nail polish all went in perfectly.

Step 7: Step 7: Finished

Once i had finished it all i still felt it was lacking something , so i used the same fabric that i had used for the two rest's (one of my old t-shirts) and made a cushion on the bottom.

All i used was my staple gun to attach the fabric and filled the space between the board and fabric with some polystyrene balls i had.

All in all it was a relatively simple project but as its one of my 1st i still learnt a good deal.

The total cost of the project are as follows-

Board - Free

Paint £2.00

Top Coat - £5.00

Lights - £1.00 each

Fabric & Fillings - Free

Nail Polish - £1.00 each

Files - £1.00 for 10

Clippers - £1.00

All Together i took about 3 days mainly due to it being around 5 degrees C / 41 F

I would recommend it as a gift if anybody you know paints their own nails as its turned out to be a gem.

If you have any comments or suggestions i would appreciate them all (good/bad) as im planning on making more projects and hoping to improve my skills.

Thank you


<p>Great DIY present. I have always thought that homemade presents mean the most because they require thought and time, things that really show that you care.</p>
<p>Thank you. Those are my thought exactally. It was a present tailored to her and as far as i could see there was nothing else like it online. But i decided to share as it was such a success, maybe someone else would like to do the same, for someone in their life.</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I hope i can show you that you really dont need to be a master craftsman to create and build great projects, and hopefully inspire ... More »
More by GG Wood Work:A Small Strop Hand Tool Build Off 2017 A Wooden Bookmark 
Add instructable to: