Concession Hawking Tray



Introduction: Concession Hawking Tray

If you've ever been to a stadium ballpark, you've probably seen those vendors walking up and down the stairs with those huge trays full of stuff to sell. They're usually shouting out the names of the wares the have to offer, "Peanuts! Popcorn! Ice cold drinks, here!" And while they've been able to get your attention, getting their attention is sometimes a bit trickier... especially if you have a seat in the middle of the row. :-)

An event was held at my school where someone had the fun idea to get a bunch of these trays, and to use them to hand out refreshments to the attendees. This instructable will walk you through how to make a hawking tray for yourself, so you can sell/give/share items at your next event. It includes the optional steps of how I chose to decorate them as well, hopefully to inspire you with your own ideas.

Please note: This tray is not waterproof as described in the build, so don't add ice to it to keep your drinks cold while you walk around. A liner of plastic, such as a garbage bag or something, should let you protect the tray from the water made as the ice melts. Feel free to create your own instructable on how you did this, and share it with others!

Step 1: The Hawking Tray Premise

Here are the sketchnotes I drew that outlines how the tray is built, and the materials needed. You should also see my humorous instruction steps for how to use it!

These plans are here for you to get a quick summarizing snapshot of what to do, and for you to riff off of should you decide to customize your own hawking tray to better suit your needs, or the size or your vendor :-)

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Below you will see the list of materials I used, and the tools I needed to create the tray.

Two important notes:

  1. The dimensions shown are not the sizes that are available in stores; they are the finished sizes for the tray. I bought enough material to build eight trays for my school's event, and I'm not sure most people will need that quantity. :-) The next step will detail how to get the boards to these lengths.
  2. I did not include materials (or tools) used in the optional decorating steps found later in this instructable.


  • table saw
  • miter saw
  • compressor and nail gun
  • scissors
  • drill bits


  • 1 - 13" x 24" x 1/8" MDF hardboard sheet
  • 2 - 13 3/4" x 10" x 1" pre-primed pine board*
  • 2 - 24 3/4" x 10" x 1" pre-primed pine board*
  • 2 - cabinet knob
  • 1 - 7' fabric strap (similar to a dog leash)
  • wood glue

* The 10" and 1" dimensions on these boards are how they are sold at the stores, but are not the actual physical dimensions of the boards. I have listed them here so that you know what you need to purchase - they do not have to be cut to this width and thickness.

Step 3: Prepare the Boards

The building of the boards is done in three major steps. First, cutting a dado down the length of the board that the MDF tray bottom will slide into. Second, cutting the long board into the smaller side pieces. Third, cutting the MDF sheet to the right size.

Use the table saw to cut a dado down the length of boards. The slot should be about 3/4" from the base of the board, and about 3/8" deep so that the groove is about halfway through the board. I didn't use a dado blade to cut the slot, but instead made two passes with my standard table saw blade to the the width I needed.

The sides of the board were cut with a miter saw. They are joined to one another using a 45-degree miter to make a more visually appealing joint line on the outside of the tray. Since you are cutting at such an angle, keep that in mind when you lay out your cut lines - I like to lay out my outside cutlines, instead of the inside ones, so that I get the outside dimensions that I want... but to each their own.

Also, since I was making eight of these trays at once, I decided to put together a simple jig to allow me to make repeated cuts at the same lengths. While such a jig isn't necessary for making the tray, it sure did help with my assembly line :-)

Finally, set up your table saw so that you can cut your MDF sheet down to the right size. This step could honestly be done at the beginning too - your call.

Step 4: Assemble the Tray

Attach the two small sides to one of the longer sides. Use some wood glue and the brad nailer to make them stay... I tell my kids, "Make it permanent!" when we do this. :-)

Slide the MDF bottom into the groove from the dado.

Put the fourth side on to the tray and make it permanent. :-)

Step 5: (Optional) Add Painter's Tape for Decoration

I elected to do vertical stripes on my hawking trays. Horizontal ones looked okay too, but the really nice look was when they were zig-zags. Problem was, doing that pattern for eight trays was going to take more time than I had available! Maybe next time... :-)

Put down painters tape to make your stripes. To keep the distances between stripes consistent, I put pieces of tape down edge-to-edge. I then removed every other piece of tape to expose the spots that I was going to paint. Those removed pieces then got used on the next tray I was making, using the same method. #dontbewasteful

I used a brush to apply some paint, and then waited for it to dry. I only painted three sides of the box so that people wearing it would know what side to have against their belly.

Once the paint dried, I carefully pulled off the tape to reveal a bright white stripe to contrast against the colored one.

Step 6: Attach the Knob and Straps

Drill a hole on the side of the tray, close to the front and near the bottom, that the cabinet knob will fit into - I (believe) it was 3" from each edge. Use the screw from the cabinet knob package to attach it to the side of the tray.

Take the strap and tie a non-slip knot in it to produce a loop at each end of the strap. That loop will allow you to take the strap off of the know so someone can begin wearing the tray. Place the loop over the knob and try the tray on for size. Change the length of the strap as needed to fit the person wearing it.

Step 7: Admire Your Work and Start Hawking!

All done!


  • find something to sell
  • load up your tray
  • come up with a catch slogan to shout
  • start finding hungry/thirsty looking event attendees!

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