Introduction: Pallet Wood Serving Tray

About: Techie by trade, but hobbyist woodworker and metal fabricator to the core. I document my projects on my youtube channel.

In our living room, we have a large ottoman that also serves as our coffee table or a place we would put our drinks while enjoying a movie. The problem with an ottoman is: the top isn't very stable and isn't ideal to hold drinks and other potentially messy food items. That's why I decided to build this serving tray. The surface of the serving tray is made out of glued together pallet wood. I think it turned out rather nice. I hope you enjoy the write up.

Here is the link to the video of this build:

Step 1: Prepping Pallet Wood and Gluing the Pallet Wood

I used a jointer to smooth out all the surfaces of the pallet wood. This was for 2 reasons:

1) I am going to glue the boards together, so I needed a nice clean surface to join together

2) Because I wanted this tray to look very refined, i wanted all the boards the same thickness to make the surface seamless after the glue up.

After prepping the surfaces, I cut each board to the same length of 14" (note i measured out the exact size I wanted for this project based on the size of my ottoman, in my case the the overall dimensions are 24"x15")

Then, I took time to plan how I wanted to arrange the boards together then did a simple glue up of the boards.

I used Tightbond as the glue in this project.

Step 2: Post Glue Wood Finishing

After the glue dried, I chiseled off the excess glue and then belt sanded the surface smooth. I took my time on this step as belt sanders are notorious for removing material very quickly. Ideally, I would have used a surface planer, but i do not own one.

After belt sanding, I used an orbital sander with 220 grit to get the surface very smooth.

Step 3: Attaching the Sides and Cutting Slot

The sides of the serving tray are made of 1/2" in thick x 2 1/2" poplar wood I got from my local Homedepot.

I cut all the pieces to length then measured out where I was going to put the hand slot for the serving tray. I measured to find the middle, then determined how long I wanted to slot of be. Once the measurements were done, I used a 1" hole saw to drill the ends of the slot. I continued to use that hole saw to remove most of the material of the hand slot and use a chisel to remove the rest. I then used a file to remove the final bit of material and also smooth out the handle.

Attaching the sides of the tray was very simple, I used glue and brad nail gun to attach it to the pallet wood. I added clamps at the end and waited 24 hours for the glue to dry.

Step 4: Finishing the Serving Tray

After the glue dried, I put wood putty in the holes created by the brad nailer. After the putty dried, I sanded the surface smooth.


I then taped off the pallet wood surface on both sides as I did not want to get paint on this. Then, I used Rustoleum paint with primer and gave 2 generous coats of white paint to all surfaces that were not taped off.

Sealing the wood

As mentioned above, I wanted a nice durable, waterproof finish for the surface of this serving tray. I ended up creating my own wipe-on polyurthane. It is basically a mixture of polyurthane and mineral spirits. I was shooting for a 4 part poly to 1 part mineral spirit ratio, but didn't do any measuring so at best I was close.

I applied 2 coats of my diy wipe on poly to the bottom, and 2 coats to the top. Then I used pure polyurthane to finish the top surface.

I love how the finish gave the wood lots of character.