There’s something about a herringbone pattern that just makes me fall in love with an item. It’s such a simple pattern to create, but it makes a piece feel so custom and full of character!
Since it’s so simple, I try to incorporate it into a lot of different DIYs. In fact, if you want to see another take on a herringbone, check out our DIY herringbone coffee table. It’s technically not a true herringbone pattern, but it’s just as fun!
Let’s start DIYing!
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- Circular saw
- Circular saw guide
- Nail gun
- Miter saw
- Electric sander
New to DIY? Check out our post on beginner woodworking tools to determine which tools to get!
What You’ll Need
- 1 – 1x2x8 select pine board
- 1- 5.2mm 2×2 plywood (we used lauan, but you can also use oak or maple)
- 5 – 3/8″x4″x2′ pine boards
- 120-220 grit sandpaper
- Stain – we used this one
- Wood sealer
- Clear caulk
- Painter’s tape
- 1.5″ nails
- Optional:handles (we made our DIY leather handles)
How to Make a Wooden Serving Tray
New to DIY? Download our free 5 Steps to Getting Start with DIY guide!
Step 1: Cut your wood
Cut your plywood down to size. We cut ours to be approximately 20″x16″.
Cut 4 of your 3/8″ pine boards in half at a 45-degree angle. It doesn’t have to be perfect–we just cut them in half so that we could have enough boards to fill the tray. Then cut your remaining board into 3 or 4 pieces.
If you would prefer to just cut your pieces to the correct size on the first go-around, check out this video that explains how to figure out the size of each piece.
Personally, we like cutting them a little longer because there is less of a chance of having an uneven edge in the end. Plus, you can keep the scraps and turn them into an art piece!
Step 2: sand
Sand your pine boards and the bottom side of your plywood using 120-220 grit sand paper.
You want to get the bulk of the sanding done prior to putting the boards together so that you can avoid scratching the neighboring boards which occurs by sanding against the grain.
Note: if you have a random orbital sander, you don’t need to worry about sanding against the grain, but it’s important to keep in mind when hand sanding or using another type of sander.
STEP 3: make the herringbone pattern
Mark the center of your plywood with a pencil.
Arrange the pine boards on top of the plywood to create the herringbone pattern. One side of the zigzag should line up with the centerline you drew in step 4. When placing your boards, try to mix up the wood grains and colors.
Step 4: glue the boards down
Once you have finalized your pattern, move the boards off of the plywood. Keep them in the same order so that you know which boards go where.
Working from top to bottom, add glue to the plywood and then place the pine boards on top of the glue. The glue will make the pine boards slide easily, so try to place the pattern quickly.
Once all of the pine boards are in place, place something heavy on top of them while the glue dries. Since the pine boards slide easily, carefully place the heavy object on the boards from directly above.
step 5: cut the excess
Once the glue is dry, it’s time to break out the circular saw. Set your tray down with the pattern face down so that you can see the plywood. Tape along the sides of the plywood to help reduce splintering and to give yourself a clear line to follow with the circular saw.
For extra control, you can set a guide up by clamping a 1×2 on top of the plywood. The 1×2 will help you keep a straighter line when cutting.
OR you can use the Kreg Circular Saw Guide. We invested in one a few months ago and I can’t say enough good things about it. You don’t have to clamp it, it gives you great control over your circular saw, and it helps reduce splintering.
Cut the excess pine boards off so that they are lined up with the edge of the plywood.
To reduce splintering even further, slowly cut through your wood. The faster you cut, the more splintering that occurs.
Step 6: cut the sides
Cut your 1x2s at a 45-degree bevel angle using your miter saw. To get the measurements, we place the boards along the tray and mark where they should be cut with a pencil rather than figuring out a specified measurement.
Test your cuts and adjust if needed.
Mark where you want your handles to be and drill holes for the handle hardware. Make sure that you drill the holes above where the bottom of the tray will be. You’ll need enough space to screw the handles in!
step 7: sand and stain
Sand your 1x2s using 120-220 grit sandpaper.
Stain all of your boards. We used Minwax Special Walnut and wiped it on and immediately off again using a towel.
P.S. Check out our full guide on how to stain wood.
Step 8: Assemble the tray
Once your stain is dry, glue and nail the 1x2s to the sides of the tray. Clamp your boards in place while the glue dries.
step 9: caulk
Caulk where the bottom of the tray meets the edges. Make sure to grab caulk that dries clear!
Step 10: Seal
Seal with the sealer of your choice. For this project, we chose Deft Clear Wood Finish Spray.
Step 11: Install handles
There you have it! A beautiful herringbone serving tray that is sure to impress your friends! In fact, it’s an incredible gift to DIY for anyone!
I went to the local hardware store and they cut the wood for me. 🙂 The rest I did myself and it looks so good I am going to make a 2nd one. Your instructions were very easy to understand. I’ve never made a project like this before. I can’t wait to try some of your others!!
Ariel, that makes me so happy to hear! I’m glad you love the final product and I can’t wait to see what else you make 🙂
Hi Zoe! I’m planning on making this serving tray soon but I have a question. At step 8, it says: “glue and nail the 1x2s to the sides of the tray”. However, in the photo, I only see the glue but I cannot figure out where the nails should go at this step. So, do you indeed use nails at this step or do you just glue the sides? Can you help me out? 🙂
Hi Miriam! Yes, you will use both glue and nails to attach the sides of the tray. We added 4 nails on each side that will go into the plywood. We also added an extra nail at each corner to hold the two pieces together. Hope that helps!
I wish to someone bring me breakfast every sunday on such a lovely serving tray<3
I’m having a bit of trouble finding 0.75 x 3 x 4 pine boards at my local home improvement store. I seem to only be able to find 1 x 3 x 4 pine boards. Is this acceptable to use? Or any advice on where to find the 0.75?
Hi Megan! I am so so sorry for the trouble! It looks likes I put the wrong board. I just double-checked and we used 3/8x4x2 pine boards for the herringbone pattern. The rest of the materials were correct and I updated the plans accordingly! Happy building!
I notice that you’re using 90 degree angle corner clamps. Can you recommend a brand to me? I’ve been searching and the reviews are all over the place. Thanks!
Honestly, we very rarely use ours. I’m not sure what the brand is, but we don’t really like them. Generally, we just clamp these to the corners instead: https://amzn.to/3n8Q730
Thanks for the clear instructions! I love it 🙂 What kind of stain did you used? I can’t find special walnut 🙁 Did you get it from Amazon? 😀 Thanks…
We used Minwax Special Walnut! You can find your closest retailer here!
The herringbone pattern is amazing and the tray just stunning Zoe! I did a restoration-makeover to a breakfast tray but yours with this pattern is amazing. Thanks for shearing!
I plan to make these for Xmas gifts this year! Beautiful and simple 😁
I was wondering what type of bench you are using underneath your cuts? It looks like a flat top saw horse?
These are the perfect gift!! We have this folding table. The clamps it comes with aren’t great, but the table is really nice to have and you can store it when you aren’t using it!
Haven’t you used any screws to fix this construction?
Idea is excellent, but is it safe enough (I mean with glue)?
Hi Julia, wood glue is plenty strong and secure enough for this project. When used correctly, it actually forms a bond that’s stronger than the wood itself! But the beauty of DIY is that you can always add more screws and nails wherever you want to.
Currently looking to give this project a go, but as i live in the UK every hardware store i go to does not understand the measurements. Is there any way you could help or know what measurements would be used in the UK? Thanks
Hi Bob, unfortunately I am not versed in UK measurements.
This tray is the cutest thing ever. I am obsessed with it! We are doing a few kitchen updates here in Boone and this would be so cute on our countertop. First, we are doing some kitchen cabinet refinishing, but once that is done this will have to be our next project. Thanks so much for sharing!