How to Make an Industrial Serving Tray
The industrial style became popular when urban pioneers began converting old warehouses and factories into living spaces and offices. Characterized by exposed brick and pipes, weathered wood and a utilitarian vibe, the industrial style has transcended architecture, influencing furniture, light fixtures, graphic design and even fashion. Build this serving tray to add a piece of this style to your home.
Pipe and Barnwood
This industrial serving tray is constructed of vintage oak barn wood and trimmed with black iron handles. Hardwood pegs add a touch of hand-wrought charm.
If you can operate a saw and drill, you can make this industrial serving tray in few hours.
Materials Needed to Make this Industrial Serving Tray
- 1 Barnwood board: 9-1/2″ wide x 1″ thick x 10′ long
- (2) 3/4″ black iron pipes, 8″ long
- (4) 3/4″ black iron floor flanges
- (4) 3/4″ black iron elbows
- (16) #8 slotted steel wood screws
- (1) 3/4″ #8 wood screw
- (2) 1/2″ hardwood plugs
- TSP, salt, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide
- Wood glue
- Spray polyurethane
- Can polyurethane
Tools Needed for Your Industrial Serving Tray
- Table saw (or circular saw with straightedge guide)
- Radial saw
- Carpenter’s square
- Biscuit joiner (optional)
- Orbital sander with 120-grit disks
- Drill with 1/8″ bit
- 1/2″ spade bit
- Phillips screwdriver
- Slotted-tip screwdriver
- Wood clamps
- Flush-cut saw
- Soap or candle
- 220-grit sandpaper
Approximate Cost: $45 plus lumber
Inspect the Board
We are working with a single board of white oak, reclaimed from a barn in Minnesota that was destroyed by a tornado. If you plan to use authentic barnwood for your industrial serving tray, be sure to carefully inspect the boards for nails and remove them. Make sure the wood is sound throughout, and not rotted and powdery.
If there is paint on one side of the board, assume that it is lead-based. Dust from lead-based paint is toxic, so you should not sand paint from the board. Using the instructions in “How to Remove Lead Paint Safely,” scrape off any loose paint. When it’s time to apply a finish, just brush on a topcoat to that side. Whether it’s the top or bottom of the serving tray is up to you and the effect you’re going for.
Cut the Pieces
We were able to get all the necessary pieces for our industrial serving tray from a 9-1/2″. x 10′ board. If you’re working with a similar size board, cut the pieces out as shown, being careful to preserve the naturally distressed edges on most of the cuts. You should end up with the following lengths:
Two 4-1/2″ x 26″ boards, each with one natural edge
One 4-1/2″ x 26″ board with clean edges
Two 3-1/2″ x 13-3/4″ boards, each with one natural edge
Ripping long boards is much easier with table saw! If you don’t have one yet, see “Best Portable Table Saw Reviews” before you buy.
Arrange the Boards
Arrange the three 4-1/2″ boards as shown. The board with the clean-cut edges goes in the middle. Barnwood boards may be warped and uneven, so experiment to find the order that works best. If possible, keep the most characteristic, beautiful texture on the same side. That will be the top of your industrial serving tray.
Mark the Joins
If you’re using a biscuit joiner, make a mark every few inches across the boards where the biscuits will go. If you don’t have biscuit joiner, see these instructions on edge joining with glue.
Cut the Slots
Cut the biscuit slots at each mark. If you’re not familiar with biscuit joiners, see this great article on how to use one.
Insert the Biscuits
Dip the biscuits into wood glue and insert them into the slots on one side of the pair of boards that you will be joining. Apply a thin layer of glue along that board’s edge. You’ll want to be sure there’s no glue on visible wood, so see this info on how to apply glue and clean away the excess.
Clamp Tightly Together
Put the boards together and clamp firmly. Wood scraps on the end will help keep the boards level and prevent marks from the clamps. Let the glue dry for 24 hours. See these tips on how to clamp like a champ.
Smooth the Wood
Depending on your tastes and the condition of the board, you could skip this step and simply seal the rough barnwood once the pieces are attached. (Remember, if your barnwood is painted, it should not be sanded.) We are going for a smoother, more hand-worked appearance for our industrial serving tray, so we’re using 120-grit disks on an orbital sander to remove the oxidized surface and smooth away splinters.
But Keep Some Texture
We don’t want to lose all that beautiful character, though, so we’re careful not to sand off the saw marks and the other natural distressing characteristic of the industrial style.
Position the Top Boards
Place the 3-1/2″ x 13-3/4″ boards perpendicularly on the top surface of your industrial serving tray, keeping the clean cut edges to the outside. Make sure they are flush on the top, bottom and side edges. Find the center of the board, measuring side-to-side and lengthwise, then drill a 3/4″ deep hole with a 1/8″ drill bit.
Drill a Countersink for the Peg
Use a 1/2″ spade bit to drill a 1/4″ deep hole in that spot.
Attach the Top Boards
Lightly glue the underside of the boards, then attach them using a 3/4″ #8 wood screw. Here’s how to drive screws perfectly.
Clean the Iron Pipe and Fittings
Use TSP (trisodium phosphate) to clean the pipe fittings. This will help strip off the waxy coating often found on black iron pipes. Rinse thoroughly and dry by hand.
TSP is also great for cleaning woodwork prior to repainting. See more tips on how to paint a room fast.
Corrode the Screw Heads
In keeping with the vintage, industrial look, use steel slotted screws instead of Phillips head screws. To avoid a shiny, new appearance, soak the screws at least overnight in a solution of vinegar, salt and hydrogen peroxide. If the screw heads are resisting corrosion, buff them lightly with fine-grit sandpaper, then spritz them with the salt, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide solution, allowing them to air dry. Repeat if needed.
Position the Handles
Assemble the handles and position them on each top board, centering side-to-side and lengthwise. Make sure you rotate the flange so the holes are accessible with a screwdriver. Mark and drill the screw holes using a 1/8″ drill bit for the #8 wood screws you’ll use later.
Tip: You may want to mark the underside of the flanges to indicate which handle goes on which side of the industrial serving tray.
Seal the Handles
Lightly coat the handles with a satin polyurethane spray to give them a consistent soft shine and protect the metal from corrosion. Two light coats are better than one heavy one, which could cause drips.
Peg the Holes
Put a drop of glue inside the holes and tap a hardwood plug into each. Allow the glue to dry. If the plug protrudes above the board, cut it flush with a flat serrated blade, such as a flush-cut saw.
You can find hardwood plugs at most hardware stores. If you’d like the pegs to blend in with the surrounding board, use plugs cut from your project scraps and line up the grain. Here’s how to make decorative wood plugs.
Distress the Clean Edges
Use a wood rasp to roughen the clean edges of the top boards on your industrial serving tray.
If you’re working with new boards from a lumber store, now’s the time to add distressing to give your serving tray a vintage look. You’ll find several interesting techniques for aging wood here, including alternatives to staining.
Smooth the rasped edges and anywhere else on your industrial serving tray that might still have splinters. Keep in mind that the tray may be placed on a bedspread or upholstered ottoman, so pay particular attention to the bottom side and sand down any areas that might catch on fabric.
Choose a Stain Color
Use scraps for testing stain colors. Remember that the surface texture and topcoat (varnish, polyurethane, etc.) can alter the final appearance, so be sure test on sanded scraps and apply the topcoat before making your decision.
Apply the Stain
The good news is that a rustic, industrial serving tray like this looks better when it’s not perfect, so don’t sweat the staining. We used one coat of a water-based stain from General Finishes called Antique Oak. Just brush it on and wait a few minutes before wiping it off with a rag. Let the stain dry for 6 to 8 hours.
Finish with a Topcoat
We applied two coats of Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane in a Clear Satin sheen, with a light hand-sanding using 220-grit paper in between coats.
Always stir polyurethane well before using—never shake it, as that can cause bubbles. Here are more tips on how to get a smooth polyurethane finish.
Screw in the Handles
It’s easy to accidentally strip slotted screws, especially when working with hardwoods. And if your screw threads are rusty, they’ll be even more difficult to drive into the wood. A little bar soap or candle wax in the threads will make it easier.
Want more tips like that? See “15 Revolutionary Techniques for Driving Screws.”