Saturday Morning Workshop: How To Build A Sofa Arm Tray Table

Keep your reading materials, coffee and electronics close by with this simple sofa-arm tray table. And learn a new joinery method, to boot!

Next Project

A few hours






No side table? No problem! This handy tray sits on the arm of a sofa or chair, and it's really easy to build. Watch the video tutorial below, and follow the step-by-step instructions to build one yourself.

Tools Required

  • 18-Gauge Brad Nail Gun
  • Drill/driver
  • Miter saw
  • Table saw

Materials Required

  • 1-1/2-in. 18-gauge brad nails
  • 1/4-in. Pine Dowel
  • 2'x4' 3/4" Plywood
  • 3/4" Oak Iron-On Edge Banding Veneer
  • Wood glue

What It Takes to Build This Sofa Arm Tray

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Cost: $30
  • Skill level: Beginner

Cutting List

Sofa Arm Tray Table Cutting List

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Measure your sofa arm

Sofa Arm Tray Table measure your sofa arm

You can’t start your sofa arm tray project without this step! Measure from the top of the arm to midway through the sofa cushion. This is the length of the sides (B). Ours was 10-in. Clamp two straight edges along the sides of the arm and measure the distance in between them. Add 1-1/2 in. to your measurement for the final length of the top (A).

Step 2

Cut the parts to size

Sofa Arm Tray Table cut the parts to size

Rip the plywood to 10-in.-wide strips. Cut parts A & B to length according to the dimensions you found in Step 1. Crosscut the remaining parts (C & D) to length as shown in the cutting list.

Step 3

Cut the phone groove

Sofa Arm Tray Table cut the phone groove

Set up your dado set for a 1/2-in. x 1/2-in. cut., 2 in. from the fence. Cut the phone groove along the length of the top (A). You could use a router for this if you prefer.

Step 4

Apply edge banding

Sofa Arm Tray Table apply edge banding

Rough cut the edge banding. Iron the edge banding so that the edges overhang both faces of the plywood. Rub the edge banding down with a wood block while the glue is setting, to ensure good adhesion. With the edge banding face-down on your bench, carefully trim the excess with a utility knife. Don’t apply edge banding on edges that butt into other parts.

Step 5

Glue and pin

Sofa Arm Tray Table glue and pin

Glue the ends for the butt joints. Pin the boards together with 2-in. brads. Make sure to locate the nails so that they won’t interfere with the dowels.

Step 6

Drill dowel holes

Sofa Arm Tray Table 6

Mark three spots along each joint at 1-in. 5-in. and 9-in., 3/8-in. from the edge of the board. A painter’s tape flag on the drill bit 1-1/2 in. from the end of the bit tells you how deep to drill.

Step 7

Install the dowels

Sofa Arm Tray Table install the dowels

Insert the dowel rod into the holes and mark it’s length, about 1/16-in. proud of the hole. Cut the dowels to length. Spread a little glue on each dowel and press them into their holes. Wipe off any excess glue. When the glue is dry, sand the dowels flush. Then slip your sofa arm tray table onto your couch and enjoy!

Sofa Arm Tray TableFamily Handyman