13 Days of a Woodworker Christmas: Day 5!

13 Days of a Woodworker Christmas: Day 5!

Today is MY day! I am incredibly excited to reveal these Christmas Tray plans for Day 5 of the 13 days of a Woodworker Christmas!

day5of13 days of woodworker christmas

See this 13 Days of a Woodworker Christmas post for all the details and list of plans as they are being revealed!

This Christmas Tree Serving Tray was such a fun build for me, and one of the first projects that I created from start to finish; I envisioned what I wanted to make, drew up the plans, and built it! I’m so excited to share the plans and the process with you as well. If you build one, I’d love to see it! Remember also to subscribe to my email list (bottom of screen) because I have some really cool things in the works to share with you!

I wanted to make something that was decorative and functional. When I came up with the idea of a serving tray, I was excited about it, but knew that I would want it to be lightweight, which is sometimes difficult to do with wood projects, especially with what I wanted to do as the main design. I opted for some very thin wood materials (just my preference, so please adjust as you prefer or according to your supply of materials.)

completed christmas serving tray

Here are the plans for my Christmas Tree Serving Tray:


  • 8- .25″ x 1.5″ x 36″ Poplar boards, these are very thin. I found them on a shelf below the typical sized poplar boards. You may not need eight, but it’s enough that if mistakes are made with miters, you’ll have plenty.
  • Sheet of plywood or underlayment, as thick as you prefer. This factors into the weight of the overall project, but it is just personal preference really. You will only need a small piece (about 22×15) so if you have scrap that works too!
  • 1- 2x2x8 white pine board for frame.
  • 2 drawer handles or pulls (I like these: (affiliate link)Liberty 3″ Drawer Handle Pull, Bronze with Copper Highlights
  • wood glue (My fave (affiliate link)Titebond-3 Ultimate Wood Glue)
  • brad nail gun (I have this one: (affiliate link) PORTER CABLE PCFP72671 Finish Nailer/Compressor Combo Kit
  • brad nails 1″
  • miter saw
  • sander or sandpaper
  • clamps (including corner clamps if you have them!)
  • drill and drill bit
  • paint (I just used acrylic dark green paint with some silver added in for sheen.)
  • wood stain (I used (affiliate Link) Minwax Wood Stain, Dark Walnut)
  • polyacrylic satin finish, if preferred. I love this (affiliate link) Minwax Satin Polycrylic Protective Finish

Step 1: Cutting

Cut all of the small poplar boards according to the measurements below. All miters are cut at 45° angles.

christmas serving tray sketchup plans

Step 2: The Design

Layout all of the pieces where they will go when put together. Measure the height and width of your completed “puzzle” so that you can customize the frame to your specific project. If you followed the plan exactly so far, it should measure to be 20″ wide and 13.5″ tall.day5of13 days of woodworker christmas

Step 3: The Frame

Cut the 1×2 to make the frame. Remember when you cut the miters for the corners you will be cutting it with the 1″ side facing up, not the 2″ side. 45° angle cuts.

Layout all of the pieces again to be sure that your frame will fit perfectly around the design. You want it to fit snugly. Sometimes you may have to adjust a piece or two with the sander to even things out, just be careful not to sand too much!

Stain the frame and once it dries, glue at the corners and use clamps to hold it tightly while it dries. I used a adjustable belt clamp of sorts to hold mine. Corner clamps would be ideal. The most important part here is the always check for 90° at each corner, clamp, then check for 90° again. You definitely need this to be completely square.

christmas serving tray frame

Step 4: Backing

Once the frame glue is completely dried, take your backing material (plywood, underlayment, boards, or whatever you’re using) and cut it the size of the outer edge of the frame. For this plan, the measurements were 21 1/2″x 15″. Cut the piece, then be sure to sand the edges completely smooth. Place it under the frame to ensure they will have the same measurement.

Step 5: Staining

Stain each individual pieces of the design, except the tree, paint those pieces! I prefer not to stain the bottom of each piece, as it might interfere
Christmas serving tray pieces with the adhesion of the glue, but definitely stain the sides so there isn’t any light wood showing.

When the stain and paint dry completely do a dry fit of the design; place all of the piecies as they’ll go to be sure the pieces will fit into the frame. You want it to be snug, but you shouldn’t have to force the pieces in. Lightly sand if you need it to be just slightly smaller.

Step 6: Gluing

Glue the frame to the backing. Be sure all the edges match up flush. Use clamps to hold it tightly, then use a brad nailer to nail from the bottom of the backing into the frame. Be sure that the nails don’t portrude from the backing because this will be the bottom of the tray and would scratch any surface if there are nails sticking out. Let dry.

Since you’ve already done a dry fit for the pieces, just apply an even, yet somewhat light amount of glue to the backing, use a glue spreader or plastic scraper of some sort (or even scrap wood) to spread the glue out evenly. You don’t want the glue to ooze up between the pieces, so too much glue will be a bad thing here. Start setting the pieces into the inside of the frame. I found it best to go from top to bottom. Once all the pieces are placed, make sure they all lay evenly, then carefully put something heavy on top to give it enough pressure that the pieces won’t move. I used a few stacks of heavy books.


christmas serving tray glue upStep 7: Handles

To drill the holes for the handles,
christmas serving tray drill handle holesmeasure the length of their holes, where you want them to go on the sides, and make sure it is even on both sides. I marked these spots about 1/2″ from the top and centered in the middle of the side, with a pencil. Before drilling, place a piece of painters tape on the side where your drill will emerge. This will prevent the wood from splitting on the back side of the hole when the drill breaks through. (I didn’t do this on the first hole and regretted it completely!) Once you have your holes drilled, go ahead and install the handles. This will make it much easier to stain the bottom.

Step 8: Final staining

Stain the backing piece of the tray. I didn’t do this before assembly because I didn’t want to worry about any stain interfering with the glue’s adhesion. Now that you have the handles on the sides, this will be much easier. Just even apply the stain and wipe away as you go. I find that the Dark Walnut stain does not need to sit on the wood for long before it is dark enough. Let dry.

If you decide to add polyacrylic to finish it, then go ahead and remove the hardware, coat it with polyacrylic, let dry as needed, and re-install the handles. I opted not to add poly to mine yet because I want it to get a little bit of natural wear.

You’re finished! Now just sit back and admire your beautiful serving tray. Put it up on the mantle or start serving drinks! Either way, it’s a fun, decorative, and functional addition to your holiday decor!

completed christmas serving traychristmas serving tray completed with dishes

I hope you love this plan. I couldn’t believe how simply it came together, and I just love it and can’t wait to use it for a Christmas party and dinner.

Remember to enter our giveaway on Instagram! For the extra entry specific to my Day 5 project, use #christmastray

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