We work with refinishing a lot of furniture. Occasionally we come across pieces that we just can’t fix. We were gifted two table type desks that were just not working right as desks anymore. Instead of throwing them out in the trash we decided to cut them down and repurpose into serving trays. The fun thing is these two desks have provided us with several different projects. Repurposing and using every part of the desks became our goal. The desk tops were a beautiful solid wood. One of them had been partially stripped of it’s stain. And this is where our part of the take over (or our story) begins.
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- screw driver
- table saw
- router/router table
- round router bit
- orbital sander
- 220 & 320 grit sandpaper
- Epoxy resin
- Alcohol Ink
- Odies Oil Finish
- orbital buffer and pad
First Things First:
The first thing we did was remove everything from the underneath side of the desk so that all that was left was just the wood top. Saving those pieces can be useful, if you have projects in mind to use them, like we did. If not, you can toss them into the garbage/burn pile or in a scrap wood box. You never know when inspiration will strike and you’ll wish you had those pieces.
Next, you’ll cut each desk top down to 4 pieces. Ours measured 12″x19-22″ depending on the condition of the wood. This gave us a grand total of 8 boards. We ran each piece through a planer to remove the finish and eliminate any warping. In the photo above the lighter colored board has been run through a planer and the darker board still has the original stain on it.
What if you don’t own a planer? Great question- If you don’t own a planer or have access to one, you can still do this project. There’s just a little more elbow grease involved. You will want to strip the stain and sand the wood smooth.
**Please note – when using any kind of machines and/or power tools it’s important to read and know all the safety rules and how to use the machine.
**Take note- these trays are being made for decorative purposes and not for cutting food.
Tools That Help:
This is the board (pictured above) after being run through the planer. We love the grains and colors in these boards. Wood working is a lot more enjoyable when you have the right tools. We highly suggest a planer or an orbital sander to help make the process so much easier and quicker.
Adding a hole in one of the corners of the board gives it a classic cutting board look and feel. Add the hold to the bottom left corner using a 1 1/8″ Spade bit on a table top router with a round bit. Round all the edges with a slight curve including the drilled hole. With an orbital sander and 220 grit sandpaper, sand down the top. This is where you will round the corners, if that is the look you are desiring. And- you do not have to add the thumb hole if you don’t like the look or if you are adding handles. Remember, that just because we did it one way doesn’t mean there isn’t another way to do something or another look to give a project. If you are not adding handles or engraving into the wood, you’ll continue with the paragraph below. Adding handles or engraving- skip the next paragraph and head to the Finishing Touches section.
Once the sanding is complete and the dust has settled, wipe down each piece using odorless mineral spirits and allow to dry completely. Then when they are dry, we applied a coat of Odies Oil finish and let it set for a few hours. After a few hours wipe the excess oil off and buff it out with an orbital buffer. With Odies Oil- a little bit goes a long way. It’s also non-toxic and food safe.
If you are making your trays without the thumb holes or you are engraving the tray- this is where you will pick up. Do not put the layer of Odies Oil on the board before finishing off the project.
I like having handles. Watch for the 50% off sales on handles, knobs and hardware to happen at Hobby Lobby. This little tip helps keep the cost down on the project. We also added silicone feet to the underneath side of the trays to help keep them from sliding on tables and countertops. This is optional/ personal preference to add the feet.
If you are adding handles we like to pre-drill the holes for the screws and we definitely add the silicone or rubber feet to keep tabletops and countertops from getting scratched.
Using a CNC machine we carved or engraved names into the boards. Then using resin (which you can purchase on Amazon), we filled in the engraving, sanded one last time and then used the Odies Oil to finish off the project.
The Wrap Up:
We already owned all the tools we used for these wood trays and most of the supplies as well which made this a relatively inexpensive project. We were given 2 desks which yielded 8 cutting boards/trays and we made all 8 trays at the same time which ended up saving us time in the long run. I call it batch work.
Each tray is a little different and even unique given their grain patterns. There’s so many things you can do with broken down furniture. It’s not always a lost cause. With a little imagination you can turn old desks into trays. Stay tuned as we have another project we used these desks for. Like I said early we used every piece of the desks that we could. You can check out the antique chair we refinished here: https://therefininghome.com/refinishing-a-cozy-cottage-chair/ or the dresser that we just love here: https://therefininghome.com/refinished-antique-dresser/
Don’t forget you can see how we decorate, organize and DIY our home and a few other projects on our Instagram feed @therefininghome .
Joleen & Jess