Builder's Studio: DIY 3-Tier Serving Tray

In this special holiday edition of Builder's Studio, we are showing you how to build this DIY 3-Tiered Serving Tray! These servings trays are great for desserts or appetizers and can be decorated for any season! This is a super easy project to complete for the holidays and can be used for a number of applications.

Products used in this build:

Assembly Instructions

Overall Dimensions: 17.5” H x 15.5” W (bottom)

Materials needed:

Other items used:

  • Miter/circular saw
  • Tape measure and/or ruler
  • Writing utensil
  • Wood glue
  • Strap clamp
  • Scrap wood
  • Hole cutting bit
  • Drill
  • Clamps
  • Locking pliers
  • Pneumatic stapler
  • Ruler
  • Drill press (optional)
  • Straight edge (optional)
  • Nails/screws (optional)


  1. Cut your 1x2 lumber to the desired size with the miter saw (we used the below cut list to achieve the octagonal border). Set the angle of your saw to 22 ½ degrees.
    a. Eight (8) boards at 6 ½”
    b. Eight (8) boards at 5”
    c. Eight (8) boards at 3 ½”
  2. Once you have your border pieces, create your octagon shape and glue the pieces together. We used a strap clamp to hold everything together and added wood glue to each outer edge of the boards. Be sure to spread the glue for maximum coverage. Tighten the clamp and let the glue dry.
    a. Repeat this step for each tier. There will be a 15 ½” wide tray at the bottom, 12” wide tray in the middle and 8 ½” wide tray at the top.
  3. Next, split the chair leg into various sections in order to accommodate the trays. The leg we chose was 17” tall and we wanted to split it as close to even thirds as possible.
    a. We turned this chair leg upside down for this project and then marked two 5 ½” sections and a 6” section (we wanted the top of our tray to have a longer section for easier handling).
    b. We created a jig from scrap wood to help keep the leg secure while cutting. The jig was a square piece with a hole in the center. We used a hole cutting bit to create a hole large enough to fit over the tapered end of the leg. The total width of the square jig was the same as the width of the leg’s top block to ensure everything would remain parallel when laying on the saw table. Make sure that at least two of the jig edges are square and will sit flush against the miter saw fence. Clamp the leg to the miter station using the jig.
    c. Move the miter saw back to 0 degrees. Cut the leg at the marks created in step 3a.
  4. Use a drill or drill press to create pilot holes in each chair leg piece. These holes will be used to install screw dowels. When creating the pilot holes, ensure they are as centered as possible. Create one hole in the base piece, two in the center and one in the top.
    a. We drilled our pilot holes at a ¾” depth with a ⅜” width.
  5. Install the screw dowels by screwing them into the pilot holes. This can be done by hand at first followed by locking pliers. Attach the pliers to the middle smooth section of the dowel so that no damage is caused to the threads. Install dowels into the top of the bottom and middle pieces.
    a. Screw the dowels into each piece as straight as possible but do not worry if they are not perfectly straight. As the assembly is completed, the dowels will straighten up on their own.
  6. Once the octagonal borders are dried (created in step 2), place them on the 2x4 plywood sheet. Trace around the outer border of each octagon.
  7. Use a miter saw at 45 degrees (or a circular saw with a straight edge) to cut out each octagonal shape.
  8. Decide which side of the tray bases and which side of the borders you would like to be showing on top. Put the border top-side down and lay the tray on it top-side down. We used a pneumatic stapler to secure the base to the border (nails or screws may also be used).
    a. Repeat for all three trays.
  9. Drill center holes into each tray.
    a. The bottom tray will need a smaller hole as it will not be attached to a dowel. It will only be screwed into the bottom of the block on the base leg piece. Create a pilot hole of the necessary size for the screw you will be using. Be sure to make a pilot hole on the chair piece, as well.
    b. The middle and top trays will need a ⅜” through hole drilled in the center of each tray.
    c. Note: To easily find the center of each tray, use a ruler to make straight lines from one point to the matching point on the opposite side. Do this at least twice and the place where the lines intersect is the center of the tray.
  10. Insert a screw in the bottom of the bottom tray and then twist the bottom chair piece into place.
  11. Finish all of the pieces with your choice of stain or paint.
  12. Once everything is finished and dry, attach the middle tray by twisting it onto the screw dowel. Next, attach the middle leg piece. Twist on the top tray. Attach the top chair piece. Hand tighten the assembly and this project is complete!

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