Zest it Up
Zest it Up
  • Hometalk Helper
  • Atascadero, CA

Easy Modern Inlayed Wood Tray

12 Materials
2 Hours

Six years into Zest and I am still a junker at heart. There is something so darn rewarding about grabbing something that has been discarded, and giving it a chic new life. Sam and I started Zest it Up way-back-when with the purchase of a bottle of Gorilla Glue, paint and some screws. Pulling furniture off the side of the road in Los Osos, CA, we breathed new life into literal trash and sold it at local
easy modern inlayed wood tray
  • old tray
  • chalk paint or acrylic in white and grey
  • 2 wood stain colors, one light and one dark
  • 1 pack of paint mixing sticks
  • Gorilla Glue wood glue or E6000 for waterproof adhesion
  • exacto knife
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Challenge is on!  It is not that this tray lacked its own unique vibe, but it was looking a bit ragged and definitely did not mix with our industrial influenced Zest studio.  So, I opted for a cleaner geometric appearance for it, starting with a coat of fresh paint.  You can obviously use acrylic paint, but I liked that the chalk paint did not require a coat of primer or sanding for excellent coverage.
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Once the tray was dry, it was time to cut my paint sticks for a cool inlay design.  This is actually way easier than you would think!  The wood is so soft and thin that you do not even need a chop-saw!  Instead, you can quietly do this project with a simple little Exacto blade (razer blade).  Just measure out the paint sticks, mark with a pencil, and then run your Exacto blade along the pencil mark a few times until you can easily snap the wood along your cut line.  It’s a snap!
easy modern inlayed wood tray
I measured some of my sticks out to be 8.5″ long and some to 6.5″ long, so that they would create a nice overlapping pattern inside of my 15″ long tray.
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Next up, I played with color!  I wanted a random feeling pattern, so I choose three colors for my paint sticks: a neutral grey, a mahogany stain, and a clear coat varnish.
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Make sure to cover the sides and ends of the sticks, as well.  
easy modern inlayed wood tray
You do not want any untreated wood messing up the finished look of your tray…and it is way easier to accomplish this before gluing the pieces into place.
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Once the paint sticks were dry, I used some Gorilla Glue wood glue to adhere them into place (I know, a nice full circle from my beginning days of Zest, right?)
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Once all the pieces are in place, let them dry according to package instructions.  Then, give a hefty coating of clear varnish to protect all your hard work!
easy modern inlayed wood tray
Yup, I am kind of patting myself on the back right now.  Hahaha, this is a far cry from gilded palm trees! Simple and pretty darn rewarding.  I think it is safe to say that this guy has been Zested!
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Zest it Up

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

1 question
  • Diane Scharin
    on Oct 23, 2018

    Where is pic of final project?

    • Zest it Up
      on Oct 24, 2018

      The last photo is the final project :) We staged it with some silverware and napkins to give it a little more pizazz!

Join the conversation

2 of 12 comments
  • Redcatcec
    on Sep 18, 2018

    Beautiful job and well done.

    Going to do a version of this as a top for a small ledge in between rooms. So excited about the use of paint stirring sticks, planning on staining them to bring out the natural grain.

  • Deb
    on Sep 23, 2018

    and a very cheap project...… love it!!! my kind of project!!

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