The Best Tutorial for a Do It Yourself Mantel Tray

Our mantel is normally pretty bare.  In the fall, I get it all festive, but the rest of the year, it’s fairly plain.

Autumn Mantel

When we remodeled the fireplace a few years back, we chose to put the TV above the mantel because of the unique shape of the room.  It’s works well for us to have it here, but it makes actually decorating the mantel a little more challenging.  You can’t have anything too bulky that will block the screen, but having nothing just seems boring.

So last summer when I saw this display tray on Pinterest, I knew immediately I wanted something similar. (I just checked out the source from Pinterest and can’t get over the sectional in the post.  Surprise… I love it too!)

Update: I’ve since removed the Pinterest photo, but you can check out the beautiful tray Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick made and read all the details here.

However, it didn’t originally occur to me to make this tray.  I truly thought I could drop into one of my favorite stores and pick one up… easy.  But after months of searching, I couldn’t find a tray that was the length I wanted.  I was looking for something 48″ across with a shallow lip so that it would sit nicely under the screen.  We only have a 5″ clearance. I decided it was time to build the tray myself.

And by myself, I mean with the help of my man and his power tools.

Supplies for Do It Yourself Mantel Tray

Luckily, Home Depot had pre-cut 48″ boards, so Tyson’s help was actually pretty minimal. I picked up one 7″ x 48″ board and three 1.5″ x 48″ boards.  This left me with a base, two sides, and a third board for Tyson to cut and make two end pieces for me.

Ready to Stain

I had also picked up upholstery tacks at JoAnn’s, but Tyson advised that I not use those since the boards were thin and would probably split.  But more on that in a bit.

Do It Yourself Mantel Tray

Armed with Minwax Dark Walnut stain left over from this project, I began staining the cut boards.

Pre-Stained BoardApplying Stain

I then wiped off the excess stain and let the boards dry.

Wipe Off Stain

The color is beautiful!  I think working with wood stain is official my new favorite.

Stained Board

Once the boards had thoroughly dried, it was time to assemble the tray.  This is where things got a little tricky.

I applied wood glue to the long sides and used wood clamps to hold it all together.  But things got dicey when I went to add the end pieces.  I don’t have clamps that can span the 48″ length and frankly, holding the end pieces to the base and waiting for glue to dry wasn’t gonna happen.

So out came the upholstery tacks.  And then this happened.

Split Board

But I kinda loved that the tack split the wood.  So I put in another one.  And it split again.

More Split Ends

And I loved it even more!

The irregular tack heads and split wood give the whole piece a more distressed look and I’m so happy with the result.

Empty Mantel Tray

I had been planning on adding rope or drawer handles to each end, but I think the plain ends work just as well.

Simple Tray Edge

For now, I’ve filled it with this seashell inspired potpourri.  I haven’t used potpourri in over a decade.  It’s kinda fun to revisit it.

Finished Tray Detail

It’s pretty for spring and the perfect spot for me to add these sand dollars that we found on our beach trip last summer.

Sand Dollars

I can see changing things out down the road, but for now, this is a nice option.

Finished Mantel Tray

I’m linking this post up with the Winter Pinterest Challenge hosted by Sherry from Young House Love and Katie of Bower Power.

Winter Challenge

This time they have asked Megan from The Remodeled Life and Michelle from Decor and the Dog to co-host.

Winter Challenge Hosts

I was particularly thrilled that Michelle was asked to co-host as she is one of the funniest bloggers I follow and if you haven’t checked her out, you definitely need to.  In fact, click on the links to any of these ladies and see hundreds of bloggers sharing their inspired Pinterest posts.  There’s sure to be some outstanding craftiness on display.

Ever decide to build something yourself because you couldn’t find it in a store? Do you have a new DIY technique that is quickly becoming your favorite? Are you participating in the Winter Pinterest Challenge?  Let me know… I’d love to hear what you all are up to.

And if you’re curious what I’ve done in other Pinterest Challenges, you can read all about it here, here and here.

The Best Tutorial for a Do It Yourself Mantel Tray |


  1. Stacey says:

    Love the splits. That’s called going with the flow. Jackson Pollock said “I deny the accident”. Obviously this was NO ACCIDENT! Totally meant to be because it added a rustic, sort of old vintage look to it. Made the piece look like it’s been laying around for years. THAT ROCKS! And I can almost smell the potpourri.

    That staining business is pretty darn fun, isn’t it? YAY, Danielle. I’m about to do a little staining myself. I’ll think of you. Great project for the link up. Enjoy the traffic!

    • admin says:

      It’s definitely more fun to have an accident that makes you say “oooh… yay!” rather than one that makes you cry. It makes it much easier to go with the flow.

      Staining wood is AMAZING. I’m trying to figure out what I can do next. Looking forward to seeing what you’re working on. I’m sure it will be beautiful.

  2. Alex @ northstory says:

    I love happy accidents in DIY’s and this one is so up my alley b/c you know I love me some good ole wood crates and projects. I love how most DIY’s always stem from us not being able to find something to fit the measurements of a certain space.
    The cracks make this piece what it is!

    • admin says:

      Thanks… I’m really excited with how it turned out. I always gravitate towards baskets for storage, but I could see adding some wood crates into the mix. The one you had in your sectional post looks perfect for magazines and catalogs.

      PS. I totally spotted that IKEA catalog in your photo before you mentioned it. Made me smile!

  3. Victoria Elizabeth Barnes says:

    I LOVE THAT TRAY!! I have a low mirror over a china cabinet (similar to your mantle/tv setup,) and it looks kind of bare, but nothing I’ve stuck under it looks quite right… but something wide and shallow like that would be perfect.

    Plus, Paul (or me, but probably Paul) can make this in no time… I really like the hydrangea in the inspiration pic. Would be even better filling a wider tray like yours!

    Going in my “crafty stuff I may want to attempt in my next life” board… but maybe I need a new board for stuff that actually seems doable.

    • admin says:

      The hydrangeas are beautiful! They are a pretty detail without being too over the top. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them. I’m thinking moss balls could be cool also, but I’m not sure if I want to add a lot of green. We shall see. The project is super easy… one Paul could do in his sleep.

      Hey… I just realized I’m not following you on Pinterest. Changing that right now.

    • admin says:

      Yay… I’m so glad I could send warm thoughts your way. You all are buried under WAY too much snow.

      I was truly so excited to see that you were invited to co-host. Congrats!

    • admin says:

      Ha! Thank you. Tyson was beginning to wonder how my project was becoming his project, but thankfully we make a good team. 🙂

    • admin says:

      Thanks! There was another project that I’m working on that almost caused some tears, but this one was definitely a happy accident. I saw your Chevron Jewelry Box on the Link Up this morning, but I’m just now getting around to actually reading through some of the posts. Can’t wait to see how your project went. It’s really pretty!

  4. Tammi@1914house says:

    It looks great! I’ve been looking, very casually, for a small tray-like thing for my kitchen. I need something for the olive oil, salt and other stuff I have out on the counter. It did occur to me that I could make something, but I wasn’t sure what material would be best. After reading your post, I think wood might be the answer! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • admin says:

      I’m so glad you like it! There are tons of small wood trays on the market, but if you are looking for a specific size, this one was so, so easy to make. I could see it being a really cute addition in a kitchen or bathroom. If you try it out, please let me know.

    • admin says:

      Yay! They are so easy. If you end up making them, please let me know. I think they would be super cute in a children’s room.

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