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3 Tier Dollar Tree Wooden Tray DIY


  1. 3 Dollar tree trays.  There are a few different types to choose from, but here are the ones I went with. 
dollar tree 3 tier tray
  1. 2 stir sticks.  I bought mine from Lows 10 for about $1.  Once I opened the package, I realized the stir sticks I bought had a ruler on one side.  Once stained this ruler really shows up.  So, I recommend making sure your stir sticks do not have a ruler on one side.  Apparently, Low’s sometimes has free stir sticks, but they were all out when I went.  I am not sure of the quality of the free ones though.   
  1. Stain.  I started out with pecan stain, but decided it was not dark enough for my likening and covered over it with dark walnut stain. (I do not suggest trying to recover it with a different stain.  It does not work the best.)  
  1. Acrylic paint. Here is the color I chose
dollar tree 3 tier tray

5. Stencil paint brush or paint brush with thicker brussels something like the ones in this link.

6. Stencil, You can make your own or there are several nice onces you can buy.

7. Glue, I used wood glue  

8. I also recommend some clamps and/or weights. My mini clamps are from dollar tree. 

9. Sand paper  

10. Mod podge or another clear protective layer of your choice.   

I started off by sanding down my 3 trays from dollar tree.  There were just a few areas where the wood was a little rough.  I then went outside and stained each tray in the pecan stain.  It was not as dark as I wanted for this piece.  On the stain container it said to get a darker color rub the piece with steel wool, then apply stain again.  So, I did this, but did not see much of a difference.  So, I decided to go out and buy a dark walnut stain, and stained all three pieces.  At first I thought this was going to be too dark because it was hard to wipe off the extra stain due to all the corners and edges of the tray, but in the end it was okay.  Having the first two layers of the pecan stain made this third darker stain not stick well to the piece and thus make it lighter in color.  The piece still was not quite the color I was going for, but I was okay with it.  Next time I would just use the dark walnut stain and skip the pecan stain all together.  I then stained the two stir sticks.  I did not want to stain them multiple times, so I just used the dark walnut stain on these.  This is another thing that is not quite to my liking.  I would prefer the stir sticks to be the same color as the trays, but too late now.  It would have made the piece look more unified, but it is only for me, so it is okay.  The dark stain also really made the white ruler on the stir sticks stick out even more.  This is not ideal, but again it is just for me and to hold random little things, so it is okay.  

The stain took a few days to dry.  I also let them dry a few days to help with the odor of the stain.   Once the stain was dry, I added my stencil design.  I got my stencil from Tuesday Morning.  Since they were going out of business, I bought this stencil for about one dollar.  I was planning on making my own, but this was very similar to the one I was going to make, and for that price I could not turn it down.  I have been meaning to try and make a stencil with my Cricut, one day I will.  So, if you have a cricut, then you could make your own.  If not just purchase a stencil you like.  Mine did not fit perfectly in the tray, but I made it work.  I started off by measuring the inside of one of my trays and the stencil.  I then tried to lay the stencil down so that an even amount of the stencil was on all sides of the inside of the tray.  I was able to get 2 x 3 squares of my pattern on the inside of each tray.  The extra stencil I did not use was just bent to the side.  I tried to tape down the stencil, but it did not work well since it was a thicker stencil.  So, I just held it in place with one hand and painted with the other.   I also found that it was easier and cleaner to tape around the edges of the stencil just in case I got a little messy.  When painting a stencil, I recommend using a paint brush with a thicker bristle.  You will also want to paint in an up and down motion vs the usual back and forth motion.  The normal back and forth motion tends to cause the paint to bleed under the stencil easier.  For the up and down motion, you will want to dab the paint brush down onto your stencil, and then come straight up with it.   You will continue to move around your stencil until it is completely covered.  When I first started doing this I had to much paint on my brush, and it was bleeding under the stencil.  So, I also recommend not applying to much paint to your paint brush.  Once finished, take your stencil off before the paint dries to prevent it from sticking to your piece.   

Once your design is finished and dry, I recommend applying a protective layer over it.  I had mod podge sitting next to me, so I decided to use this.  Other clear protective coverings should also work well.  I used a nice amount of mod podge to cover the stencil design/inside of each tray.  I did not apply the mod podge to any other areas.  You could if you would like, but I felt it was not necessary.  Once this was dry, I applied wood glue to attach the stir stick to the side of the trays.  I recommend doing one side at a time.  I started out by attaching the bottom tray first.  I wanted this to be flush with the bottom of the bottom tray, so I stood the piece up right and used the table I was working on to insure both pieces were flush.  I then set the piece on its side (stir stick that was just place side up).  I wanted the handles of the top tray to not be covered by the stir stick.  So, I only applied glue under the handle of this top tray and aligned the stir stick accordingly.  I then applied glue to the third and middle tray and placed it in the middle of the other two trays in what looked to be the center of them both.  You could place your trays at different heights if you need one section to be taller than the others.  I then applied clamps and a small weight to help hold things together as the glue dried.  Once the glue was dry, I turned the piece over on the other side and did the same thing.  I also made sure the ruler that was visible on my stir sticks was facing inward so it was not as visible.  I meant to also place the ruler portion at the bottom on both sides, but forgot to do this when gluing my second stir stick.  So, the ruler is at the top of the one side, and a little more noticeable.     

I definitely made a few mistakes on this project, but learned along the way.  Over all it is a nice functional piece.  I recommend placing heaver items on the bottom tray, but over all this piece was surprisingly sturdy.  I have picked it up one handed from the top tray as well as by one of the stir sticks, but times it was filled with things, and I never felt like it was going to break.  Also, it should be noted that the stain showed up a little darker or lighter in some areas of the trays due to excess glue that was on the tray when it was made.  This piece is not perfect, but it is functional.  I also learned a few things from this project, which will help me with future projects, and will hopefully help you not to make some of the same mistakes.  I currently have this piece sitting on a shelf behind me holding sticking notes, my phone charger, headphones, and some extra pieces from another project.   

I also made a white tier tray with marbling on the inside. If you are interested in seeing more photos of this and learning how I made that tier tray, then click here. I also made a brown version with a different stencil. You can check that one out here. Which style do you like better?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Michelle

    How tall is this??

    1. Katie

      This one is a little over 12 inches tall. If you wanted to make a larger one, then you could use bigger trays. I would also recommend using two paint sticks or other wood sticks for each side to hold it up if you make yours bigger.

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