This personalized serving tray was my most recent undertaking to satisfy my urge to do something creative. It was the result of a combination of three separate events. Event number one was that my son and his fiancée were married last month. Number two, I rescued this cute little serving tray off a curb, stuck it in my garage and wondered what the heck I was going to do with it. Number three, it’s Christmas. A right-brain-epiphany inspired me to create this adorable tray for a Christmas gift for my son and new daughter-in-law.
Here’s what the original “treasure” looked like when I found it. I call this a treasure because that’s exactly what this was to me, which is a great lead-in to my plea to ask that you to donate your items rather than toss them in the garbage. There are many curb shoppers out there, but there aren’t enough of us to save all of your items from the landfill. Every community has places such as the Habitat Restore, Goodwill and the Salvation Army that would be grateful to have your unwanted items.
Since I wanted to paint the tray, and my OCD couldn’t handle the heavy grain and other imperfections in the wood, I coated the tray sparingly with Durabond. If you don’t have OCD, or you have a smooth surface to paint on, you could eliminate this step.
After it dried, I sanded off most of the Durabond, leaving the dents, dings and heavy grain filled.
Next, I primed the tray, allowing a couple of hours for it to dry before applying my paint. Here’s the primer I used.
Here’s a helpful tip. Whizz covers can be stored inside cans of paint so there’s no need to wash them out, or throw them away and get a new one every time the primer is used. They float on top of the paint so you don’t have to fish around for them.
Next I painted the tray with two coats of latex paint that I had on hand. The color I used here is “Duck White” from Sherwin Williams. I’m proud and elated to report that it took all the self-control I could muster, but I managed to allow four hours of drying time between coats before moving on to the next step. (Very important!)
Finally, the real fun begins! I went to a website called dafont.com, and got sucked into looking at hundreds of lovely fonts–literally hundreds of fonts. Most women like to look at jewelry, clothing or shoes. Not this chick; I get a rush out of fonts. I was in font heaven. I downloaded several, and then agonized over which two would be the big winners for my project.
I kept in mind that I was going to need to be able to paint the lettering after I traced it, so I shied away from the more intricate fonts. I’m well aware of my limitations with an artist’s brush when it comes to delicate swirls and lines that require actual talent. It sometimes seems the bristles on my liner brush have a mind of their own. The winning font I used for “EVANS” was called David, the “Brandon & Rachael” font was called HansHand, and I used both in a bold setting. I printed out the names with my printer, and then used a projector to put the lettering onto the tray.
Here’s a picture of the projected image, all ready for me to trace.
I set up the projector on one counter top, and then set the tray on the counter top across from it. This set up wasn’t the best for tracing. Contortionism was the name of the game here. I had to trace the letters while curled up under the upper cabinet with my keister sticking out, my elbows hitting the counter top and my wrist cocked at 90 degrees while maneuvering a pencil. I also couldn’t press too hard with the pencil or the tray would flip backwards because I was dealing with a protruding back splash. Don’t try this at home.
The pencil lines don’t have to be perfectly straight (thank goodness) since they can be tweaked with paint later. Mine looked as if I got caught tracing during the great San Francisco earthquake. It’s important to use a pencil because ink or marker will bleed through the paint. I tried to keep the pencil lines slightly inside of the projected letters, since I knew the letters would “grow” a little when I doubled back to perfect my lines.
Next I broke out the artist brushes. For the “EVANS” lettering I used a gorgeous blue/gray color from Sherwin Williams called Gray Clouds that I used to paint my main living area.
I’m guessing you noticed my not-so-perfect paint lines in the last photo. Never fear! I used my favorite liner brush to straighten them out. I also made sure to cover all my pencil lines, because even the tiniest lines that don’t get painted over will be magnified when varnished.
What a difference the right brush makes! Before…
And after using my liner brush. Much better now.
So now the “EVANS” is complete. I let this dry completely before I move on.
Next I traced “Brandon & Rachael” over the top of the already painted “EVANS”. And yes, these lines look like I hit a 7.5 on the Richter scale too, but you’ll never know it when you see the finished project.
Since these letters are smaller, I used a liner brush to paint them.
Then it was the time to tweak. I had some letters that weren’t shaped quite right, but I got out all three paint colors, and reshaped and touched up wherever the letters didn’t look the way I wanted them to.
After all the lettering was completed, I felt like the tray was a little blah-zay, so I decided to paint a small, black stripe under the lettering. I highly recommend “frog” tape for striping because it blows blue painter’s tape out of the water for creating a nice, crisp line. I thought frog tape was a bunch of hype until I used it when I painted stripes around a gymnasium at a local fitness center. It was during that project that frog tape stole my heart. Here’s how I taped off my line.
I then took a credit card, and gently but firmly pushed the edge of the tape down where I was going to paint. (This is a step that non-OCD individuals might deem unnecessary, but I couldn’t bring myself to skip this step.)
I didn’t press the rest of the tape to my project. I left it flapping. The more tape that’s pressed onto the surface of your project, the more chance you have of pulling paint off with the tape. This is another reason why I was sure to allow plenty of drying time in between coats. When I removed the tape, I pulled it off back against itself, not towards me. And I pulled very slooooooooooowly. Here’s a picture with the stripe added.
Next came the hard part. Waiting. Not my favorite thing. Since I used black paint in my lettering, I waited two days before trying to varnish over it. Black paint has a tendency to smear when varnished over, and to avoid that problem, I took a 3/4 inch flat wash artist brush, and ever-so-lightly with as few strokes as possible, put a thin layer of varnish over all the black lettering and my black stripe. I let it dry for a few hours.
Here’s the brush I used.
Then I was ready to varnish the entire tray. The instructions on the can of varnish I purchased recommended three coats, so that’s exactly what I did. As a rule, I don’t like to varnish my projects, but since this is a serving tray that might be exposed to spills, I decided it would be a good idea. Also, projects that are going to be handled, should probably be varnished to protect them from dirty fingerprints. Varnish is more washable than standard latex wall paint.
If you’re looking for a project that can be done in a day, keep looking. This project isn’t difficult, but it does need several periods of drying time. If you don’t wait, you could end up with thick, gloppy letters with heavy brush strokes as you add new wet layers on top of the old still-soft layers. Not to mention if you use tape on your impatient paint job, you may suffer unspeakable frustration when you peel off your tape and chunks of paint come off with it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
This project makes a nice gift for anyone, not just newlyweds. Adding children’s names would be a neat idea too (if you know the targeted family is done spawning). Not only was this a fun gift to make, but since this tray was a curb find, and I already had all my paint supplies, it was 100% free. Free is good–especially around the holidays!
Here are the before and after photos.
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Certified Home Stager, Certified Redesigner and Journeyman Painter servicing the Central Illinois area. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view her portfolio for more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.