$3 Goodwill Find +Paint Stir Sticks turned Rustic Serving Tray

Do you remember that Tufted Ottoman I made back over the summer? If not, you can refresh your memory by reading all about it here. Well, we soon realized that as much as we loved the look of it, it’s not the most functional piece of furniture mainly because we can’t put anything on it that could potentially fall over. With three dogs and a cat bouncing all around there is always a mess waiting to happen.

I made a mental note that I needed to find some kind of tray to put on top of it that we could rest our glasses on among other things. We don’t have any side tables (yet) because of where our couch is in the room which is there because of where we had to mount our TV. I have to find the perfect size side tables (or make them) and that could take a little bit of time. Well, a few months have gone by since I made the Tufted Ottoman and while my mother-in-law and I were at the Goodwill I found this beauty for $3.

With a little paint and some paint stir sticks, I transformed it into this beauty.

This was a fun project to do because one of the things I love about DIY and upcycling is taking something someone else no longer found useful or pretty and recreating it so that it is.

To make this beauty I started with priming the tray and they spray painting it Heirloom White. I knew I wanted to incorporate wood in the bottom but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to use until I was standing out in the shop and happened to glance at a stack of paint stir sticks and a light bulb went on. Why don’t I stain the stir sticks?  And that is what I did. But I didn’t use regular old stain.

I really wanted each stir stick to have a slightly different color to add a bit of a weathered look but I didn’t want to deal with buying a bunch of different stains. Awhile back I had read of a way to add a stained look by using tea, steel wool and vinegar so I thought I’d try it out here. I apologize for not having any pictures of this process. Once again I blame my impatience but I will do my best to explain it below.

1. Place 3-4 steel wool pads in a mason jar or other type of jar and fill (so the steel pads are covered) with white vinegar.  Let this sit in a cool, dark place for at least two days. The longer you let this  sit the  better the process works.  I had two jars going, one with just the steel wool and vinegar and the other with the steel wool and vinegar plus some coffee grounds to give a darker color.  They had also been sitting out there for a couple weeks now because I was using it to test for another project I’ll be starting soon.

2.  Steep a bag or two of a dark tea like English Breakfast until it’s cool. Then using a paint brush coat each paint stir stick with the tea. I did this twice and then I let it dry overnight.

3. With a paintbrush, coat the paint stir sticks with the steel wool mixture. I actually used the regular steel wool and vinegar first, let it dry over night and then used the one with the coffee the next day. I really love how each piece of wood is a slightly different color.

I had to cut each paint stick so that it would fit the width of the tray. I really didn’t do this. I’m still not allowed to use the big boy saw in the barn. :)   If you are wondering why, well I can’t get through cooking a meal without cutting my finger so my husband doesn’t exactly trust me using a big saw that could cut off more than my finger. So I had D’s cousin cut each stir stick and then I used Gorilla Glue (or Monkey Glue as I call it) to attach each one to the bottom of the tray. Here is a tip, when using this glue, you only need to use a small amount. If you use too much it will bubble up as it dries and come out between the cracks.

The stir sticks were a little warped so I needed to place something heavy on them until they dried. I think Le Creuset cookware does the job nicely. That stuff is HEAVY!

Once dry this is what I had! I really love it. I’m so happy with the final product and it adds a nice rustic vibe to our living room. I still may sand the edges  to add a little more character though. I haven’t decided.

It’s so nice to sit on the couch knowing we have some place to put our drinks now!

I’m linking up to some of the following found here as well as TipJunkie, The Shabby Creek Cottage,  Today’s Creative Blog,  Home Stories A to  Z, The Shabby NestMy Repurposed LifeFunky Junk Interiors,Thrifty Decor ChickBetween Naps on the PorchLive, Laugh, Rowe, The Better Half.


  1. Wow! Very nice and creative! Love this idea. I was thinking about what to do with a serving tray I picked up at the dollar section in Target. Thank you for the inspiration! :)

    I found your blog via Hooking up with Hepworths link party. :)

  2. Amanda this looks amazing. I’ve been trying to think of what style I want to use to decorate our new house and for the life of me I’m getting confused BUT thanks to you I now know that I want some wood elements thoughout. I love what you did and I’m pinning this to use in the future.

    • Bullfrogs and Bulldogs says:

      Well thank you! I love adding wood elements in decor. I want to add much more in our home. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I LOVE this idea! Very clever – I have a lot of stir sticks I could use!
    Claire – ALittleClaireification.com

  4. I love it, it’s kind of pretty and romantic and raw and rustic at the same time! And thanks for the wonderful tutorial!


  5. The tray turned out beautiful! I love trays and this is such a good idea. Thanks for sharing it at the Home Decor and Organizing link party. I’m featuring it this week.

  6. Erin Snyder says:

    This is beautiful. I love it and will have to try the steel wool and tea trick. I am now on the lookout for a goodwill tray. Thanks!

  7. Jaime from Crafty Scrappy happy says:

    what a beautiful tray! I love it! And I love that steel wool technique, I really need to do that! :) thank you so much for sharing at happy hour link party!

    • Bullfrogs and Bulldogs says:

      Hey! Thanks so much for stopping by! I love the steel wool technique. I’ve been doing it on several things now. It’s such a perfect way to add age to a new piece of wood. Have a great Sunday!

  8. Lauren @ The Thinking Closet says:

    Who knew paint sticks could be so darn cute?! I’m definitely pinning this. Inspires me to get out there and do some thrifting and upcycling myself. Thanks for sharing. Found you through the Eye Heart Mondays linky party.


  9. Monica Livas says:

    I LOVE it!

  10. what a creative idea! I’m trying to find a cheap tray to protect my ottoman. Love this

  11. Jessi @ Practically Functional says:

    Wow that’s a fabulous tray! I love that you used paint sticks on the base, how clever! My husband doesn’t let me saw anything either, for pretty much the same reason. :-) Stopping by from Not Just A Housewife!

    - Jessi

  12. I am totally doing this with my old cheap IKEA tray! I am also featuring this tomorrow at my link party over at The Winthrop Chronicles!

  13. Love it that you linked this tray at Homa Style. I have become obsessed with the steel wool, vinegar and tea treatment.

  14. BethM@Under A Pile of Scrap! says:

    Oh, I’m so glad you did this project just so I could find it! ;) It solves a problem I have with a tray I need to use as a table top, but the bottom is kind of flimsy. What an easy, inexpensive & yet great looking solution!

Speak Your Mind

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *