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Deck Rail-Mounted Serving Tray

Stock this tray with refreshments from your kitchen. Then carry it outside to hang on a deck rail as a serving station, snack and drink holder, or display shelf.

Serving tray mounted on a deck rail

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools & Materials


  • Miter saw or handsaw and miter box
  • 120-grit and 180-grit sandpaper
  • Clamps
  • Wood glue


  • 2 - Adjustable deck brackets, #250950
  • 3 - 1/4 x 3 x 48 poplar boards
  • 1 x 2 x 48 poplar board
  • Valspar spray paint, Exotic Sea
  • Rust-Oleum spray paint, Fern

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

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Project Resources


Step 1

Miter saw with stop

Cut the two tray sides (A) and three slat supports (B) to the same length (Deck Tray Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Then cut the two bracket supports (C) to length (3/4 inch shorter than the slat supports and tray sides). Sand the parts smooth and wipe clean.

Good to Know

Cutting like parts to the same length is crucial to this project, but that’s easy when using a miter saw or table saw. Place a built-in or clamp-on stop a distance from the saw blade that’s equal to the part length to be cut.

Step 2

Tray end glued to a bracket support

Find or cut a piece of 3/4-inch-thick stock about 4 inches long for use as a spacer. Glue and clamp a tray side (A) to a slat support (B) with the ends flush and a 1-3/4-inch gap between the top of the slat support and the top of the bracket support. (The spacer provides the correct offset without measuring.) Repeat for the other side and slat support.

Step 3

Slat support glued to a tray side

Glue and clamp a bracket support (C) centered on a slat support (B) with the face of the bracket support flush with the edge of the slat support. (There should be 3/8-inch gaps between the ends of the bracket support and ends of the slat support.) Repeat for the other slat support and bracket support to complete the second side assembly.

Step 4

Glue the tray front and back to the sides

Cut the tray front and back (D) to length, sand smooth, and wipe clean. Glue and clamp the front and back to the two side assemblies (ABC) with the top edges flush.

Step 5

Glue a slat support to the tray

Measure between the sides and cut the three bottom slats (E) to length (Deck Tray Project Diagram, Drawing 2). Sand the top faces smooth and wipe clean. Glue and clamp one outside slat to the tray with the slat edge even with the ends of the bracket supports. (The tray is shown upside down here.) Repeat for the opposite side, leaving a space in the center.

Step 6

Add the center slat

Glue and clamp the middle slat centered between the outside slats.

Step 7

Add the center slat support

Glue and clamp the third slat support (B) centered between the end supports. (Shown here upside down with clamps removed for clarity.)

Step 8

Sand the tray smooth and wipe clean. Then apply two coats of exterior paint (Exotic Sea shown). Allow the paint to dry overnight.

Step 9

To hang the tray from a deck rail, adjust the brackets so that the front vertical piece slides up between the tray front and the outside slat. Then fit the top half of the brackets to your deck rail. Space the brackets so they’re about 13-1/2 inches apart, and slide the tray down onto the brackets. The tray bracket supports should rest on the metal brackets. Estimated cost: $31 painted with deck brackets.