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How to make wooden handles for trays

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White rustic wooden tray with soft vintage blue inside with a bouquet of daisies sitting in the tray.

Sometimes I like using drawer pulls for tray handles, but in my opinion, they tend to look like a tutu on a hippo for bigger trays. Not only that, I don’t like paying big $$ for bigger drawer pulls, especially if I plan to sell my work. Learning how to make wooden handles for trays was as simple as looking at a handle shape I liked and drawing a pattern. I would call my style vintage-inspired, so making time-worn wooden handles were a perfect solution. They are quick to do and inexpensive to make. Win-win! I’ll also show you how I get that time-worn look.

For those of you who are new to woodworking, this is a simple project to do. I am not a highly skilled woodworker like my friend who makes cabinets, doors and windows. I am, however, creative. My tagline is “Simple DIY projects for a quaint cottage feel.” That means that my projects are, for the most part, basic but usually creative. A good example of this is my blanket ladders.

Download and print the pattern for the handles.

Once you see how easy these wooden handles are to make, it will be a game changer!


This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase through a link.

  1. 2- 9 1/2″ long 1×2
  2. Jigsaw or band saw
  3. Router with Round over router bit (optional)
  4. Orbital sander & 150 grit sandpaper
  5. Drill and 1/8″ drill bit

1. Tracing and cutting out the wooden handles

  1. Trace the wooden handle pattern onto a 1×2 piece of wood.
  2. Use a jigsaw or bandsaw to cut the handle pattern, beginning with the inside curve.
  3. Mark each handle 5/8″ from both ends and drill a hole using a 1/8″ drill bit. Tip: take a nail and lightly tap right on the mark for the holes. This indent will give the drill something to grab onto with less chance for the drill to slip around.

2. Adding definition (optional)

Sometimes I use a router with a round over bit to give a bit of definition to the handles. My goal is to have handles look time-worn, so perfection is not what I look for. Afterward, when I sand, I soften any sharp edges and perhaps sand some areas extra in order to give some parts a more worn look. I use a round over bit for this but place the bit so it forms the line you see in the photo above. If you want to try this, practice on scrap wood first.

3. Sanding the wood handles

  1. Sand each handle with 150-grit sandpaper until it feels smooth, but don’t worry about it being perfect! You want it to have an authentic worn look. There should be no sharp edges once you’re done.

4. Aging the wood handles

I used more paint than water when I whitewashed this sample. As well, I used a heat gun to add texture.

How you finish the handles is up to you, but I’ll show you how I age mine. Firstly, start with a wood-toned base colour that doesn’t look like raw wood. I’ve tried the tea, coffee and steel wool methods, but the results were inconsistent depending on the type of wood. Instead, I’ve found the simplest way to do this is using what I call black water. It’s a paint and water mixture and works on any wood.

  1. Mix 1 cup of water with 2 tsp of your preferred brand of black paint.
  2. Mix thoroughly. The stain will look grayish brown when dried.
  3. If you want a darker base colour, add extra black paint.
  4. Paint on the “stain.” Let dry.
  5. Mix some white paint with water to make a whitewash. Wipe on and then off. Let dry. The whitewash turns the wood a silvery old wood gray colour, and the white gets into the grain, giving definition.

I’m particularly proud of how the wooden handles turn out. Sometimes I add paint to the handle; sometimes, I use a heat gun to bubble the paint. Play around and have some fun experimenting with finishes!

5. How to attach the wooden handles to a tray

Wooden handles attached with roofing nails

Because my style is rustic and vintage-inspired, I always attach wooden handles on the top of each end of the tray with roofing nails because of their big heads. Make a mark where the handles sit, apply glue to the flat underside of the handle, and secure it with roofing nails. I love the look, and they’re as sturdy as can be once the glue has set.

You’re done!

Now that you’ve learned how to make wooden handles for a tray, you can play with the pattern and adjust it to suit whatever you’re making. Making my own wooden handles has been a game-changer for me. How about you?

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you at the next project!

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