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Garden Trug DIY

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white garden trug inspired tray with orange tulips

Making the wood base of this garden trug DIY is an easy project, but did you know it is really quite simple to make the handle too? All in all, making your own custom handles takes your work to a whole new level, whether it’s for yourself, for gifts, or to sell. It’s especially a game-changer if you make them in order to sell! When I taught myself to make custom handles for my trays, it not only set me apart from others but also opened up a new world of creative possibilities! In case you’re wondering what you need to make this handle, I use a bolt cutter, a 3/16″ round metal rod & a vice, and I bend the metal by hand. If you’re not quite ready to try making the handle, you could always substitute it with a spindle or dowel instead.

Hi, and welcome! I’m Lisa from The Old Tree Cottage. Making trays is, without a doubt, my favourite type of rustic decor to make because the possibilities are endless.

Supplies for the Garden Trug DIY

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that although I may receive a small commission, there is no cost to you if you make a purchase through a link!

Garden trug (handle supplies listed separately below)

Handle: Metal Rod & Dowel
white garden trug inspired tray with orange tulips

1. Cut the wood

The finished size of this garden trug is 12×16, but you can adjust the size to suit your needs. For this step, you’ll need a jigsaw in order to cut the angles on the side pieces of the tray.

Garden Trug tray cut pieces
  • Tray Bottom: cut 8- 16″ long pieces of lath (or 1×2 if not using lath)
  • Ends: cut 2 – 10 1/2″ pieces of 1×2
  • Sides: start by cutting 2 pieces of 16″ long 1×6. In the next step, we’ll be cutting the angles.
Garden Trug DIY
Fig. 3
  • On the two 16″ long 1×6 boards, mark the board as you see in the Fig. 3 photo. Use a jigsaw to cut along the angles.
  • Drill a 1/4″ hole all the way through, as shown in the photo. (Fig. 3)

2. Assemble the garden trug

  • Glue one end of the 10 1/2″ long 1×2 and attach it to the side piece using 1 1/2″ brad nails. Repeat for the other side. You’ll now have one angled side piece with two end pieces attached.
  • Apply glue to both end pieces at the same time and then attach them to the other side piece as shown in Fig. 7
  • Once the frame is done, add glue all around the bottom frame and then add the outside strips of wood first, making sure they are flush with the edges, then nail them in place. Doing it this way makes it easy to space the rest of the boards evenly before they are nailed down. Basically, there should be a small space between each board.

Adding a handle to the garden trug

When making handles, I use 3/16″ round stock because I can easily bend it (with the help of a vice!) It’s not only cheaper, but it gives a custom look you can’t find with drawer pulls. Once you get the hang of making this type of handle, it will go quite quickly. I can make mine in less than ten minutes! I’ll let you in on a little tip when buying 3/16″ metal round stock; I get my metal from a metal fabricator near me because it’s way cheaper than a hardware store. It comes in 16′ lengths, so I bring my bolt cutter to cut them in half myself, which also saves an expensive cutting fee.

White rustic tray with metal and wood handle with pink flowers in the tray

Believe it or not, this handle takes me about ten minutes to make. If this is your first time working with metal to make a handle, just know that it’s not supposed to be perfect! Simply put, “perfectly imperfect” is the goal. What does that really mean? It means that things that are genuinely old typically have some character through bumps and dings and maybe even won.

1. Cut the metal rod

bolt cutters are used when making the metal handle for the garden trug
The cut ends of the metal are sharp, so be careful! Before you go any further, take some sandpaper or a file and remove the sharp edges.
  • Cut the 3/16″ metal round stock to 19″
  • Take some sandpaper and sand the sharp edges of the cut ends.
  • Make a mark on the metal at 8″.

2. Cut the wood dowel & drill the hole

Add a pilot hole to the wooden dowel for the garden trug.
Use a nail punch or a nail to make a small hole in the center of the dowel. This helps the drill stay in place when you begin.
  • Cut the wooden dowel to 3″.
  • Clamp the dowel in a vice and mark the center, making sure it’s sitting straight up and down. To make drilling easier, take a nail or nail punch and tap a small hole to help guide the drill as it begins.
  • Afterwards, you’ll be drilling a hole all the way through using a 1/4″ drill bit. You may find it easier to drill halfway down, flip the dowel, and drill the rest of the way.

3. Bend the metal for the handle

One of the things I love about this garden trug is the handle. Best of all, it’s simple to make!

  • With the hole drilled, the next step is to clamp the dowel lengthwise in the vice. (Fig. 1)
  • Slide the metal rod in until the 8″ mark shows on the other side of the dowel.
  • Hold the metal rod and bend both ends at the same time with even pressure on both sides so that the metal bends evenly. You also want to ensure it stays on the 8″ mark as you bend.
  • Keep the metal horizontal, moving towards the middle until the ends are around 13 1/2″ apart.

4. Add a little bend to the ends

  • Once you have the rod bent, mark each end at 1/2″
  • Then clamp the first side at the half-inch mark, making the mark even with the top of the vice.
  • With one end clamped, both the dowel and the opposite side of the metal should be pointing toward your body. (fig. 4)
  • Slowly bend the metal downwards. (Fig. 4) until the bend looks like the shape in fig.5. Repeat for the other side.
  • Remove the handle, then check to see if you need to adjust the bend on each side. (fig. 5) If needed, put it back in the vice and pull it up or down in order to match the shape shown in fig. 5.

Finishing the garden trug DIY

white garden trug inspired tray with orange tulips
A washer was glued onto both sides before painting. I forgot to take a picture of it, so instead, here’s the finished version.

At this point, if you’d like to finish the garden trug similar to what I did in the photos, I have a separate tutorial for that. I show you how to turn smooth wood into authentic-looking textured barnwood along with crackled paint, giving the tray an overall vintage finish. However, you may have your own idea of how you’d like to finish it. I almost forgot to mention that you need to glue on a washer over both holes where the handles go before painting. It adds some support for the handle as well as just looking fancy. I like to use a 5-minute epoxy for this.

5. Attach the handle to the garden trug

Before you attach the handle to the garden trug, you’ll notice in the photo (Fig. 7) that the handle is smaller than the outside of the tray. This is so that when you do attach it, it has pressure to help keep it in place. Once the handle is attached, I like to add paint here and there to the metal to give it a more antique look.

garden trug handle
Fig. 7
  • Begin by sliding one side of the handle into the hole.
  • This part requires a little bit of muscle. Grab the other side and pull it up and over until it goes in the hole. You may need to tap it in with a hammer.
And there you have it, my version of a DIY Garden Trug.

Let me know how you made out with the handles because, honestly, I’m curious. I taught myself to make them, and it’s my hope that it’s something you will try again! If you’re looking for more DIY projects, have a look around my website. I have a lot more little wood projects that are perfect for your scrap wood and affordable if you’re buying new!

Thanks for stopping by and trying my garden trug DIY!

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