“Repurposing Old Tray Tables”

Hoarder.  That’s the word I think of when I step into our basement.  And I think of it as a really dirty word that fills me with shame each time I step into the basement.  Maybe I shouldn’t be ashamed because some cool stuff has come out of there but it’s a mess.  A mess.

Most of my projects are small and are made from many of the bigger projects that have been done here over the years.  I have lots of little wood scraps that I couldn’t/can’t part with.  I’m not like that with everything, but if I think I can reuse something later, I keep (hoard) it.  Like those old tray tables.  When my husband and I moved in together, my set of two moved in with his set of four and the six of them have been sitting in the basement for quite a few years.  Much like the scrap wood, the tables have been waiting their chance to get back in the house – in one shape or another.  And the day has come for two of them to merge and become one. . .and get back into the house.

You see, my son started preschool in the fall and he has been sick in one form or another every couple of weeks.  It seems like he’s only healthy one week a month if we’re lucky!  Since the furnace kicks on more because of the season the house is much drier.  And because of the colds he’s had, his nose is always running. He’s only 3 1/2 years old, so he didn’t have a night stand.  Normal, right?  Oliver had been waking up more at night in search of a drink of water (or so he claims) or a box of tissues.  So I told him I would make him a table and he’s been VERY excited to get a “new” table.  He even told me he wanted a white table.

This is where the old tray tables come in.  I had in mind what I wanted to make and I was racking my brain going back and forth in the basement looking at what I had available because it’s been far too cold and far too snowy to go pick up any supplies (with the exception of groceries) especially with the kids in tow!  I cannot tell you how many times I walked past these stinking tables in the basement.  I went down to grab something and I forgot what I needed.  I looked down and the light bulb in my head exploded.  It was time to get down to it.   I already ordered AND received the hairpin legs I wanted to use for this project.   I just love metal and wood together so I opted for raw metal legs as opposed to painted or coated legs.

I made a few mistakes along the way but I got there.  For some reason, my brain hasn’t been functioning at full capacity lately and I’ve been making a lot of whoopsies.  I’m not perfect, I’m not a wood worker, wood workers are awesome and  have the abilities to create jaw dropping pieces.  I’m just a girl who likes to work with wood, learn as I go and hope to make some cool stuff along the way.  I’m happy to share my projects along with their mistakes so that you can learn from them too.  Here we go!  Click on the links to find what you might need.



Start by taking the table tops off of the tray table stands.  Easy.  The screws that came out of these tables were only 1″ screws so they were not reuseable for this project.  I will end up using the legs for something – back down to the basement they will go!

Remove tops from legs.

Look at how uneven these are!

Once the tops were off, I set them on top of each other to see how even they were.

Then I cut 2 5/8″ off the length for the sides.  See – thinking clearly right now!  The total dimensions of the wood are as follows:

  • Top and bottom 16″ x 13 1/2″.
  • Sides 2 5/8″

Sides cut.

Then it was time to drill holes with the Kreg Jig Jr.  Here’s my my brain totally gave up on me.  I drilled two upper and two bottom holes to attach the sides to the top and bottom of the table.  The problem with that is that once the top is attached, you cannot reach inside a 2 1/2″ opening with a massive or even a small electric screwdriver.  I could have hand screwed it with a ratchet screwdriver but with my arm just freshly healed from the tendinitis, I didn’t want to chance injuring it again.  So, ONLY put holes in the top of the sides UNLESS you can access the bottom ones.  I was kicking my ass for this mistake for about an hour (I’m a little bit hard on myself).

Make sure your settings are at the depth of your wood. Mine is 3/4″.

Drill your holes for the sides.

I gave the table and sides a light sanding before putting it together just to make sure the insides were nice and smooth too.  Kids hands will reach into it, I am certain of that!

Light sand prior to piecing it together.

To put it together, use 8 – 1 1/4″ screws.  Line the sides up and attach the top by using the pockets from the Kreg Jig Jr.

The top and sides to be attached through the pocket holes.

To attach the bottom, use a counter sink bit on the bottom of the table bottom so the screws will be flush with the surface.  Another place I could have made a mistake.  I eyeballed it when I should have measured to make sure I drilled where the screws would go directly into the side pieces.  I got lucky.  But I’ve done this once or twice.  Measure 1/2″ in from the sides, countersink here.

Then attach to the top and sides with the remaining 1 1/4″ screws.  Once attached, it’s time for another sanding!  I sanded heavily around the edges for a slightly more rounded edge with 120 grit then finished off with a 220 grit.  I didn’t want the angles to be so hard.

All pieces attached. New table top.

To attach the Hairpin legs, measure 3/4″ inward at each corner.  Line the Hairpin leg up and attach using 3/4″ screws.

3/4″ marking to line legs up for attaching.

Attach all four.

Then flip that bad boy over and check out your DIY masterpiece!  It is heavy so don’t hit your shins or you will get hurt.

NO, it’s not perfect, but my son is thrilled that he has a table for his water.  I really liked the natural color so I asked him if he still wanted it white or if he liked it like this.  He says he likes it.  If he wants it painted later, I’ll paint it.  At bed time when we were saying our goodnights, he said “Thank you for making me table, mommy”.  And that’s what it’s all about.  He doesn’t see any of the tables mistakes or flaws or even mine.  He just loves that I made it just for him.  My heart.





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