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When you want to be organized, trays for your desk become essential to collect items that need your attention. That being said, the last thing you want to look at all day are ugly paper trays. This build is all about style with a combination of Sapele, Maple and brass accents.

This project started as an idea for a charging station, and took on a life of its own as I started designing, then modeling it out in Fusion 360. What I ended up with after modeling, were these paper trays!

You'll find more than enough information below to make a set of your own, but if you like printable plans and would like the exact patterns, I have detailed plans available through my website:

Note: This is not a minimal tools build – I use many of the tools in my shop as part of this project. That is not to say you need these all of these tools to make this, but if you have fewer tools you'll want to be creative in finding alternate ways of accomplishing the same thing.

Step 1: Materials and Parts

Picture of Materials and Parts

This build uses hardwood for the outsides, and plywood with hardwood veneer for the tray bottom. Because of this, you really don't need that much wood to build one.

  • 1/4" Dark Hardwood (I used Sapele which is similar to Mahogany)
  • 3/8" Dark Hardwood (For front rail)
  • 1/4" Light Hardwood (I used Hard Maple)
  • 1/4" Plywood with matching veneer to the Light Hardwood
  • 1/4" Brass Rod
  • 3/16" Brass Rod

A note about cost: This doesn't have to be an expensive build! The maple scrap I picked up for $2.00 and the Sapele scrap for under $12 if I remember correctly. I bought the plywood at Menards and had to buy a full 4x8 sheet. If you live near a supplier you should be able to get a 1/4 sheet.


You can design your trays to match your style. I went quite decorative on this build, but you could go with solid outer sides, or make different height trays, etc. Since the angles can get tricky, I recommend sketching out the design first to make sure you understand how they will end up stacking when you are finished.


Overall dimensions will be based on however large you want your trays to be. The inside dimension of my trays were 8.75 front to back by 11.5 side to side. Size your sides and rails to accommodate what you want to hold in the trays. As I built them, my trays are quite shallow – though they do have a nice slim profile on the desk.

For each tray you'll need (Measurements for the size tray I built are also included below):

  • Dark Wood
    • 2 – Decorative sides – 1 1/2" × 9 1/4"
    • 1 – Back Rail – 1/4" × 1/2" × 12 1/2"
    • 1 – Front Rail – 1/2" × 3/8" × 12 1/2"
  • Light Wood
    • 2 – Inner Sides – 2" × 9 1/4"
    • 1 – Inner Back – 1 3/8" × 11 1/2"
    • 1 – Tray Bottom – 11 3/4" × 8 1/2"
  • Brass Accents
    • 4 – 1/4" Brass Rod for Pins (7/8" long)
    • 2 – 3/16" Brass Rod for Risers (3/4" long, but don't cut them ahead of time)
korinM1 year ago

so beautiful. thank you for your share. I would do it with cardboard (my hobby)

dnhandcrafted (author)  korinM1 year ago
Thank you! Be sure to share some pictures if you make it with cardboard. Thanks for the comment!
dekeros1 year ago

Awesome work! Really nice instructable too. Well done!

dnhandcrafted (author)  dekeros1 year ago
Thank you so much! I appreciate the encouragement!
deluges1 year ago

Hey man, lovely work. As mostly a woodworker, I love polishing metal too when I get a chance, it's so rewarding!

dnhandcrafted (author)  deluges1 year ago
Thank you! You are totally right about polishing! The project I just finished has plexiglass, and polishing the cut edge was almost as rewarding.

Your pictures and this project are beautiful! I wish my shop pictures were this clean!

dnhandcrafted (author)  Whitney Fabre1 year ago
Thanks Whitney! It’s all about aiming as to exclude the piles of my junk and stacked tools from the shots, haha. Just looked through your CAT-CAT build... that is great! Great details and patience with all those pieces!

Doug, this is a stunning piece of art and craftsmanship! The world is a better place for you sharing it.

dnhandcrafted (author)  Bruceaulrich1 year ago
Thank you for such a kind comment Bruce!
jpmarth1 year ago

Love the contrasting wood colors! Sophisticated looking!

dnhandcrafted (author)  jpmarth1 year ago
Thank you! That little scrap of Sapele really paid off well. It had such a cool texture to it. I find I like small projects with neat hardwoods since they don’t use a ton of expensive wood in them!

The only problem I with making something this beautiful is the fear of using it--which is what I experience all the time. These came out great.


dnhandcrafted (author)  Kink Jarfold1 year ago
That’s super kind of you, thanks! I’ve been able to use it, but the trick is not having paper in it all the time, haha.