do it yourself

Riding on the metallic trend by making my own copper tray

Every time I go out to source products for my photo shoots, I always spend time discerning if I should buy my own tray. Those lacquer and mirrored trays at West Elm almost tempted me to give in. It’s a good thing I intentionally didn’t bring money nor any of my cards, because those trays can be so damn expensive!

I also had an oval wood veneer tray which I had scored from cleaning out my MIL’s platera, and which I had been meaning to give a good do-over ever since. I knew I needed one for my home office desk to corral all my supplies, but it’s a tray, and apart from its decorative function, it also has many uses at home.

This wood veneer tray is painted with the t'nalak motif around it.
This wood veneer tray is painted with a t’nalak-style motif around it. Note the scratches near the tray’s handle.

I took advantage of this morning’s sunny prelude amidst the day’s gloomy forecast and started on what I thought would be a pretty quick and easy DIY task. Below are my step-by-step instructions on how I made my copper tray, and my realizations (and learnings) afterwards from doing this morning’s project.

Pick a well-ventilated spot in your house to do this, as the paint fumes might be too harsh and harmful to do indoors. I brought all the stuff I needed to the roofdeck, as that’s the only spot in our house that’s well-ventilated, has enough space, and gets plenty of sunlight for the paint to dry quickly.

Here are the tools you’ll need:

Clockwise, from top left: soapy water, a wet rag, a dry rag, sandpaper (I used 400 grit), your tray, spray paint, and a clear acrylic sealer. And of course, don't forget your drop cloth, newspapers, or an old tarpaulin. 
Clockwise, from top left: soapy water, a wet rag, a dry rag, sandpaper (I used 400 grit), your tray, your preferred spray paint, and a clear acrylic sealer. And of course, don’t forget your drop cloth, or newspapers, or an old tarpaulin.

Step 1: Sand down your tray.

I only had 400-grit sandpaper, which is normally used to finish painted objects, but I didn’t think I would need to sand the tray as much. I figured I only needed to scrub off a little of the tray’s varnished finish so that my paint would adhere to the surface. Paint doesn’t stick to glossy surfaces, hence the sanding. It would have been okay if my tray didn’t have nicks and scratches, but more on that later. If you ever think of doing this, don’t do as I did and use a lower-grit sandpaper, like 180, whenever you start repainting anything.

I only needed to lightly sand the tray so the paint would adhere to the surface, but for the nicks and scratches, I should have used a lower-grit paper.
I only needed to lightly sand the tray so the paint would adhere to the surface, but for the nicks and scratches, I should have used a lower-grit paper.
Le tray, post-sanding
Le tray, post-sanding

Step 2: Clean the tray from dust and shavings with a rag. 

Make sure to leave the surface as dust- and particle-free as possible. Anything that you leave behind can get locked in under the paint.
Make sure to leave the surface as dust- and particle-free as possible. Anything that you leave behind can get locked in under the paint, which means uneven surface. These particles will also make the paint chip faster in the long run.
To ensure my tray was as clean as possible, I also wiped it down with a wet rag dipped in soapy water.
To ensure my tray was as clean as possible, I also wiped it down with a wet rag dipped in soapy water.
Let dry under the sun for at least half an hour.
Let dry under the sun for at least half an hour.

Step 3: Spray-paint your tray by propping it against a vertical surface covered with a drop cloth.

Cover your surface with a drop cloth, then carefully read all the instructions on the can before you begin. Keep at least a foot  between the can and your tray, then begin spraying from side to side.
Cover your surface with a drop cloth, then carefully read all the instructions on the can before you begin. Keep at least a foot between the can and your tray, then begin spraying from side to side.
I used old laundry pins and hangers to help me hold the tray upright while I spray-painted.
I used old laundry pins and hangers to help me hold the tray upright while I spray-painted.

Step 4: Let the paint fully dry for at least an hour or more. 

I also turned on the electric fan to make the paint dry more quickly, as well as to add further ventilation.
I also turned on the electric fan to make the paint dry more quickly, as well as to add further ventilation.

Leave some time between coats to let the paint dry fully. For me, it took about 30 minutes to an hour since the sun was very hot and allowed for quicker drying time. It pays to be patient with projects like these, because if you add another coat too soon, the surface might not come out as even as you’d like it to be.

Step 5: After 2 or 3 coats, leave the paint to dry for an hour or more at least, then seal with clear acrylic sealer.

I used Mod Podge Super Hi-Shine Clear Acrylic Sealer, which I got from Deovir at SM North for P520.
I used Mod Podge Super Hi-Shine Clear Acrylic Sealer, which I got from Deovir at SM North for P520. Check out the nicks on the tray’s handle, which should have been sanded off more properly.

Since the paint I used is high-gloss, naturally the paint finish was shiny, almost lacquer-like. I didn’t want my tray too glossy because it highlighted all the tray’s nicks and scratches. So I used a sealer that would tone down the gloss. If you want to stick to a super-glossy look, use a sealer that has a lacquer or super-high-gloss finish.

Spray on the sealer the same way you would spray-paint. This time, however, you won’t need to do as many coats. I only did roughly two coats to my tray to get the finish I wanted, which was a bit brushed.

Again, wait a few hours to let the sealer completely dry. On the Mod Podge can I used, the instructions were to wait 24 hours before handling.

Aaaannnd you’re done!

As always, with every project I do, I made some mistakes. Here’s what I learned after doing this supposedly quick DIY activity:

Use lower-grit sandpaper at the start of the project. The lower the grit, the rougher the texture. And you need that roughness to really do away with the varnish, as well as smoothen down imperfections on the wood. Since my sandpaper was too fine, I couldn’t even out the nicks on the handle, which came out glaringly obvious even after applying the brushed-finish sealer.

Use a sandpaper holder for better grip.I’d forgotten all about my hubby’s sandpaper holder (pictured below), and I sanded down my tray with my bare hands. After a while, I could feel the heat from the friction all that rubbing produced, so I needed to rest every now and then, which ultimately prolonged the process.

Image courtesy of ebay
Image courtesy of ebay

Don’t spray-paint your tray too closely. Doing so will only cause streaks and uneven surfaces, which you will need to sand down again.

I sprayed too closely on certain parts of the tray, which ended up leaving ugly, drippy streaks on the surface.
I sprayed too closely on certain parts of the tray, which ended up leaving ugly, drippy streaks on the surface.
I had to wait longer for that streaky paint to dry before I sanded it down again to a smooth finish. I then spray-painted that part again.
I had to wait longer for that streaky paint to dry before I sanded it down again to a smooth finish. I then spray-painted that part again.

Hold down your drop cloth with something heavy. 

I left my work area to let the paint dry, and after an hour, I went back to see this:

An unexpected gust of wind had blown my setup  to the floor, which damaged the still-wet paint on my tray.
An unexpected gust of wind had blown my setup to the floor, which damaged the still-wet paint on my tray.

So again, I needed to re-sand and repaint the damaged parts. Also, it would be wise to do this activity when there is no construction site nearby, as the wind carries with it all sorts of particles. No matter how well I cleaned my tray before starting, I still ended up with some dust particles underneath the paint. Thankfully it wasn’t so obvious (and thankfully, I’m not as OC as I think I am). (Either that or I’ve just learned—as Queen Elsa is wont to say—to let it go.) (Sorry for the Frozen reference, my one-year-old toddler has just recently begun watching it.)

Now here’s the finished product!

I love the brushed finish of the copper paint, which I think makes it much more classy and elegant than high-gloss metallic.
I love the brushed finish of the copper paint, which I think makes it much more classy and elegant than high-gloss metallic.
P1030276
However, I’m summoning more than enough willpower to ignore the nicks on the handle, which still came out glaringly obvious. I’ll most probably do over the tray again, this time with lower-grit sandpaper, so that I can smoothen down that part.
P1030281
A closer look at the brushed-finish copper paint.

What do you think? Yay or nay? I promise, I won’t get mad. (Just a tiny bit hurt.) Kidding. (Not kidding.) Kidding. 😀

CopperTrayBeforeAfter

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1 thought on “Riding on the metallic trend by making my own copper tray”

  1. I’ve also been working on sanding/refinishing wood these past weeks, a solid narra coffee table that my lolo built. Started with 120 grit then now at 220. Used gloves lang for the initial sanding but I now have the sanding block so it does make it easier. Although I still spot sanded it with bare hands. I must admit I enjoy sanding haha!

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