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You can never have too many wood serving trays, I always say. And spring is the ideal time to break out those rustic slabs that are both extremely handy and very chic.

They can also be inexpensive if you make them yourself. It's reasonably easy to do so.

To craft a few of my own recently, I called on a friend, Jordan Italiano, who is the head carpenter at a Toronto custom furniture company, iwoodworx ( www.iwoodworx.com). Together we created some fantastic lacquered-wood trays in only a few quick steps.

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To begin with, I purchased a six-foot length of one-inch-by-six-inch knot-free pine, although any type of wood - including fallen or reclaimed wood - will do.

If you buy the wood, the lumber or hardware store will usually cut it down to any size you want for a small fee; I had mine cut into two 12-inch and two 18-inch pieces. Total cost: $12.

Coating-wise, a heavy-grade epoxy is the way to go if you have time to spare, as it needs to be left on the wood for over a week to properly cure and become suitable for using with food. The epoxy will give your trays an elegant shine.

Alternatively, you can also use a food-grade shellac to coat the wood, which should then be buffed with beeswax polish for a softer finish.

Whether you use epoxy or shellac, either option should cost less than $20 to cover all four trays. Nourish the wood often with olive oil and wipe it down with a damp cloth and vinegar after each use.

Ultimately, you'll have spent less than $10 each to create a quartet of funky trays. And the bragging rights when your guests ask where you got them and you tell them you made them? Priceless.

Sebastien Centner is the director of Eatertainment Special Events in Toronto ( www.eatertainment.com).

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