Ron Swanson Serving Trays

I’m crossing my fingers that most of y’all know who Ron Swanson is. If you do, then I have a project you will love. If not, well…. then I have a TV show recommendation that you should binge watch on Netflix.

you had me at meat tornado




I made these trays as Christmas presents for a family white elephant exchange. I wanted to use food-related quotes on them, and after brainstorming for a while it dawned on me. If it’s a food-related quote you’re looking for (or any quote, really) then there no one better to turn to than Ron Swanson. If you’re not familiar with Ron Swanson, he is a character of the show Parks and Recreation. He loves meat, woodworking, and freedom, and he has some of the best one-liners on TV. So I thought about all my favorite Ron Swanson food quotes and these are the two gems I picked.

Which turned into these two trays…

Ron Swanson wooden serving trays

So here is how I made them. You don’t need any special tools or cutting machines, you can make these out of things you have on hand. Promise.

First, create your design on the computer and print it out.

Ron Swanson food quote

Then flip it over and cover all the words with pencil lead. Don’t be stingy.

how to make a painted wood sign

Then flip it back over and tape the paper to the tray.

you had me at meat tornado

Now take a pen and trace the design, pressing hard.

transferring images from paper to wood

Doing this transfers the lead from the back of the paper to the tray.

transferring letters from paper to wood

After that you can fill in the letters with paint or a sharpie or whatever your heart desires. Simple, right?


I had (what I thought was) a great idea to use my wood burning tool to burn the design into the tray.

woodburning bamboo (doesn't really work)

But as it turns out, wood burning bamboo doesn’t really work. It took forever and just looked like crappy brown pen, so I called it. I gave up. No super cool wood burned Ron Swanson tray.

Plan two – Grab a paint pen and draw over the words. I worked great, but I just didn’t like it.

tray fail #2

(Also, it’s very important to shake paint pens before using them…otherwise if you take a break and come back you will end up with two different colors.)

Plan three – Paint it white and start the whole process over with a different design.

serving tray

Ahhh, sweet victory.

you had me at meat tornado

How to transfer letters from paper to wood

And there you have it, a simple way to make a personalized tray. I added a couple other items to the tray to round out the gift, and they were a hit!

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DIY serving tray ron swanson

How to transfer letters from paper to wood



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  1. Nice! I’m sure they will love them. I should try that pencil tracing method, I’m so intimidated by people with their projectors, printers and cricuts…

  2. We love Ron Swanson! Hilarious and a great idea! I always love how you give the details of what didn’t work for you when you blog a project. It gives me hope that I also could manage this project. Sometimes you have to change your plan, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.

  3. Your trays really came out great Ashley and they made me laugh, but so did your post. :) What a nice gift idea too. I love a packaged bundle like that. Thank you for the chance to enter your very generous giveaway. Merry Christmas to you & your family!

  4. Ashley, two things:
    You need to save the emails (above), as we are your kindred spirits. We love P&R, and particularly, Ron Swanson, because he’s awesome.
    Two, you need a Silhouette machine, girlfriend! It would revolutionize your life! If we lived close to each other, I’d share it with you.
    (Btw, if you do ever get one, let me know. The software sucks, not even as good as Powerpoint, for goodness sake! I mean, to crop something takes an act of God. You’ll need moral support, but it can be navigated.)

    1. I actually own a silhouette machine, bought it a few years ago. That thing frustrates the hell out of me, so I let a friend borrow it in indefinitely and just do things by hand. It’s amazing when it works, but good grief…

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