How to Make a Pet Food Tray, Embellished with Duct Tape

comments (9) February 20th, 2009     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Duct tape is available in lots of colors these days, and it makes a great heavy-duty covering and embellishment material.
My cat can spill stuff all he wants now—I can easily wipe the duct-tape surface clean.
Duct tape cutouts are easy to make with the method in this tutorial.
Duct tape is available in lots of colors these days, and it makes a great heavy-duty covering and embellishment material.

Duct tape is available in lots of colors these days, and it makes a great heavy-duty covering and embellishment material.

Photo: Diane Gilleland

I have to feed my cat, Pushkin, on a carpeted floor. He's a rather . . . er . . . aggressive eater and sometimes makes a mess, so I wanted a tray to put under his bowls. I found a wooden tray on clearance but wanted a way to make it waterproof and easy to clean up. Duct tape to the rescue! (And coincidentally, Pushkin happens to be the exact color of the everyday gray stuff.)

What you'll need:

  • Wooden or plastic tray
  • Duct tape, several colors
  • Scissors
  • Self-healing cutting board
  • X-Acto knife
  • Pastry scraper (optional)
  • Bone folder (optional)
  • Nail scissors
  • Low-tack painter's tape
  • Isopropyl alcohol or nail polish remover
  • Cotton ball

A note on your work surface: When you're working with duct tape, it's important to do it on a surface that the tape can't damage. If you have a large self-healing cutting board, this is ideal. But if you don't, no worries—a carpeted floor will work, or as I've done here, you can spread out an old sheet on your table. Keep a self-healing cutting board handy for cutting the tape with an X-Acto knife. Please don't do this project on a painted or varnished wood surface!

A note on your tools: Duct tape adhesive is strong stuff. You might find your scissor and knife blades getting gummed up as you work. If this happens, you can clean them off with some rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover on a cotton ball. This is definitely not a project for your good scissors!

Cut a strip of duct tape long enough to wrap around the middle of the tray.

The first step to covering the tray with duct tape is to place a strip across the center, as shown. This strip should be long enough to cover the inside of the tray and wrap all the way around the sides to the bottom.

A pastry scraper is a great tool for smoothing down the tape and pressing it neatly into corners.

I'm using my pastry scraper here—it's my favorite duct tape tool. I can gently wipe the blade across the tape, making it lie flat. And I can also use it to push the tape neatly into corners, as shown. If you don't have a pastry scraper, try a stiff piece of chipboard. Or a credit card.

Wrap the ends of the tape snugly around the outside of the tray and around to the bottom. (You can also cover the bottom of your tray with duct tape if you like.)

Continue adding strips of tape, placing them side by side.

Repeat this process, placing each new strip of tape next to the previous one. I like to work outward from the first strip in the center, as shown. This is also a good practice anytime you're smoothing down a strip of duct tape—begin in the center and smooth the tape outward toward the edges. Continue adding strips of tape until you reach the edges of the tray.

Incidentally, if the last bits of the uncovered tray are too narrow for a full strip of duct tape, you can easily tear a strip lengthwise down the middle. Just start with a little cut in one end and rip away.

To cover the side of the tray, carefully place a strip of tape along the top edge.

For the outer sides, I've switched colors. Carefully place a strip of tape along the top edge of the side.

Cut against the edge of the tray to give the tape a precise edge.

Cut the ends of the tape to match the edges of the tray. It's easy to cut precisely when you can cut against the edge of the tray. I've placed this edge on a self-healing cutting mat.

Wrap any excess tape around to the bottom.

Use a bone folder to burnish all tape edges down firmly.

Use a bone folder (or the back of your thumbnail) to burnish the edge of the tape down securely.

Place tape along the curved edge. Clip both sides.

Now to cover those curved edges on the handles. Place a narrow strip of tape over the curve, making sure the tape is centered over the wood. Clip both edges of the tape with scissors, cutting all the way in to the edge of the wood.

Press the sections of tape down one at a time.

Use your fingers to carefully press the sections down, one at a time. You'll need to separate them with your fingers, as the adhesive likes to stick together at the clips. Pressing the tape tabs down one at a time allows them to overlap slightly, which gives you nice, smooth coverage along the curve.

Cover the inside of the tray handle.

Now to cover the short sides of the tray, where the handles are. Begin on the inside, and lay a piece of tape along the bottom. Add another one right next to it to cover the rest, as shown. Trim the ends of the tape to meet the corners—just press the tape into the corner and then cut along the corner with an X-Acto knife.

Notice here how the edge of the white duct tape that we just used along the edge is showing through the yellow? This happens sometimes with light-colored duct tapes. You can always add a second layer of tape on top of the first to make it more opaque.

Cut the tape along the edge of the tray with a careful sawing motion.

If you need to trim the tape along an edge, and you can't lay that edge flat against your cutting surface, try this trick. Place the blade of your knife flat against the edge you're cutting along—and this flat placement is very important. Then, grip the edge of the tape in your fingers, and pull it taut. Use a gentle back-and-forth sawing motion to cut the tape along the edge. (If you hold the knife at an angle, you'll end up cutting into the edge of the tray. Keep it flat and all you'll cut is the tape.)

When you're done, burnish that cut edge with a bone folder.

Cut the tape covering the opening into sections.

Next, cut out the handle. Use the knife blade to cut down the center of the opening lengthwise. Then, make a series of clips in the tape by starting against the edge of the wood and cutting toward the center.

Press the tabs of tape one at a time against the inside of the handle.

Use your fingers to press those small tabs of tape against the edges of the handle, as shown. If you need to, you can wrap the tabs over onto the outside of the tray—we'll cover them up in a moment.

Cover the outside ends of the tray, cutting the tape along the edge.

Repeat the process to cover the outsides of the ends of the tray. This side is easier because you can cut the tape along the edge of the tray as shown.

This is a good time to mention that when you're cutting a large piece of tape away like this, it's best to cut it away in sections. Large pieces of excess tape have a way of flapping about and catching on things you don't want them to. So cut away a small section at a time and set it aside before proceeding to the next.

Use nail scissors to cut away excess tape around the handle.

When you press down the tape tabs along the inside of the handle, don't wrap them around to the inside of the tray. Instead, use nail scissors to trim away any excess tape tabs, as shown.

Patch any openings with small pieces of tape.

With both ends covered, you can cut some small strips of tape and use them to patch up any spots that are still uncovered on the insides of the handles. Burnish these little patches down well.

Place several strips of duct tape on a self-healing board, overlapping them about 1/4 inch. Place a cutting template on top.

To make some decorations for your tray, lay some strips of tape out on a self-healing cutting mat. Overlap them about 1/4 inch. Don't press them down to the mat, just place them lightly. Then, make yourself a cutting template. I used a page layout program in my computer to make a quick cat-head shape. You could also draw your template freehand, or cut something out of a magazine.

Tape the template to the duct tape lightly with painter's tape.

Cut through both layers along the template lines.

Carefully cut along the template lines with a sharp X-Acto knife. I used this same process to make the letter "P"—I printed it from my computer, taped it down, and cut along the edges.

Carefully pull up the tape around your cut-out shape. Then carefully pull up the shape itself.

Place the cutouts lightly on the tray, moving them around as needed.

Place the cutouts lightly on the tray, but don't press them down. As long as they're lightly placed, you can gently pull them up and reposition them on the tray. When you have them where you like them, burnish them down.

I made the smaller cutouts (the eyes and nose) by cutting the shapes freehand from scraps of tape. You could also use templates for these.

Decorate to your heart's content, and your tray is ready for action!

posted in: pets, duct tape

Comments (9)

genalorainne writes: hehe. Nice and simple.
Posted: 2:58 pm on May 7th
Average_Jane_Crafter writes: This is so awesome, Diane! It opens up all kinds of new possibilities with duct tape. I'm in awe of your ability to consistantly come up with such fantastic, doable, very *cool* projects. Top that off with beautiful, easy to follow tutorials ... you rock my world! :)
Posted: 9:51 pm on March 1st
croqzine writes: Wow, great trick for cutting out exact shapes with duct tape, Diane!! Exciting!
Posted: 8:08 pm on February 28th
eyesaflame writes: Another great tutorial!! You rock . . .
Posted: 8:19 pm on February 27th
sassycrafter writes: Fun project! You could also use teflon coated scissors to cut down on the stickiness factor.
Posted: 6:24 pm on February 20th
paperrain writes: Oh, Pushkin! I see.

Posted: 4:55 pm on February 20th
paperrain writes: Heavens to Betsy! My dog would LOVE this tray! With the cat head on it, even!


what's the 'P' for?

Posted: 4:55 pm on February 20th
susanstars writes: hooray! what a lovely project, Diane!
Posted: 1:21 pm on February 20th
thumbelina writes: what a cute idea and my compliments on your photos/instructions--good job!
Posted: 1:00 pm on February 20th
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