When I was growing up, board games were always a source of angst. My dad bought into the Milton Bradley fantasy that a nuclear clan that played together -- gathered around a brightly hued board -- stayed together. So as one of his family-building traditions, he often brought my brother and me dull "family" games from our local toy emporium. These rarely, if ever, got played -- and when they did, temper tantrums and Monopoly money flew. The fun would end with my dad pronouncing us a sorry lot: What kind of family can't even manage a board game?

In adulthood, thankfully, I have discovered a way to reclaim my power over the move-two-steps mentality. This project takes a basic game board -- thrift stores and tag sales are awash in them, in case there aren't a few gathering dust in your attic -- and transforms it into a postmodern serving tray. Out with attempts to emulate Madison Avenue fantasy, in with real bonding: sipping a pitcher of margaritas, say, or feeding guests sandwiches outdoors. Even if you love board games, this is a good multi-tasking use for them: You can keep the instructions and pieces nearby, and after the drinks are served, enjoy a rousing round of Candy Land.

Step One

Assemble your supplies: You'll need an old game board with fun graphics (we used the kitschy Old South-themed Pollyanna: The Great Home Game); clear Contact paper; a yardstick; clear polyurethane and a brush; a 1/4-inch-thick plywood square or rectangle -- whatever fits under your game -- cut to a half-inch larger than your board in each direction (our board was 18 inches square, and we used a sheet of plywood 181/2 inches square); a piece of 3/4-inch-wide wooden trim (called "screen trim" in the biz) cut long enough to edge the four sides of your plywood, with a few extra inches for good measure; a hacksaw; a drill and bits; 12 or more 1/2-inch-long brads; a hammer; and a pair of simple chromed drawer pulls.

Begin by affixing clear Contact paper over the top of your game board, using the yardstick to press air bubbles out.

Step Two

Slap a coat of polyurethane onto your screen trim and allow it to dry (about a half-hour). Then, using the hacksaw, cut it into four pieces the same length as each side of your plywood (181/2 inches in our example). Cut each of their ends in 45-degree angles, oriented inwardly, so they'll meet up neatly at the corners of your tray. Drill three small pilot holes through each piece of trim -- using a 1/16-inch bit -- one at each end, one in the center. Place the game board onto the center of the plywood and, using brads, nail the lengths of trim over the board to affix it to the plywood.

Step Three

Center the drawer-pull handles onto the trim at two opposite sides of the tray: Our screw holes were 3 inches apart, so we found the center of our board edge (91/4 inches in from the end), measured 11/2 inches out from there, and drilled two pilot holes the size of the screws in the package through the tray, using a 5/32-inch bit.

Lastly, thread the screws from the bottom of the tray through the handles, tighten with a screwdriver and pour your guests a screwdriver. May the games begin!

Laura J. Vogel