Starting to Make DIY Furniture with Reclaimed Wood from Used Pallets

Pallet_WoodFor the longest time now, I’ve had a hankering to make something with wood from pallets, and I just recently took my first steps forward in the process.

We have the need for some patio furniture, and my first idea was to see what we could build for ourselves, rather than go out and spend money on a cheap set that will probably not last more than 2 seasons outside.

I’m pretty good with this type of thing, I’m mechanically-inclined and I know how to use tools the right way, and I love to build stuff! So based on that, and this urge to make something will pallet wood, I’m excited to see what I can do.

The biggest part of getting started with a project like this is collecting the wood, or really “sourcing it” from a variety of places. You have to find some wood pallets first, and I started by looking in my local Craigslist and I found a bunch of people either selling it cheap or giving them away (basically begging you to pick them up). I’ve also driven by a number of places (businesses) that have pallets just stacked up on the side of their buildings. You can call these places from home or just knock on their doors and ask if they are keeping their pallets, or trying to get rid of them. Don’t offer to buy them right off the bat, most people either have to pay to have them collected, and so you might be able to get them for free if you ask the right way.

You also have to assume that some (if not most) of these will be damaged in some way … broken pieces, etc.. so you’re not going to get perfect pallets! The idea here is to get enough of these that you can essentially “harvest” enough good planks and pieces of wood to build your structure (wood frames) and then enough of the finish pieces that you can put them together and make them complete. Your pallet furniture is going to end up being made with a few pallets and a Plltwoodmish-mash of the different pieces, and so you’re going to need a few to get enough good pieces of varying size and lengths.

I also broke down a mattress box-spring last night and “harvested” the nice wood slats from inside, so that’s actually a great source of wood too. The only caveat here is that you have to really (carefully) break down the structure using a combination of screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer, and lots of effort.  When I say effort, I’m really talking about a good hour or so to break down each box spring, this isn’t a quick or easy task. You have to have and use lots of intuition here, as you will need to pry out over 100 heavy-duty staples, carefully rip out others with both a screwdriver and pliers.. after all, the goal here is to end up with USABLE pieces of wood, not broken stuff!

So far I’ve picked up about 4 pallets and spent the time to get all the nails out of the wood. As they say “90% is in the preparation” that certainly applies here. I also got some nice pieces from that box-spring, but I still need some MORE WOOD. I think I’m going to try and get at least 4-5 more pallets to make all the things I want.

A Note About Pallet Wood and Reclaiming Wood – Some “Things to Know”

If you’re reading this and you share the same kind of excitement as I do about building stuff, I’m sure the idea of making something using Pallet Wood, reclaiming that wood and repurposing it for a new life sounds great. While doing my own research on the topic, I did find out some things that I didn’t know, and I thought I’d pass that on here too.

Wood that you can reclaim from pallets and other sources might not be “clean” in some respect and you should be aware of that. Not clean? You might ask… yes, this isn’t fresh-cut lumber that would be considered “virgin wood” by any means. These are pallets that have been used in some kind of industrial capacity for a long time. I have no idea how long the average pallet gets used before it ends up in your garage, but trust me when I say it’s WELL USED before it’s work is done, years of having stuff stacked on it and clanked around by a forklift.

Why does that matter? Well, think about WHERE these pallets are used, and what that means. These are usually kept on the floor of a warehouse, and whatever condition that is (wet/dry/greasy/etc), and you can also imagine that food processors that use these, … that means that these pallets could have been exposed to some serious grime, germs, chemicals, and even innards of G_d knows what. So they are very dirty even if they look clean, and you must assume the worse about them. I don’t want to say they’re some that have toxic elements to them, but it’s possible.

Small_QuotesIf you’re a germaphobe, this aint your DIY project!

What about it? The obvious should hit you, but maybe not. If you have kids, you might not want them coming in contact with them as you are breaking them down, and you should consider the USAGE of the wood also. Would I make a kids table out of this, no, only because my two kids are going to eat off of that… and they are prone to licking everything so.. yeah, I wouldn’t do that. But an outdoor chair? A Bench? An outdoor table? SURE! On this note, the wood I harvested from the box-springs are actually very good, and clean too!

What to do about it? First, this is wood! It’s not plastic or something else, you can essentially bathe these pieces in a solution of hot water and bleach.. which should kill some germs. But that aside, you’re probably going to cut and sand most of this, so just be aware and keep the kids away while you’re doing this, some of the dust and old rust nails are a hazard. But it’s wood, and so use your best judgement here. Inspect the pallets before taking them home, if they smell or are really greasy or grimey, you may want to pass on that one. Again, your call (I think this is a safe medium).. but just be aware.

Back to the Big Picture – My DIY Pallet Furniture Projects!

So while I’m embarking on this project, I will post a few blogs about each piece of furniture I make, how I did it, and any notes or instructions I can pass on about it. If I find some value in anything I learn while doing it, I’ll be blogging about it. I’ll try to include lots of pictures too, as I think you can see them come to life.

Right now I have plans to make the following items from pallet wood and other reclaimed wood:

  • Patio Table: A low-sitting cocktail type table (not trying to make a full-size table we can all sit down at)… Just something to hold a few drinks and some appetizers, etc. COMPLETED May 19, 2013 [Read About It Here]
  • Wood Bench: (something for 1-3 people to sit down at, comfortably)
  • Adirondack Chairs: I love sitting in these, but it looks like a real challenge to get all the right pieces and get the angles right, but I love  a challenge!
  • Regular/Simple Patio Chair: Without trying to get fancy, I want to build 1 or 2 really simple chairs.

I am going to try and build some sort of “Set” that looks like it belongs together, but I’m not sure what that really means or will look like, considering the materials will not really “match” that well.  I do think that it will have a similar look – being that it will all be made from different pieces or slats of wood, and all of it will be used and have some serious patina on it. I think that old fashioned “look” will really come through with all of the old rusted looking holes from the old nails and screws, and the markings and scratches all over it, I think anyone will be able to tell what I did, so in the end maybe it will indeed match!?

The first project will be the the table, and from there the bench and the simple chairs. I may end up buying a pair of plastic Adirondack chairs from the home depot or loews in the meantime, as the wife wants to spend time outside sitting, rather than standing outside wondering why we can’t sit down on the deck this summer. That’s more social commentary, but the truth is I have no idea how long it will take to make all this furniture (given the time I have to devote to it), and that I’d like to enjoy the patio THIS year and not next!

I am sure that there are many great uses for pallet wood, and that the range of things one can build are virtually limitless, really depends on how much imagination one puts into it. I see some great ideas for things like a “pallet wood wall” that looks neat, as well as outdoor planters, etc.

Stay Tuned!

By Louis Wing

About Louis Wing 68 Articles
I talk about this, that, and the other stuff. I have to admit I may ramble on and on... but I am usually driving to a point. Educated and street-smart, I like my beats downtempo. Read more about Louis Wing

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