Wood Pallet Projects – Outdoor Patio Table

Pallet-Wood-Project_Patio-Table-Finished-Product-2Well I finally finished it today, the first of a few wood pallet projects… my attempt to recycle or repurpose wood and make something new with it. Let’s upcycle!

The first one on my list was to make an outdoor patio table for us to use this spring and summer. As I may have mentioned this before, at this point I’ve already done a fair amount of collecting and breaking down wood from a few different sources, so I had my stock of wood ready for this project.

So I’m sitting here staring at this pile of reclaimed wood and thinking of how I can get started, my creative juices are flowing out-of-control at this point. There are just so many ways to do this, but I had an obvious starter idea that I was going to roll with.

See below for a photo essay on how I built my outdoor patio table out of pallet wood.
I was originally going to try and write down some instructions, patterns, and design sketches – but I ended up building this thing purely out of intuition and creativity, so all of this was really in my head; nothing recorded elsewhere.

In the end I think this kind of project isn’t for someone who HAS to have perfection, it’s really more about the function than the form. The form will come after the function here.

Making an Outdoor Patio Furniture (a Table) From Reclaimed Wood

I started out with some pieces of a mattress box I had broken down, using the more finished pieces of the wood to construct a simple rectangular table frame.
I started out with some pieces of a mattress box I had broken down, using the more finished pieces of the wood to construct a simple rectangular table frame. So the top of the table took shape quickly, I cut some of the heavier 4×4 pieces to roughly 22″ tall for use as the table legs. I really like the darker spots on the legs, these are the holes where the nails once lived; the rusting of those nails created dark spots on the wood – adds lots of character.
I screwed in the legs to the corners, but this was only to really get the table's frame pieces started, knowing that I'll have to reinforce the frame later with some cross-members. The frame's border has a nice clean edge and a lip, which is going to be ideal for me to lay planks across later.
I screwed in the legs to the corners, but this was only to really get the table’s frame pieces started, knowing that I’ll have to reinforce the frame later with some cross-members. The frame’s border has a nice clean edge and a lip, which is going to be ideal for me to lay planks across later. You can see alot of staple holes and marks, this is all adding to the rough look.

Pallet-Wood-Project_Patio-Table-Photo-Constructing-The-Table-Frame-3

So the next part was to take a few of the best pieces of wood I had from the pallets, and lined them up on the table top, getting them to line up as best possible. One of the challenges here was to pick pieces that weren't broken, and that were straight too. Some of them were bowed and wouldn't work. I cut the ends off of one side to get a nice clean edge to work with. After I got all of the planks I was going to use lined up on the one side, I was able to mark a line across the other side for the final cut line.
So the next part was to take a few of the best pieces of wood I had from the pallets, and lined them up on the table top, getting them to line up as best possible. I did end up using a file and some other tools to help eliminate or cut off parts of the edges, so that they were a closer fit. I soon realized this won’t be perfect, and I wish I had a planer saw, so this could have been tighter.
One of the challenges here was to pick pieces that weren’t broken, and that were straight too. Some of them were bowed and wouldn’t work well for the top planks .I cut the ends off of one side to get a nice clean edge to work with. After I got all of the planks I was going to use lined up on the one side, I was able to mark a  straight line across the other side for the final cut . Once I had  all of the planks picked out for the table top, I was able to fit the other side of the top frame and move forward.  I decided to use screws for holding the ends of the planks in place, this was an opportunity to use up some of the thousands of screws I had laying around. Also by doing so, I didn’t have to buy any new hardware either; killing two birds with one stone.
After about an hour of sorting through my wood supply, I had picked out and aligned my top planks, thus completing the table's top construction. I pre-drilled two holes at each plank's end, so they would all line up well. I wasn't trying to make them perfect, just more uniform.
After about an hour of sorting through my wood supply, I had picked out and aligned my top planks, thus completing the table’s top construction. I pre-drilled two holes at each plank’s end, so they would all line up well. I wasn’t trying to make them perfect, just more uniform. The exposed screws really add a industrial look to the table, because (well) it is industrial… One important note – I tried my best to alternate the planks with pieces of different color woods, and also mixing in wider planks with slimmer pieces, using the stock of wood and the variety as best as possible. I did end up with a nice mix overall.
After I had flipped the table over, I added in support for the frame. I found the best few long pieces of wood that were all the same size and I attached them across each side, then along each side. One thing I really wanted to do is make this a "comfortable" table, meaning that you could put your feet up on the side frame rails and relax. In this respect, I picked pieces that naturally had a nicer edge or rounded parts, not using any pieces that had jagged edges. I made sure that the parts that were facing out had the most appropriate part showing.
After I had flipped the table over, I added in support for the frame. I found the best few long pieces of wood that were all the same size and I attached them across each side, then along each side. I needed to make sure the table was strong and solid.One thing I really wanted to do is make this a “comfortable” table, meaning that you could put your feet up on the frame rails and relax. In this respect, I picked pieces that naturally had a nicer edge or rounded parts, not using any pieces that had jagged edges. I made sure that the parts that were facing out had the most appropriate edges. I want someone to feel comfortable resting their bare feet on the side. I did take the grinder and the file to the side pieces where I think people will rest their feet or come in contact with the table. I’m actually grinding down all of the sharp edges of the whole table, including the frame parts below.  I will be sanding all of these areas too to make it really smooth. Nobody will notice that really, but I will.  What people WON’T notice is that their feet won’t get splintered or cut on anything, and that’s really the point of going so far with the details. It’s all about the details, right?
Now that I have the frame all built up and mostly squared, I can get back to putting the top in place.
Now that I have the frame all built up and mostly squared, I can get back to putting the top in place.
At this point you can really see the table "coming together" and taking final shape. The planks are going back in where I had originally placed them, and the top was coming together nicely.
At this point you can really see the table taking final shape. The planks are going back in where I had originally placed them, and the top was coming together nicely. I went through ALOT of screws too – probably close to 80. As you can also see here, along with the bigger pieces of the frame below, I added three pieces of wood under the top planks to give it more support. I didn’t screw the planks into them, just having them there added plenty of support.
Some help from the kids! Sasha is here taking a happy stance near the "almost completed" table. Both of them wanted to know EVERYTHING about what I was doing, WHY I'm doing this that way, what's the point of using a screw when we have buckets of nails, etc. I can say a little part of me was frustrated because I felt it made the job take longer, but as all of this was a big series of "teaching moments" I'm glad I took the extra time to answer their questions and teach them how to think, why we do this and that, and why screws are better than nails. Having them in the shop/garage when I was doing this meant I had to pay closer attention to safety (really, looking out for their safety), but I know they'll remember everything I taught them.
Some help from the kids! Sasha is here taking a happy stance near the “almost completed” table and you can kind of see Miles at the workbench on the left. Both of them wanted to know EVERYTHING about what I was doing, WHY I’m doing this that way, what’s the point of using a screw when we have buckets of nails, etc. I can say a little part of me was frustrated because I felt it made the job take longer, but as all of this was a big series of “teaching moments” I’m glad I took the extra time to answer their questions and teach them how to think, why we do this and that, and why screws are better than nails, etc. Having them in the shop/garage when I was doing this meant I had to pay closer attention to safety (really, looking out for them), but I know they’ll remember everything I taught them. While I did have a few near-miss type events, everyone made it through just fine. I remember all of the times I worked with my Dad doing some kind of project, and those were great times.

 The Finished Product – An Outdoor Patio Table Made From Reclaimed Wood

I'm very happy with the end result! It's an imperfect piece of furniture that looks like it survived a backyard blast, and I won't mind at all when it gets spilled on or anything.
I’m very happy with the end result! It’s an imperfect piece of furniture that looks like it survived a backyard blast, and I won’t mind at all when it gets spilled on or anything.
While it's hard to see the fine details of the tables wood pieces, you can really see the mix of wood planks I used, and how the rough pieces mesh well with some of the finer cuts.
While it’s hard to see the fine details of the tables wood pieces, you can really see the mix of wood planks I used, and how the rough pieces mesh well with some of the finer cuts.
Here's a closeup of a few of the wood planks I used. As you can see, there are nicks, scratches, nail holes, and all kinds of marks in the wood pieces.
Here’s a closeup of a few of the wood planks I used. As you can see, there are nicks, scratches, nail holes, and all kinds of marks in the wood pieces.

Ending Notes / Things I learned / Perspective

As I set out to build this and other pieces of DIY furniture I really felt great in that I was building something new with some old and very well used pieces of wood that might otherwise be broken down and either burned or piled up in a landfill somewhere. This was a new experience in recycling, and I think that the term “upcycling” is very apropos here.

I saw how none of it went exactly according to plan (as it was in my head), so I needed to be patient and have a Plan B, Plan C .. type approach. But that was ok! I knew I wasn’t building a “finished piece” that needed to be interior-quality type of furniture, this was going to be imperfect in many ways, and that’s great stuff!

I did measure and try to keep things as straight as I could, but I also used bowed pieces that weren’t level, with holes and surface cuts, and all of this adds to the visual impact of the table. It’s like these were the battle scars of the wood, showing its integrity and strength – it’s survived this far, travelled thousands of miles, and now it’s all put together here in this form. Maybe later someone (maybe even me) will tear down my table and make it into something new? Who knows?

Some Project Setbacks – Having to Repeat Efforts I Had Already Made 🙁

After I had laid out all of the planks on top, I knew already that I was going to have to turn the table upside down so that I could build the bottom parts of the frame (the cross-members), and when I did, some of the top planks fell out and this was really frustrating, but I took it in stride. I ended up using longer screws for some of the planks because they didn’t get far enough into the frame’s edges to keep the planks held in.

After I realized that most of the top planks had this kind of issue, I ended up taking many of them off and the screws out. I decided to to use both longer and bigger screws to hold  the planks down properly. Some of the screw tips went all the way through to the bottom of the frame, so I decided that was ok – I’d grind off the sharp edges on the bottom of the table later.

Tools I Used – Both In The Right and Wrong Way

So I have to admit here, I used a bunch of different tools here, and not all of them the right way. First off, I have a really nice table saw that has a laser sight line built in, I don’t think I could have done all of this without it. I have a drill that I used both for alot of this: Pre-drilling holes in many of the pieces, simply because many of these wood pieces are really hard, and you can’t just screw through them.  In addition to the drilling holes, I used some big screws and I really needed some power to drive them into the legs, the table’s frame, and of course, the planks too.

I did get a few of the screws that broke during the process so I either used a vise-grip to turn them out, or if they were far enough in  to hold that particular piece of wood, I used a grinder to cut off or grind off the excess part of the screws that were exposed. I also used the grinder to take off the sharp edges of all the screws I used for the top planks, as many of them went through to the bottom. I also used a wood file on areas where I needed to even out some of the wood surfaces. I didn’t use a traditional screwdriver when putting this together, not even once (surprised actually). 

I did also use the grinder to round out some of the edges on the wood frame, because I didn’t have the right saw to cut the corners I needed. So, something to be said for using a grinder with a metal disc to literally burn off some wood; totally not the right tool for the job… but it worked! I also used a hammer to help bang some of the pieces of frame into place, as I had made some tight fitting parts that needed a little help going together.

Now that the construction of the table is over, I am going to sand it down using my electric palm sander, and then give it a coat of something, just not sure what just yet, but that’ll be a hardware store decision.

Overall View – Success In My First Pallet Project

The sum of this project is really big. It took me about three weeks to make this from start to finish. I say the first week’s worth of time I was collecting and breaking down the wood. Keep in mind when I say weeks, I’m really getting a few hours here and there over a Saturday or Sunday, I have a full-time job so this was definitely a “weekend project” and I put in time when I could. We’re a busy family and I couldn’t just come home from work and run into the garage to work on this. So to give some better perspective, I probably could have knocked this out over a couple of days if I was able to solely do this and not goto work, etc.

I really love the patina and wear that the wood pieces have on them, as it really adds to the “finished product.” It’s actually far from being something with a smooth finish or cover, it’s more than that. You could call this rustic, industrial, edgy, DIY, and use a number of other descriptive adjectives, but to me it’s got tons of character. It’s unique as I doubt any two pieces of pallet furniture pieces are alike, and I have a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that I did it!

For now, I’m going to buy a couple of plastic adirondack chairs for my wife and I to use around the table, while I embark on my next project, an outdoor Pallet Wood Bench. If you didn’t catch the beginning of this project, go back and read about it here.

Sanding and Outdoor Wood Treatment [Update 5-28-2013]

Just a quick update here, it was an amazingly beautiful day outside, so I took the opportunity to take the table outside of the garage and sand it down using a palm sander. I went through nearly 5 sheets of sandpaper to really get the table into final shape, and prepare it for waterproofing. I didn’t sand it to change or try to improve the look, this was more to get rid of any sharp edges, and to make the table splinter-free … especially where our feet would touch the bottom parts (the frame area) where I intend to put my feet up!

I used up most of the rougher grit sandpaper on the bottom parts, and the medium and finer grit on the table's top edges and the planks.
I used up most of the rougher grit sandpaper on the bottom parts, and the medium and finer grit on the table’s top edges and the planks.

 

I ended up choosing this brand and type of waterproofing sealant to protect the table from the weather. I liked that it was clear, and not a color stain, because I didn't want to change the look of the different wood pieces I used. This only seals and waterproofs, and I applied two coats to the top, and all of the other exposed parts (the legs, the frame cross-members, etc). I didn't do the bottom side of the table's top planks, because it doesn't rain upwards.
I ended up choosing this brand and type of waterproofing sealant to protect the table from the weather. I liked that it was clear, and not a color stain, because I didn’t want to change the look of the different wood pieces I used. This only seals and waterproofs, and I applied two coats to the top, and all of the other exposed parts (the legs, the frame cross-members, etc). I didn’t do the bottom side of the table’s top planks, because it doesn’t rain upwards.

Photos After The Waterproofing Was Applied – Thompson’s Water Seal Results
DIY_Wood-Pallet-Table_Waterproof-Thompsons-Water-Seal_Photo-1

DIY_Wood-Pallet-Table_Waterproof-Thompsons-Water-Seal_Photo-2

DIY_Wood-Pallet-Table_Waterproof-Thompsons-Water-Seal_Photo-3

DIY_Wood-Pallet-Table_Waterproof-Thompsons-Water-Seal_Photo-5

Thompson's Water Seal did a great job at protecting this wood table from the outdoor elements. As you can see from these photos, the water beads very nicely!
Thompson’s Waterseal did a great job at protecting this wood table from the outdoor elements.
As you can see from these photos, the water beads very nicely!

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

1 Comment on Wood Pallet Projects – Outdoor Patio Table

  1. Great blog. Use the wooden pallets to make a creative and innovative ideas on it, to enhance the beauty of the home by means of designing new furniture, table, fence to your garden etc.

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