Pallet crafts: what industrial furniture can I make with free wood?

March 24 |
Ben
Photo by jonXsmack. Used under Creative Commons license.
Ruby asks:

My husband runs a print factory and as such, we have a heck of a lot of pallets lying around that the paper is delivered on. Currently we pay someone to take these away and recycle them but I was wondering if you (or any of your awesome readers) had any ideas of ways I could turn them into cool and functional pieces of furniture for our home? I'd love it if I could make something from this by-product of my husbands trade.

Ooh! Ooh! I got it! Did you know there's a whole group of projects out there called Pallet Crafts? TRUTH. Readymade magazine features a couple projects a year. On my docket for this summer: building a set of patio furniture using these plans. They cost ten pounds a piece to download, but there are free chair plans out there, too. And oh, hello, palette compost bin!

What else you got, Homies? Art? A display rack? How would you use free palettes?

  1. We use them as firewood actually – great starters for the wood stove.

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    • I use them as firewood too, but you have to be careful not to burn the treated pallets (that are far more common). If you burn a treated pallet its not only awful for your woods tove, but you are then inhaling all those chemicals.

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  2. The only thing I know of are awesome compost bins (a three bin system for different items), firewood, and an outdoor bathroom. I also know someone who framed their concrete house using pallets, but that's probably more work than you're looking for.

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  3. I used pallets to build treehouses when I was younger. The first treehouse's tree fell down in a storm…the tree broke in half, but the pallet didn't, so I used that same pallet again for a second treehouse floor!

    The benefit of using the pallet instead of regular pieces of wood was that it was already all in the shape I needed for the treehouse floor. All I had to do was create some wood planks for it to sit on between the trees, heft it up there, and secure it. Easy-peasy.

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    • This is great! I'll have to make one this spring for our kid.

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  4. Back when I was a teenager, my parents and I redid my attic bedroom. Most of the wood was reclaimed from wood pallets from when they built a grocery store near our house. We dumpster dived all the wood and used it for framing in bigger closets and a lounge area into the crawlspace. We also used the nicest pieces as floorboard trim. It matched perfectly with the pine floors after a ton of work with lots of fancy tools.

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  5. This is going to sound douchey, but let's just get it over with: they're made of wood. You can make pretty much anything that can be made of wood using THIS wood.
    Now, the reason I've taken this opportunity to sound like a douche is because a lot of people hesitate to use such rough wood for nice furniture. It can be sanded! It can be stained! It can be painted! It can be cut! It can be covered with veneer!
    Be sure to remove ALL of the metal from the wood before you start working. There tend to be tons of awkwardly-placed nails and staples. And, an unfortunate feature of palettes is that the nails are often made to be immovable. Some palettes WILL NOT BE WORTH SAVING. There will be knots and splits and all sorts of strangeness.

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    • I would add one more caveat to what you have said which is 100% correct: pallet wood is the cheapest of the cheapest of the leftovers that are left over after wood has been cut for commercial boards, which can mean that it's super full of holes and knots and stuff and not just staples and nails.

      This can mean that it's not got a lot of sturdiness – while yes, the wood can be used to build anything, it's not a good idea to use it to make things that require that the stiffness of the wood itself be the structural support. If you're going to build things like chairs which get sat on, or treehouses that kids a going to play in, make sure everything is very well reinforced with corner brackets etc.

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      • It *really* depends on the pallet. In my experience, the blue ones tend to be much more solid than the unpainted ones, but often the structural integrity will be obvious just from looking at it. It's best to consider what's being shipped on the pallets. If they're holding something heavy, like milk or cans, they'll probably be sturdy enough for your tree house.

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    • My husband and I use it for planting benches, furniture, swings, pathways and buildings. We are currently working on a triangle coffee table to fit in with the sectional sofa we bought.

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    • I love the coffee table! This would look great outside on our patio.

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  7. I made my compost bin out of pallets, since the boards were all the same length it was super easy! Step one: pry boards off pallets 2: lay two boards down as cross beams 3:lay boards next to each other the length of cross boards and nail or screw to secure, repeat until you have 6 sides 4:with a staple gun secure plastic to the inner side of your panels (the plastic is muoy importante, you don't want your bin to decay along with your compost, do ya?) 5:make your box… (this may require some help) stand two sides up with the edges together to form a corner and secure with some big ass decking screws, we put our in at an angle from both sides to make sure that it wouldn't come apart… repeat until you have 3 sides and the bottom attached. 6: use a door hinge and a couple of hook and eye latches on the front (makes it way easier to turn) 7: lay on the top ( I just lay some bricks on mine to keep critters out and that way it's still removable) 8:applaud yourself!
    I made my first one without a bottom, but a possum kept digging his way in there… very easy to make with no cutting or measuring required, provided your pallets are the same size!

    Also, we made a white picket fence out of pallet boards that we attached to our front porch at our old house so that our doggies could hang out there with us and they couldn't run off… it looked amazing when it was finished! The pallets we used had narrow boards so we just had to cut the pointed ends, paint em with some waterproof paint and secure em to the concrete.

    I can't wait to see some other ideas posted here!

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    • A compost bin is the only thing we've attempted so far but ours is rather more primitive than your method I'm afraid! It has stood the test of time though as we've had it for over 5 years now!

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  8. I have used pallets to frame out our chicken house. The house is built on top of a picnic table that was in the yard when we moved in. The backyard is fenced, but missing a gate…until a pallet stepped in. Oh, and the compost bin is made of pallets. You give me a pallet and I will turn it into something. It just won't be pretty, not because it is pallets, but because my carpentry skills suck.

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    • Love the day bed. This would be so useful (especially on castors) in our spare room/study/recording studio/general crap room!

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    • Oooh, yes! The first thing I thought when I saw this post was that you could make raised garden beds using pallets. I'm showing that to my husband tonight.

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    • You beat me to it! Instructables is chock full of pallet remakes!! It's also awesome for just about everything else.

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  9. I've been considering building our chicken coop or garden bed from pallets, but was worried about chemical treatment leaching. Does anyone know of a simple way to tell if the wood has been treated or not?

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    • Basically color. If it looks like raw wood then it is. Many pallets are painted blue or darkened with treatment.

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  10. I can't believe no one else has said this but umm… SELL THEM! I know people who make a living salvaging them and selling them. It's kind of in the gamut of scrap metal salvaging but if you already have them just sell the whole lot of them! Palettes aren't something you use once then recycle, they're still useable as pallettes. There are people who will even but the broken ones.

    The furniture stuff is cool too but it sounds like you've got an abundance.. just an option.

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    • When I say that we pay someone to take them away and recycle them, what actually happens is we pay a freight company to take them back to our paper supplier who gives us a credit rebate against future paper orders. The paper company reuses them or burns the damaged ones. So we only have 100-200 in the factory at a time but think it would be cool to make something from them that doesn't look like a pallet anymore!

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  11. I saw in one of those fancy home decorating magazines that someone had taken a pallet, nailed it to the wall in their kitchen and used it to keep their plates in. It looked so cool.

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  12. Keep em coming! I'm trying to talk my hubs into fencing in our whole front yard with pallet boards… refinished, of course!

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    • We also have built planter boxes (lined with plastic), garden boxes, garden tables, and yes, even patched our garden fence all with pallet pieces. The trick is to first get all the wood off the pallet and remove all staples, nails, etc, then pick the best wood for whatever projects you have.

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  13. Love this! As one who has had experience working in various industrial settings, pallets can be the bane of your existence. For some reason, everybody needs them but nobody wants them. I'm constantly shocked at how hard those suckers are to get rid of in an environmentally responsible manner. Re-using is a brillian idea!

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  14. I have made a hutch and a wine rack from old pallets so far. I love them! Not a project for people that are afraid to use a little elbow greese. A lot of projects require you to break the pallets down and it takes time considering you have to pull 8 nails per board. This isnt something I would do if I didnt want the rough rustic appearance. I would just buy wood if I wanted it to look perfect, but I find beauty in the inperfections.

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  15. We used pallets as the sub-floor to our shed, skin it with ply-wood and you are off to the races!

    also:

    A guy I know who has a farm just out of town fenced in his front lawn with a zig-zag of whole pallets.

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