Upcycling: More Fun With Shipping Pallets

I’ve written twice before about an upcycling coat rack made from a shipping pallet (original, my copycat), and today I’m excited to share a pallet project of my own design.

Pallets, as I mentioned in the post for my copycat coat rack, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. This project was inspired by a pallet I found that, unlike the one used for the coat rack, had top slats placed close together, with very little gap between them.

As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make a coffee or end table, because it had a surface that could hold things, such that said things would not fall through the gaps in the boards.

Here’s the finished product:

I settled on the shape for two reasons: 1. The roundness contrasted nicely with the squareness of the pallet from whence it came; 2. The clean, modern shape contrasted with the ragged industrial quality of the pallet.

Sadly, I didn’t get any photos of the earliest stages of the project, but here’s what I have.

The top after having been cut out, and before sanding the edges.

Close-up of sanded edges.

Used legs, found at the ReStore, our local outlet for recycled building materials and household items.

The painted underside of the top, showing: the bracing I had to add; where I moved the outer 2″x4″s which provide extra support and something for the legs to screw into; and how I trimmed the 2″x4″s in order to tidy them up.

Just the painted top.

Finished table, in place!

I’m pretty thrilled with the outcome, and it’s incredibly satisfying having a piece of furniture in my home that I actually built.

Instructions

  • Tools and materials needed: pallet, jigsaw w/ blade that can cut through wood and metal (i.e. nails), circular saw, hammer, electric drill/driver with a Phillips head bit, 1/4″ drill bit or similar, 1/16″ drill bit, pry bar, approx. 3-4 feet of 1/4″x2″ wood stock (I used scrap from another project), wood glue, approx. 40 3/4″ nails with heads, approx. 12 2-3″ wood screws, sandpaper and sander, paint, clear water-based polyurethane finish, brush, reclaimed table legs.
  • Using the hammer and pry bar, I removed the bottom boards from the pallet, leaving the three supporting 2″x4″s in place.
  • Having no template for the shape, I drew it freehand using a thick carpenter’s pencil, and I pleasantly surprised myself with the result, as I’m not particularly gifted at drawing. I was careful to draw this shape approximately 2-3″ from the sides where the outer two 2″x4″s were, so that the jigsaw would not cut through the 2″x4″s.
  • Since cutting out the shape results in the temporary loss of the outer two 2″x4″s, I needed to add braces to the underside so that the structure wouldn’t fall apart as the jigsaw made its way around. In order to know where to place the braces, I needed to be able to somehow see on the underside the shape I’d drawn on the top. So, using a 1/4″ bit, I drilled holes roughly every 4 inches or so, just outside the outline of the shape I’d drawn.
  • Turning the pallet over, I identified all of the locations where, once the jigsawing was done, support would be needed, and I cut the braces from the 1/4″x2″ stock. Using the 1/16″ bit, I drilled pilot holes in the ends of the braces so that they wouldn’t split when the nails were driven. Finally, I applied wood glue to the braces and nailed them into place.
  • Using the jigsaw, I cut out the shape, taking care not to apply too much pressure as the blade worked its way through the center 2″x4″ in order to prevent snapping the blades. Since the jigsaw blade wasn’t long enough to cut through the entire 2″x4″, once done cutting the top I flipped the pallet over and completed the cuts through the 2″x4″.
  • Using the pry bar and hammer again, I removed the outer two 2″x4″s from the scrap parts of the pallet. With the pallet upside down, I identified where I could place these two 2″x4″s (for extra support and for material to attach the legs to) on either side of the remaining 2″x4″ that ran down the center of the design. I then trimmed the 2″x4″s with the circular saw, placed wood glue along the edge of the 2″x4″s, and then screwed them in place, being sure to countersink the screw heads.
  • Using the circular saw set to 45°, I trimmed off the 90° tips of the 2″x4″s to reduce how much of the support structure might be seen underneath, but also to tidy it up and make it nicer looking.
  • Using the sander, I sanded the edges of the table top, rounding out a radius on the top edge. I also sanded the ends of the 2″x4″s underneath, smoothing things out and also rounding the edges.
  • I chose a high gloss paint to provide even more contrast with the roughness of the top of the pallet, and I covered the entire thing, knowing there was a possibility that the underlying structure might be slightly visible in places.
  • While the paint dried, I sanded the old finish off of the legs and applied several coats of the clear polyurethane finish, sanding after each coat except the last.
  • Luckily, the legs I’d found at the ReStore were the type with wood screw ends, so, once dry, I screwed them into the 2″x4″s, and the piece was done!

22 thoughts on “Upcycling: More Fun With Shipping Pallets

    1. Thanks, Michael!

      The resemblance to a palette was, indeed, a happy accident. Perhaps it was born from a subconscious connection.

      My son noticed it and pointed it out to me, and asked how I planned to cut out the hole for the thumb.

      1. P.S. my guess is that project was done in a much drier climate than here in Bellingham.

        I know you can use oil-based paints to protect the wood from moisture, but I don’t think that would last very long here at all.

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