A friend of mine came to me in spring of 2017 asking if I ever made any pallet furniture. No, but that never stopped me before from taking on a project. So she gave me some ideas and we started collecting old pallets. If I only knew how involved “simple” pallet furniture can get.
First, if you want to do a pallet project, you have to find a place to get pallets. Lots and lots of pallets. When you think you have enough, go get more. Each seat takes three pallets placed down flat on top of each other and another for the back. That’s four for each seat. Then you need some to take boards off to repair the ones you are going to use. And if you want tables to go with your seating, you need even more.
To save money by not having to buy cushions, we used crib mattresses for the seat cushions. This is a popular idea because you can always find used crib mattresses for free or cheap. You still have to get enough fabric to cover all the cushions and have someone that can sew to make them work. My friend also found someone that was throwing out a couch with loose back cushions and grabbed them before it was taken away so we could use those for the back rest cushions. I wasn’t involved much with the cushions, somehow the woodworking kept me pretty busy.
The actual wood working starts by cutting the pallets down from their original 40″ wide to 27-1/2″ wide, the width of the crib mattresses. Leave them 48″ long, that works well with the mattress size. If you cut off one side of the pallet and then reinstall that side member on the pallet again you don’t have much wasted wood. However, we found that the free pallets you can get generally need to be repaired as you go.
Stack three of the right sized pallets and fasten them together with screws, then a full sized pallet screwed to the back of the stack makes the backrest.
The pallets look a little crude, even after adding better boards and repairing them as needed to be structurally sound. It is at this point we got an idea to dress them up. Slats, lots and lots of slats. So we gathered more pallets, took them apart and used the recycled wood to make slats. I ran hundreds of feet of slats through my planer to get them sized and ready to accept stain. No turning back now, this has got to look good.
Also I happened to find a guy with thousands of wood mill work pieces he was selling on Craig’s list. He sold me a box full of these for $5 and was glad to get rid of them. Planing the slats to 3/8″ they fit perfectly into those to make nice panels, ready to stain.
A little glue, and my brad nailer made some nice panels quickly.
I made them the length of the front and as tall as the seat to just above the ground for each seat section so we could move them around as modules so they can be arranged in a number of different ways. The panels for the sides of each module was made the same way. Then we got everything stained before installing them.
I also made panels to cover the backs of the modules so when the cushions are in place the units look very finished.
Finally I made some small panels to cover the part not covered by the larger panels and installed trim boards on the corners.
I don’t know if you noticed, but these are positioned on some nice white marble stones. That also was part of the project. You can probably get these delivered in bulk, but we did it with many, many bags of stone from Lowe’s. Two trips with my little pick up, they were nice enough to load them for us but we still had to unload and spread them after we dug out the appropriate amount of soil and put down a double layer of landscape fabric to control any weeds.
Then came the idea for a center table. My friend said she’d like a couple trays in the middle of the table that could be used to hold ice and drinks for parties or for plants to dress it up at other times. I got to work.
More pallets, more boards, so many more boards. Then more slats, a lot more slats. Glue and clamps, some reinforcement to keep the funky pallet boards in line after they’re assembled. A table top is made, cut outs done, then stain and some spar urethane for protection.
Did I mention more pallets? Well, you need more pallets for the table and some real cutting and fitting to make the planters fit and have support. And more slats to make 4 more panels, and more stain. But nothing we couldn’t do, just look.
Now what furniture group is complete without at least one end table? What’s just a few more slats and another table top, with a round cut out for another planter? By this time making slats and table tops out of used lumber is becoming second nature to me.
For the end table I didn’t stack any pallets, just used the recycled wood to make the frame and slats, and of course, the top. More stain. Oh, and one detail I haven’t mentioned up to now. I cut blocks of pressure treated (from 2 x 4 stock) and installed them on the bottom of all the units to hopefully control rot from the bottom up.
I think this pretty much concludes the pallet project of 2017. It doesn’t look like pallet furniture anymore, but is does look good.