Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Pallets 101

Today we got a garden/porch chair. It didn’t cost us a thing, bar some screws. I made it from pallets. Lots of this going on at the moment and the internet is full of spectacular things made from them. Some big some small but all great. I even found a man who had covered his allotment in them then used plastic bottles to increase his production space with vertical gardening. Whilst there are lots of ideas there isn’t a lot of info on how to get from pallet to creation. I’ve put some of my creations on before and I’ll try not to repeat too many. Rather than set of instructions on how to make something I thought I’d go for general things I consider when thinking about a pallet project.
Today's creation

Rabbit run in progress

       Quality of pallet. Is it even worth picking it up? If it’s smashed to bits, rotten and generally falling apart then my advice, unless you’re planning a bonfire, don’t bother. It will simply sit in your garden/shed rotting further and taking up space.

       Treatment. Some pallets are treated with some unpleasant chemicals to preserve them. Don’t use these indoors or for chairs, play equipment etc. Use them for gates, fences and things people won’t be spending a lot of time on. Look for heat treated ones for “people used” items. You should be able to find a HT on a spacer to tell you if it’s been heat treated.
Seating area. Looking for a fire pit for the center

       To cut or not cut. Can I make what I want without cutting it up? Pallets are generally very strong. Think about their original purpose. If you start butchering it will it loose its integrity? If you go for cut, where will you cut? I generally try to keep the spacers on if I’m going for this.


Dining Table. No cutting required.

Work top. Butchered another pallet to fill in gaps.

  Pull it apart. The trickiest part of adapting a pallet for further use. Sometimes they come apart like a dream, leaving you with 10-15 planks of wood where what you make is limited only by (in my case) skill and imagination. There are several videos on you tube. I go for a combination of masonry chisel, hammer and crow bar to “gently” prise apart rather than the smash the end technique as it leads to more splitting. Sometimes you simply have to give up on a pallet and cut it instead and use smaller pieces joined together.
No right angles allowed mirror.
Window boxes. Ready for summer.
Chicken house.
Number one rule. You need to be adaptable. You probably won’t be able to make the item you’ve found on the net. You won’t have the same size and/or type of pallet.
Bathroom mirror

 Yours will split when you try to screw them together. The planks will break when you try to pull it apart. Yours will bend and warp. Believe me I’ve had all these problems and more, sometimes resulting in tool throwage! My biggest problem is forgetting the number one rule. But, this is the joy of pallets. Your creation will be unique. No one will have one quite like you. If you want one like everyone else, go to Ikea! Who wants to be the same as everyone else?

What have you made from pallets? Share in the comments below.


  1. I've seen a few of your pallet creations before Ben, they're fabulous! I particularly love your mirror. I'll be stealing your chair idea too, I've got some conifers to cut down, they're in a line because they're part of my hedge, so I'm going to turn the stumps into a seat. I will get some pallets to built a seat and back to it, thanks for the inspiration :)

    1. Liking the stumps idea. Will you be leaving the stumps in the ground "with root" If they sprout/copice that could be some very cool natural architecture.