Repurposing pallet wood into useful and environmentally-friendly products, and the short journey of finding and using pallet wood to create stuff.
I had an idea for a table a few months ago. Considering all the things I could make a table from I decided pallets and recycled wood, would be up to the challenge. With all the talk in the news about climate globally and ironically no manufacturing taking place in the US – I would do both; manufacture something recyclable and make it from 100% recycled content.
I started considering the design and how to do it efficiently.
The easiest material I found ended up being the pallet. I don’t know anything about turning blackberry bushes into building materials… Pallet wood provides a base material. To do much with it, the builder will need to laminate pieces together to form more useful sizes.
I wanted three results: profit potential (scaled out), neutral climate impact, and that the products are not overly stodgy and have some chance of perhaps evolving into something cool. 🙂
I went to Craigslist. You can find all kinds of ‘stuff’ on CL. And pallets come in all shapes and prices, as you can imagine. Pallets seem to be on about a 60–40 split in terms of free versus being charged for. The first day I took off to find pallets I connected with a great source. A retail DC manager now keeps me fed with materials as it comes into their pen and my normal recycled wood guy basically never runs out.
There are a lot of things to think about when choosing pallets. To some extent, the size, condition, and material used in the pallet define the amount of effort required to get the material into useful condition for a project. So no matter what, classifying material is really helpful.
Also, take time to figure out how many pallets are needed. Pallets come in all shapes and sizes, but the average seems to be about 15–16 board feet. What does that mean in dimensional terms? We use the formula: board feet = (thickness in inches x width in inches x length in feet) / 12. 16 board feet is almost two boards measuring 1″ x 4″ x 8′ (Actually about 1.75%, not quite 2X).
Pallet wood is working wood i.e. it gets scarred and dinged throughout its life. And like a mortician working their magic — you need to put lipstick on the pig. As you break them down be mindful to not to splinter them. In some areas you can actually buy them broken down for you. I actually prefer recycled lumber as its ready to go.
Keep an eye out for cool looking grains that pop out at you.
Examining the mess in front of me I saw a pattern in several pallets where pine siding had been ripped off of a building for the purpose. You could see a clear bevel approximately two-thirds of the way up each board with very uniform ‘greying’. I happened to have a framing hammer in my Subaru…
Seattle Wood- pallet project
Back at WHQ
I ended up sorting the wood entirely by the wear pattern, for example, I kept boards from the same pallets together where it looked good and practical. The rest of the wood was sorted by type and age for example new pine is way different than old pine (Hardness, color). From there, every designer’s question might be “what to build?”
I tried a variation on this these shelves, but quickly realized I needed a bandsaw 40% larger. Going down the list of other potential products was a table concept I’d been thinking of… I found some really pretty-grained pine with live edges and decided to roll the dice.
I only just managed to come up with enough cool ‘pine’ boards rather than other species which may look odd together, or cause a piece of furniture to feel oddly ‘light’ on one side.
View of the leg and base before sanding and finish
A table can be more than a table. Put your feet on one (Awkwardly), and make it a stool, or sit on one at least to some extent rendering it for a time, a tush repository. You even see tables extend themselves, like dining tables with a leaf added, but tables rarely take on the tasks of other tables.
Seattle Wood- pallet project
This pivoting pine side table with a live edge was finished with food-quality epoxy. Even the glue is safe. The epoxy doesn’t add much value and detracts from the environmental aspect while raising cost, so would not be ideal beyond being one of your custom Bondo — filler components.
My design is a side table, [maybe] for a tasty beverage, but you can also pivot the table over the arm of a chair or sofa to become what we used to call a TV tray. Now you’ve got something to hold snacks, iPhones, laptops, and yes, even that tasty beverage.
I will post the finished photo once completed…
This is on our Etsy store. There is a 2-week lead-time. I’m happy to adjust the design to suit your needs. I did a variation with Black Walnut that came out really pretty and kind of sleek. Free delivery in King County, Washington. Here’s the link to Contact Us. Thank you for visiting! 🙂