Getting Started – Working with Pallets
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A lot of people have started using pallets as they are relatively cheap, sturdy, and rust-free. They’re a great alternative to plywood boards for DIY projects or furniture making!
However, there’s not much information about how to work with them effectively online so I’ve decided to share my experience working with these versatile materials in this blog post.
Here I’d like to tell you about pretty much everything you should know before you start your fun with pallets :)I’ll be writing about tools, materials, and all the necessary stuff you’ll need, to make your working with pallets quick, effective, and most importantly safe.
So first things first…
A workplace or space
Ideally, a garage or a garden, or a shed(?) Anywhere with an electricity supply and good ventilation. If you have a workbench, that’s fantastic, but you could easily be doing everything on the ground.
I guarantee you’ll have a nice leg workout sanding on the ground 🙂 Check my post on setting up a woodworking shop in small and big spaces for more tips.
Well, I’ve had better than the gym 😉 Anyway, if you think that’s too much for your back, etc., you can build your workbench from….. yes, you’re right, PALLETS 😉
And moving on to…
Tools and materials
I’m just gonna list all the stuff you’ll need eventually, with some nice pictures. Just in case you are a beginner and don’t know much about pliers or crowbars or saws 🙂
So there you go…
Hand and power tools:
- Screwdrivers or an electric drill or drill/driver
- Saw ( handsaw, regular or compact circular saw, jigsaw- check this post for the best jigsaw recommendations
- reciprocating saw – Sawzall
- Sander – you can use a sanding block, but I think it’s just too much work for big projects (power sander – check these posts for the best finishing sander, best random orbital sander, or best benchtop belt sander recommendations)
- Sharp knife, the kind you use to cut carpets
- Stapler and staples, no, not what you use in an office kind 😉
Other materials and accessories:
- Paint, varnish, wood stain
- Nails, screws
- Assorted paintbrushes
- White spirit for diluting paint, cleaning paintbrushes, etc.
- Measuring tape
- Sandpaper – a selection of grits
- Workbench or anything you can use to put in the ground like tarpaulin
- Face masks/respirator
- Safety goggles
- Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs
- Old, used clothes to wear
- Material clothes/old rugs
Ufff… you probably thought that list would never end 😉 Believe me. This can go and on and on. There’s always going to be something else making the job easier and quicker 🙂
That may seem like a lot of stuff, but if you’re a keen DIY-er like me, you probably have most of them collected over time. If you just starting your adventure with DIY and have a small budget, begin with the easy project.
Use simple tools like a handsaw, a hammer, or a sanding block. However, I don’t recommend saving on safety equipment like goggles, gloves, or masks.
You don’t have to splash a lot of cash on them. The basic ones bought in any hardware store are better than none.
So before you start you should have a rough idea of what you want to create. Have a look in the INSPIRATIONS section or browse through the blog.
That will help you visualize what it is you want and what it should look like. You can design your project on paper or on a computer. Whatever flows your boat 🙂
Don’t know which pallets are safe to use? Check the Preparing Pallets for Upcycling article.
Make sure you do the measuring before, especially for more complicated projects. Knowing your pallet size and type will give you an idea of what you can use them for in a particular design. More on pallet types and sizes here.
Then you just go with the flow. You’ll see that some projects will require more pallets to be used (dismantled) to get nice, quality planks.
It depends on if you’re working with new or used pallets. New ones are easier to work with. I mean they don’t need so much preparation. The downside is they’re pretty hard to come by unless you are willing to pay for them.
Used ones need to be prepared before they look nice. You have to make sure they are dry, with no sign of spillage, and sanded in the process. I personally prefer used pallets because the finished look has more character,
If you think I should mention something else, please leave a comment, and I surely look into it 🙂
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Hi Love this article. I enjoy doing crafts when I have some spare time and always enjoy reading new ideas on how to upcycle items.
Thanks Shannon 🙂
Be sure to come back as I’m planning on putting a tonne of new ideas later on 🙂
I love DIYing and pallets are great materials for so many projects. My husband built me a jewelry case and some flower pots for our balcony out of old pallets. And you are right, used ones have so much more character!
I have a few other projects in mind for some future pallets. I will bookmarked this site so I can refer back to some of your tips. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Sarah:) Thank you for commenting :)I always wanted to be doing something like this.For years I coudn’t because I haven’t had the space. Now I’ve moved and have a garden and garrage I can finally use my imagination 🙂
It would be quite sexy to see woman using pictured tools, i think all men will agree with me…don’t you guys? its not a sexist joke just it is not common to see woman in that role even those days)) I will keep reading cause so far you may become more professional than DIY guys i had met!! without good tools no job will be done properly!! And that is a true…!!! so if you see a tradesman around you house promising great job and his tools are a mess, write to Kasia!! She will do it better!!
To be honest I’m the one using all kind of tools in my house 😉 Being practical and creative, no wonder I’ll be graduating in structural engineering next year 🙂 Trades man… as long as is not sometyhing to do with gas or electrics I’ll do it myself. That way i’m sure it’s done properly 🙂
Hi Kasia. I’ve gotten into pallet projects in the last couple of years. It appeals to me on a few levels; I’m a scavenger, I like re-using things, I don’t like seeing useful stuff getting thrown out, I like making things I need, exactly as I need them.
I’ve made a couple of dog beds, (the most recent one with recycling storage beneath it), a couple of dvd player/pc monitor holders for our bedroom (one designed to hang from the coat rack in the built-in-wardrobe), a firewood storage trunk that turned out bigger than I planned, 2 work horses, roller skate & derby gear airing rack, and this 3m long table: http://imgur.com/a/kduUD which will soon have 4 bench seats beneath it. There’s also been a few projects that I’ve done on request and have been paid for with beer.
I reuse everything I can, including the nails. The wood that doesn’t get used goes in the fire to heat the house. Some of the tools I use are even 2nd-hand.
There are as many planned projects as there are completed ones.
Hi LS, thanks for dropping by 🙂 I exactly know what you mean about reusing things. I hate throwing stuff away just because you can go and but new ones.I see that you are much more prepared(tool wise) than me but I only just getting started working with pallets:)I love your table. I’m planning on making one myself for the dining room. Definitely not as big:)
Feel free to comment with some useful tips or drop me a line via email.
Excellent website! I think I found your website completely by divine intervention because I have been wanting to incorporate pallets into my Tiny House build and didn’t know where I would begin! I want to reuse pallets because you can make some of the best furniture and storage with them! I love all of your ideas and I know exactly where I will be going when it is time to start looking into furniture builds for my tiny house!
it makes me really happy that people actually find my website useful 🙂 I’m sure I’ll be putting more ideas regularly once I get the hold off of the technical stuff. I’m intrigued by your Tiny House. Could you share some more details about it?
I love this website! I’m a DIYer myself and yes – I get used to the ‘sexist’ jokes about women with power tools! Mind you, my husband is an electrician and he’s the King of Drills, so I am not allowed to use his precious drills unless I am under strict supervision! We do have a lot of fun working together.
Our most recent project was a set of stairs for our backyard which has a 1.5 metre high coffee rock retaining wall and no way to get down it except by jumping from rock to rock. Fun, but not all that safe – so we set to work and built a staircase – not out of pallets cos it wouldn’t have been strong enough! But I have lots of ideas running around my head now!
I am visiting my daughter in Queensland at the moment and one of the Brisbane inner city parklands has these amazing planters built out of stacked pallets. I’ll try and get a photo while I’m here and send it to you!
Well done, by the way!
Ellie from WA (Western Australia and the other WA! 🙂
I’m glad you like my website :)I don’t really care what people or in this case men say 😛 I got used to telling me that I chose very masculine major at Uni( structural engineering) when actually is not that dominated by men anymore 🙂 Same with DIY.
There are so many ideas you can try and make. I actually have to put some of my inspiration pictures up. Literally the sky is the limit. You name it and I bet you’ll find some examples of it on the internet. Send the photo over and I’ll put in inspirations page. My next project is a herb garden or planter BTW 🙂