Introduction: Industrial Style Pallet Coffee Table
EDIT: In the end I did get some pool fencing glass, which was significantly cheaper than buying custom glass. If you look at the photos it is a perfect fit! :) Originally when I looked at the pool glass it was 16mm thick, which I thought was too thick for the table. The custom glass I was looking at was 10mm thick. What swung me to the pool glass was that Bunnings in Australia got in some new stuff that was 12mm thick... and pretty much the price difference was to significant to ignore. Custom quotes were around the $400 mark, while this pool fencing glass was only $70 :)
I was mulling over some ideas for a pallet table. While walking around a large hardware shop, the idea finally came to full formulation. It was only last weekend over beers that a friend told me of this website. Unfortunately, this website now has me mulling over building a bench seat and table for my apartment, ha, more work :)
Note: Sorry, I don’t know how advanced you might be in wood working. But I wrote these instructions so even the most basic skilled person could make the coffee table. They are long and comprehensive. If you don’t own tools, your family and friends might be able to help and save you cash! But for the basic ones out there, if I can do it, so can you :)
First what are you going to need?
Stuff to build with...
- 3 euro pallets (as they create a nice 80x120cm coffee table). Try source the ones with full pine centre blocks, as most of their heat marks are half imprinted or quite burnt into the blocks itself. This will certainly give the finished table a more industrial look about it. Whereas chip board ones I personally feel will give it a too "perfect" look about it. Also, go down slightly to read about how I picked my pallets.
- 4 of the largest running threads you want. I used 5/8 inch threads. Make sure they are zinc coated, so you don't get oxidation (rust). But if you can get bigger and drill bits to fit, then sure go for it!
- 8 washers to fit the 5/8 inch threads
- 8 massive nuts to fit the 5/8 inch threads
- A pencil.
- A ruler
- Caster wheels. I picked load bearing of 55kg for each wheel. So total weight bearing from the table wheels will be 220kg. Personally, pick the ones you feel would best fit your table. Remember though, larger wheels mean a higher table top and so large will give disproportions! Also, good idea to grab 2 wheels with stoppers on them, so you can clamp the wheel and stop the table from moving around when it’s done.
- Screws with a large enough head to fit the caster wheel holes. I just used wafer head screws.
- 2 large screws to brace a loose board at the bottom (come to that later)
- 3 small nails/screws to brace that same loose board.
- Wood glue, the cheap quick dry stuff to stop major cracks.
- A can of Polyester or whatever coat or oil your might want to give your table.
What tools will you need?
- Brace and bit tool. This is a hand crank drill, grab the 5/8 drill bit to drill in that 5/8th hole into your pallets!
- Hole saw drill kit. There are cheap ones and awesomely good ones. I just used a cheap one and it did the job perfectly.
- Jigsaw. Alternatively, a circular saw or even a hand saw.
- A power drill. Hand held or wall powered, both will chew through this soft wood!
- An angle grinder.
- A set of screw drivers.
- A small chisel.
- A small and short cold chisel, only if you have one, or a screwdriver will suffice.
- A hammer.
- A nail puller. If you don't know what one is, go to your local hardware store. A cheap carbon steel grade nail puller is about 10-20 bucks and will do and easily survive the job.
- A sander, I used an orbital, and also a cork block and sand paper. As for the sand paper selection, I used 80 grit and then 120 grit in some sections.
What pallet should you pick?
Firstly, I've never used a pallet for the creation of anything, and some of the reading over the internet freaked me out when I first got mine. Should I bleach them? Should I buy them new? Can I use them inside? In the end, I waited over 2 month to source each pallet as clean as it looked, and figured after a bunch of sanding and a coat of polyester, nothing’s going to get out of that. The pallets I got, were fortunately only used once, and quite clean. I grabbed 2 that looked aesthetically pleasing enough and then one which was some cool and very different characteristics for my top piece.
Ok, you have your pallets, are you ready!?
Step 1: Time to Drill Some Straight Holes!
Put all the pallets on top of each other. Line them up as best as possible. None of the pallets are going to exactly match up, but the euro pallets are pretty good. Remember, it is going to be an industrial design, so a bit of character is a good thing. Now grab your brace and drill bit, mark your spots and drill down.
Note: Using a brace drill will actually help drill straight holes down each pallet. A power drill will kick and you will have to drill pretty darn straight to get some good holes. This is because when holding the top of the brace all the direction is downwards, whereas using a power drill it can be slightly to the side as well and then you might get misaligned holes.
Hint: To grab 4 washers and mark out where your holes are going to be, as you’ll need to cut a hole for the washer and you cannot have a nail in the way. So use the washer as a marker and then give an extra 1-2mm for some give.
Hint: Once marked, grab that ruler and mark each other pallet. This will help you figure out if your 5/8 drill bit will hit any nails on the underside. I just hit the side of one and it slightly blunted my drill bit. If you are not feeling any give you have hit a nail, just retract, don’t throw out that drill bit, you can sharpen it with a metal file.
Step 2: More Drilling :o
Once you have drilled into your top one, make sure you go far enough down to mark and slightly drill into your second pallet. Repeat step 1 and 2 into the second and third pallets.
Step 3: Jigsawing Time!
Great you have your holes. Now flip over each pallet and saw away the 6 long horizontal wood sections. I used a jigsaw and I could get a good close cut to each vertical block.
Note: save some off cuts for later!
Step 4: Nail Pullin' Time :s
Ok, here comes some tough work. When pallets are put together they are designed not to come apart. Their nails are long thread screw nails as I discovered and can be a pain to pull out. Fortunately all the nails you’ll be removing will be hidden, so any small damage around those sections doesn’t matter. Remove all the top nails of your bottom pallet so each middle block and the centre block can be removed. Leave the corner blocks.
Hint: If the nail head was hidden I used a hammer, screwdriver or a cold chisel to get under the wood a bit so I had enough room to grip the nail with my nail removers. It will take some leveraging, but they will come out.
Step 5: Clean Those Blocks Up!
Once you have done those nails. Flip the bottom pallet over and remove the nails for the 4 bits of wood attached to the bottom of the blocks. This is where you may need wood glue, if a major crack comes, glue it fast by prying the crack open slightly, shove the glue in and then clamp it hard. Most wood glues dry in about 30 minutes.
Step 6: Secure the Loose Plank!
You’ll notice that the centre board has now become loose as well after all this nail pulling. Grab it and your 3 short nails/screws and put it back in place by nailing it from the top side down. Make sure the nail/screw length does not go and pock out of the underside.
Step 7: Make Those Holes Larger!
Ok, Now grab your hole saw kit. Use a hole saw that will fit around your washer. Flip the bottom pallet over and drill some holes around your already drilled brace and bit holes. Drill some holes that are deep enough to recess your washer and nut. Once you have done this, grab the chisel and hammer and chip away that useless wood to create your hole.
Step 8: Make an Off Cut Hole Puncher :)
Grab some of those off cuts from step 3. Use your hole saw to put a hole right through one of the off cuts. Do this by lining up 3 bits of off cuts and you don’t want to accidently cut through the top one and cut into whatever you’re lying it on. Ok, now you have a piece of off cut with a hole in it.
Step 9: Hole Saw Time Again!
On your top pallet. Line up the off cut with each brace and bit hole. Create a marking by drilling through the off cut hole into your top pallet. Now you have your markings for each hole that will be created. Remove the off-cut and then continue drilling, ever so slowly downwards until your hole saw starts moving freely. This means you have removed just the top piece of wood for each hole and that is all you should need to drill to recess your washer and nut. This also means no chiselling and a much nicer, smoother and straight looking hole than the ones on the bottom! Check out the photo!
Note: If you go too far down with some hole saw kits, you will in fact not only start drilling into the pallet block, but also run the risk of marking the top pallet. Avoid this!
Step 10: Sand and Sand and Sand and Sand.....
Now the fun part. Grab your sander and block and sand paper. Sand every single section and careful of nails that might hurt your sander! Sand down all the planks of wood and blocks, with the sander. Now “chamfer” bevel edge (wiki it) every straight edge. Except for that top pallet, just bevel the outside edges. This gives the top a more straight lined look.
Note: Pretty much think, if I’m about the grab something from the shelf of the finished product I don’t want a splinter, nor does your child or your niece in my case. So try getting all the rough stuff out. Minor stuff, don’t worry too much if you are using a polyester or polyurethane coat as this will glue some of it down as well.
Hint: For hard to reach places, use the sand paper and block, or even just fold the sand paper to really hard to reach places.
Hint: Any short bits of wood that come off, don’t worry about gluing them. Rip them off and smooth out that section with the sand paper. Remember it’s an industrial design, so doesn’t have to be perfect, character is good!
Step 11: Coat Your Pallets!
The sanding all done? Ok lay out your pallets in a spot that is well ventilated. Coat every single section with the polyester top side and bottom side. Take care around the top side saw hole points, as you want an even coat around and in them. Then allow the coat to dry.
Note: I used a “satin” coat, which means, not really a high gloss or shine. But by all means, pick the coat that you think will best suit your interior. I also used polyester as it will fill every wood grain and help glue the splinters I missed down. Polyurethane will do the same job.
Step 12: More Coating :s
Repeat step 11 one to three times, depending on what kind of coat you’re looking for and how dense you want the coat.
Step 13: The Beginning of the End! :O
Now the only critical steps, hopefully all your brace and bit holes line up! Stack all your pallets. Grab the 5/8 running thread and place it next to your pallets, mark on the running thread the length you will need to cut off with your angle grinder. Remember you will need to recess the thread into both the bottom and top pallets.
Step 14: Stack Em Up and Hammer It Down!
Stack up your pallets top to bottom. Place a thread into each hole, with the cut section going downwards, and grab a hammer and start slowly hammering them downwards into the holes. Any time you hit something just slightly lift up the pallet and guide the thread into the next pallet’s hole.
Step 15: Recess Those Bearings!
Now all the threads are at the bottom, put one washer and a nut on each of the threading at the top. Tighten each nut and just make sure all of the nut, washer and thread are recessed into the wood.
Note: We are tightening the top first as when you tighten the bottom the thread is going to be pulled down through the wood, it’s easier to tighten last at the bottom to get an even top.
Step 16: Bottom Recession :(
Turn all the pallets over, you might need some help now with all the weight. Repeat step 15 with the bottom holes and again, make sure everything is recessed into the holes.
Step 17: Take a Breath!
Stand back and admire your creation so far, not long to go now.
Step 18: Secure That Plank!
Grab the two long screws. Drill them into the middle board, that was previously loose, at the bottom to secure it into the blocks above, so make sure you have a couple of screws long enough. One screw on each end should suffice. As there are 3 short nails going downwards already, this step isn't so necessary. I was just cautious about some need to have the bottom pallet joined to the top a bit more.
Note: The screws I used, I ended up drilling holes to get them in easier. Use a drill bit that is thinner than the screw you are using. I also ended up drilling it in half way and then screwing it in by hand as the drill was kicking a bit too much for me.
Note: Don't over tighten the screws, you can destroy the hole you've created for them and therefore create loose screws in the spot!
Step 19: Get the Wheels on :)
Place all the caster wheels on the blocks. Grab your ruler and see if you can align them as best you can so that each wheel shall be sitting in the same area in each corner. Drill holes with a drill bit that is one size smaller than your screw and then screw your screws in. Do one hole and one screw at a time, I also was taught to do one and then do a diagonally opposite corner and then the rest.
Note: I had one that needed to be slightly over the recessed hole. I put this screw in slightly diagonally, to still utilising enough wood to secure that spot.
Note: Don't over tighten the screws, you can destroy the hole you've created for them and therefore create loose screws in the spot!
Step 20: Wow, It Is Now Finished! :)
With some help, flip over the newly created industrial coffee table and admire it. Now figure out where it should go, well done!
Extra note: I’m still flipping up whether or not to get a sheet of glass for the table. If I go to a glazier, I could get a custom job and all corners nicely done to the size of the top and the sides bevelled. Alternatively I’ve also found that large hardware stores (ie, Bunning’s in Australia, or say Home Depot in the US) sell pool fencing glass (~$70 in Australia) that is exactly 120cm by 80cm and is bevelled.