Instructables
Picture of One-Pallet Chair
pallet chair side.png
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This Adirondack chair was built from just one pallet!
Download the Google SketchUp model here.

Here's how to make splendid material-efficient pallet furniture:

1. Scavenge:
Pallets are everywhere. Some are in great conditions and some have a couple of broken beams. Some are free and some cost a couple of bucks. Look for the cheapest pallet which you can use the most lumber from. Also, see if you can get one that has some (thicker) beams that are strong enough to provide support in the furniture.

2. Dismantle
Deconstructing a pallet is tricky. It' s almost inevitable to break a few beams, so be careful. Here are some tips and tricks on how to do it.

3. Measure
Group the beams into similar thicknesses, widths and lengths. Then measure the different beam sizes.

4. Model (CAD)
Use the measurements to draw the beams in Google SketchUp . Move, rotate and cut the virtual beams so they give shape to your furniture. Rember from which beam each part in the furniture came from. Don't use more 'material' than you have! If you have trouble with finding the right proportions and measurments, you can use existing furniture models from the 3D Warehouse as reference for your own pallet furniture. Remember to keep the design simple, so that the transistion between the digital model and the actual furniture is less troublesome.

5. Build
Measure the lengths (and widths and angels if necessary) of every beam in SketchUp. Then cut the corresponding 'physical' beams to size. Now combine all parts and, once again, refer to the SketchUp model to do so. I predrilled holes and used scews to keep everything together.

Have fun!
sincarnato1 year ago
The comment below mentions how "incredibly difficult" it is to dismantle pallets. Pay no mind to this, as it's VERY EASY to dismantle a pallet, given you have the right tools. A Reciprocating saw (Sawzall) with a good long wood/nail blade ran along the stringer (Sides of the pallet, parallel with the deck board slats across it) on it will make very short work of the pallets with minimal waste. a good blade will cut through nails and wood indiscriminately and leave you with a good amount of quality wood.
pfred2 sincarnato4 months ago

I've tried using a reciprocating saw with pallets and do not like it. A Sawzall, I actually have a Porter Cable Tiger saw, it is comparable to the Super Sawzall, but I like it a bit nicer than the Milwaukee brand, can catch, and split boards cutting up pallets. Plus when you've still both sides of a pallet intact the blade is running in a confined area so it could bottom out on the other side of the pallet. That is extremely unpleasant and can cause damage to wood, and the saw blade as well. I much prefer using a circular saw. I find a circular saw to cut cleaner, faster, and easier. I set my depth of cut to just go through the deck boards, and I try not to hit any nails. I also do not use my best circular saw blade when I am chopping pallets up either. I have some bargain basement 24 tooth carbide tipped blades I usually use. A pack of 3 costs $10? Something like that. One is Dalak brand so whenever I break it out I always say, Death to the Dalak! But it keeps on coming back for more.

Maybe my circular saw method is a bit more dangerous than using a Sawzall but I've never had a problem personally. I don't use my best circular saw either, I use an old beat to death Craftsman circular saw, and it wasn't the most powerful circular saw when it was new. But it is really light, and easy to maneuver.

Scott_Tx3 years ago
I hear you can get some exotic woods from pallets depending on where they were shipped from. Always a pita to get apart though.
casvandegoor (author)  Scott_Tx3 years ago
Does that mean that the quality of the wood is better as well? I find that most pallet wood is relatively weak. A challenge to deconstruct indeed, but fun to work with!
Lets say you have $50,000 worth of merchandise you need to palletize and ship are you really going to put it on lousy wood? I've made a lot of stuff out of pallets and have seen some really nice wood in the course of it.

http://img217.imageshack.us/img217/7693/sb1001.jpg

http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/5301/eb33020.jpg

http://img40.imageshack.us/img40/9900/sb003.jpg

http://img34.imageshack.us/img34/5051/sb007.jpg

http://img403.imageshack.us/img403/7002/sb001t.jpg

http://img193.imageshack.us/img193/6417/cd001.jpg

http://img257.imageshack.us/img257/6286/p3050002.jpg

http://img828.imageshack.us/img828/4908/p8160142.jpg

http://img29.imageshack.us/img29/4565/trunk006.jpg

http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/331/p9230007.jpg

http://img191.imageshack.us/img191/7203/wel002.jpg

http://img101.imageshack.us/img101/8160/trunk008.jpg

http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/2429/sb004.jpg

http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/5704/cnp4006.jpg

http://img249.imageshack.us/img249/8023/cnp3005.jpg

http://img214.imageshack.us/img214/6094/f021004.jpg

http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/6756/4c002.jpg

http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/9490/trel002.jpg

http://img208.imageshack.us/img208/5122/f021002.jpg

Just some of the stuff I've made out of pallets. Usually when I tell people I made this or that out of pallet wood they look at me a little funny as if they don't believe me. But trust me all of the stuff in that list of pictures was made out of pallet wood. I buy wood too for some projects but not any of that.
LadyMZih pfred25 months ago

You, Sir, are a magician with pallet use.

Lousy wood? What you consider "lousy wood" can be just as strong and suitable for shipping expensive items as premium wood. Practically every pallet I pick up is pine or oak and carried some very expensive items with no problems. Premium wood breaks just as easily as lousy wood when it carries heavy loads and and endures a few forklifts. And shippers in other countries have a completely different idea of what lousy wood and premium wood is. What you would call premium grows like a weed in their area.
casvandegoor (author)  pfred23 years ago
Looks lovely! The wood looks of much higher quality than the wood used in my chair. I would like to get my hands on some of those pallets!
None of them looked particularly special until I had planed them down and finished them. So that is the secret.

http://i.imgur.com/WOjws.jpg
Just something I've read somewhere. Teak, mahogany, etc. All I get around here is pine of course.
pfred2 Scott_Tx3 years ago
Shop behind higher end establishments :)
You have strange ideas on pallet wood. "Higher end establishments" have the same pallets made out of the same common woods as a Dollar General or Walmart.
burn3171 year ago
sincarnato is right. The right tool makes all the difference. Had someone from craigslist put one of these together for me, $25 http://www.instructables.com/id/Pallet-Breaker/ got the shaft for the handle 8" to give better leverage and the feet are 4". Takes maybe 10 minutes a pallet to tear down.
yoshhash3 years ago
great looking chairs, but I hope everyone realizes how incredibly difficult it is to dismantle pallets- I find it next to impossible to avoid destroying most of the wood, most times it is almost better to leave some of the nails, pounding them in instead of removing them. I would really love to see pallet manufacturers design a "deconstructability" into them.
And to others who were inquiring, yes, there is a huge difference in quality. I've seen everything from high grade hardwood to cardboard/plastic.
Many pallet manufacturers/users retain ownership of their pallets and don't want people pulling them apart. Just like milk crates. However, they are an excellent source of building materials.
The only pallets I've ever heard anyone ever wants back are certain 4 foot ones. They have a $5 deposit on them. Other than that every other pallet is about as owned as cardboard boxes are.
casvandegoor (author)  yoshhash3 years ago
Thanks for you comment! I agree that it’s difficult to dismantle pallets, but I don’t think it's almost impossible to avoid destroying all of the wood. It takes skill to do it right. Try different techniques, be careful and be patient.

Of course it also depends on the pallet you are taking apart. The pallet from which this chair was built was pretty tricky to deconstruct, as the wood was very fissile and the nails were long (3.15 and 2,56 inch) and had spot-welded hooks on them. Despite of that, most of the wood was preserved. Though, some beams were damaged and some were completely destroyed.

The advantage of the procedure described in this instructable is that you adapt your design to the materials that you have; you don’t adapt the materials to your design. This means that you can implement the damaged beams in the design as well. In fact, my chair contains quite a few damaged parts.
This type of pallet which I call riser block can be a pain but having torn so many pallets up using pallet jacks on them an idea came to me to use my porta power hydraulic ram on them. They fly right apart!
porta.jpg
lmarkussen12 years ago
Thanks for sharing the instructions for the pallet chair. I was wondering if you or any body else know a fine DIY chair for indoor use? Both a chair where you sit upright - for dining - and a sofa? I really like the pallet idea but it is maybe too rough in its 'expression' (makes sence?). Maybe if I sand it it or give it some cool colurs it will work fine indoor? I hope you can give med tips etc.
I am not able to download from the site. why? i could really use these plans. lots of pallets and hope to use them to get them off the property. thanks great site.
casvandegoor (author)  myclickclickaway2 years ago
My instructable gives just general infomation on how to build pallet furniture and is only one page in length. Can you see that text? If you can't, please give me your e-mail adress. I will then send you a the instructions. Have a nice day!
Where did you find that cool "Comic Book" style instruction layout? Look's awesome, excellent work! I've made a couple chairs (pics on my profile) from scrap 2x4's while in Afghanistan, it's a small luxury that makes life a little easier.
casvandegoor (author)  BlackJackByte2 years ago
I made the layout in Photoshop. I'm glad you like it! Your chairs look great! Thanks for sharing.
skiedra3 years ago
OMG, I have 2 pallets sitting outside my garage. I was saving for a set of garden chairs for a lazy Sunday morning. I guess this instructable solves it! THANKS!
casvandegoor (author)  skiedra3 years ago
haha, good luck and have fun!
mankatoan3 years ago
Use a Sawzall to cut the nails and then punch the heads out of the planks. May be a little more work but leaves a lot more undamaged wood
Depends on the style pallet I am tearing up but common stringer types I use a circular saw and just cut the ends off. Then I made a fork to knock the boards up with. Wedge it in there and hit the top end down with a hammer. I'll include a picture of it and a bench I made out of pallet wood. Not sure how many pallets of wood i used might have been just one.
Stringer_Buster.jpgcNP-001.jpg
casvandegoor (author)  pfred23 years ago
Nice! Thanks for sharing!
casvandegoor (author)  mankatoan3 years ago
Good advice! Thanks!
moosetooth3 years ago
http://www.instructables.com/id/Pallet-reclamation-bar/
absolutely brilliant. thx for sharing.
casvandegoor (author)  moosetooth3 years ago
That seems a very useful tool for taking pallets apart. Thanks for sharing!
hardwood pallets are more common coming from areas that ship metal billets and the like such as aluminum. In Kitimat - Northern coast of BC, Canada I would see pallets constructed of oak and maple, sometimes even cherry wood oddly enough. And, I'm talking 4"x4"x5' lengths of cherry wood, My mother in law got almost a cords worth of this, crazy...
I read someplace that 54% of US hardwood production goes into making shipping pallets. That is more than half!
casvandegoor (author)  iminthebathroom3 years ago
Nice, thanks!
PM19693 years ago
I have found that piano stores have hard wood pallets. They need the stronger wood during shipping of the pianos.
casvandegoor (author)  PM19693 years ago
Interesting, thank you!