Introduction: Pallet Trunk

Picture of Pallet Trunk

Now that i've got a decent sized room, I needed some furniture to fill it. Not only did I need some more storage space, I also needed a coffee table, so I thought, why not knock out two birds with one stone. Using some old pallets I was able to throw together this trunk using a design similar to a trunk my father owns. It's exactly what I was looking for.

In this instructable, I didn't include any measurements. I put out this instructable assuming that people will use measurements that suit their needs. I feel that i've provided sufficient pictures and instructions to allow for readers to figure out how to construct their own. Make sure that you look through the entire instructable before starting.

This is one of my first instructables, so let me know what could be improved upon. Excuse the mediocre photos, I don't have a very good camera. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Step 1: Materials/Tools

 - 2 Pallets (I got mine free from a construction site, just make sure you ask before you take)
 - Nails & Screws (You can use whatever you want, but i used 1 1/2" and 2" finish nails and 1" dry wall screws)
 - Scrap piece of plywood

 - Table Saw
 - Chop Saw
 - Hammer
 - Power Drill
 - Reciprocating Saw

Step 2: Deconstruction

Picture of Deconstruction

First step is to deconstruct your pallets. I used a reciprocating saw to cut the nails that attach the 1x4's to the 2x4 supports. You could also use a crowbar to disassemble your pallet, but because my pallets had been sitting outside for several months the boards weren't sturdy enough to do this.  

Step 3: Creating the Frame

Picture of Creating the Frame

In this step we are going to create the frames of the trunk. Start by ripping three 1x4's right down the middle. Take two of these 1x2  pieces and cut them to the length of your desired trunk. Now take a third piece cut the two side supports for the frame, make sure to compensate for the fact that the longer pieces will be hanging over the ends of these two side pieces. Using finishing nails, nail your pieces together as seen in the picture above. This will create your base support. Build another, with identical dimensions and set aside for later.

Step 4: Side Panels

Picture of Side Panels

You will now want to take your 1x4's and cut them to the desired height. Using screws, attach these boards to your frame. I sided both ends before I did the front and back of the trunk. 

Step 5: Structure

Picture of Structure

Now pull out that second frame that you built earlier and do the same thing you did before but put this frame on the top edge. Should be able to figure this step out from the pictures.

Step 6: Corner Design

Picture of Corner Design

Once the frames are on take a 1x4 and cut it to fit between the frames, as seen in the pictures. I used finishing nails to attach them. You will also need a piece of ripped 1x4" which will cover up the overhang. Look at the notes on the pictures which will help explain a little more of this process.

Step 7: Edge Cover

Picture of Edge Cover

Now we're going to add an edge over the rough edges of the side panels. Take two ripped 1x4's and cut them to fit the long edges. Use finishing nails to attach them to trunk. Next cut ripped 1x4's to fit the sides. Nailing them in to stay.

Step 8: Trunk Bottom

Picture of Trunk Bottom

There are a couple ways to put a bottom on your trunk. I cut a piece of 3/4" plywood to fit and then used nails to hold it in. You could make a bottom similar to how you will make the top in the next step, but I wasn't planning on showing anyone the bottom of my trunk.

Step 9: Lid

Picture of Lid

Take 1x4's, I used 4, and cut them to the length of the trunk. Then cut 2 pieces of 1x4's to the width of the trunk and attach them on each end of the four boards. (this is a poor explanation but you should be able to figure it out from the pictures.

Step 10: Lining the Interior

Picture of Lining the Interior

You can line your trunk with quite a few things, or you could just leave it rough. I lined mine with couch upholstery. I cut out pieces for each side that overlapped the corners a little in order for the pieces to look nice. Once i had the sides done I cut the bottom piece to fit the bottom of the trunk perfectly and glued it in. I glued all of my scraps in with elmers spray glue, and then used a staple gun around the top edge to help prevent later sagging. My dad lined his trunk with ceder boards. It's up to you what you want to do, just remember that the heavier material you choose to line your trunk with the heavier it will be. 

Step 11: Hinges

Picture of Hinges

For hinges I wanted something with a rusty look to it. I found a cool old hinge but had to rust the screws myself. I used this site, and used the first recipe and got a really nice rust. You could also do this if you can't find any old hinges to use. 

If you want you can also add handles to your trunk, like the one seen in the last picture. It's up to you. I haven't added any to mine yet, because I have yet to find a pair I like. 

Now you're done. Put your trunk somewhere it can be enjoyed and fill it with all your extra junk. 


SusanC110 made it! (author)2017-02-13

Look what we made!!!! So excited! Thank you for the inspiration!

Sue & Doug

Lake Havasu City AZ

JamesT361 made it! (author)2017-01-28

Thanks a mill for this tutorial. I ended up making it in the end, then staining it then adding handles and a pair of hinges. So delighted that it worked out. Thanks again.

Leilahoward (author)2017-01-08

What was the measurements of the complete box?

CharlotteS39 made it! (author)2016-06-14

I haven't quite finished it yet. I have very little power tool knowledge so it was a pretty big project to tackle as my first one but I figured it out. Thank you for the idea and the pics. I'm happy with this

Desjen (author)2016-03-26

this looks fun. All y'all make this look so easy.. I'm very new to wood work and I can barely get a frame together. How long does it take to make something like this for most.

JeffM60 (author)2015-10-18

Thanks for your pallet trunk. That will make a great toy box for my kids

IanJ15 (author)2015-10-08

I've always just used spare pallets as scrap-wood or to keep tools etc. off of the ground in my garage. I like the idea of making it into a chest, but I would probably add a stain to mine. For those who know, should I stain the wood before I put the box together?
Samierbalonggong (author)2015-05-09

This is great woodworking project. I will to try it

My woodworking project

Poldpg (author)2015-05-05

What size screws did you use for this project thx

imthemaker made it! (author)2015-03-09

I saw this and was inspired to make something similar yesterday

yugogypsy (author)2014-09-13

Needed more pallets than the instructions call for if you make it bigger, which we did because I needed a larger trunk, lined it with brown paper and it looks great

Degga_D (author)2014-08-09

seriously like this project. One of the best looking pallet projects I have seen. Defo gonna give it a go when I've next got some time off

antioch (author)2014-04-11

Yes, it seems it's called a wire wheel brush in English (don't take the knotted ones though, they are too invasive).

And here's some methods to artificially "age" wood, some of them are actually very nice although personally I prefer not to use commercial stains or any chemicals.

alzathoth (author)2013-10-17

you could even 'clean up' the board before assembly by running them through a planer. use a jointer on the edges, add glue and clamp them together for a more solid, cleaner jointer/planer? just use a cheap palm sander. :) this is a great project.

antioch (author)alzathoth2014-03-15

I think he wanted to go for a rusted and used look.
Personally, I prefer to brush my pallet boards with a steel brush on my drill which works out the grain beautifully and deburrs at the same time.
This makes the look a bit less old and used but quite a bit more natural and "woody", especially after I have generously applied native olive oil.

blueangelical (author)2014-02-22

Oh and I made something like this to dismantle my pallets "" it was easy to make and works like a charm.

blueangelical (author)2014-02-22

I love this and I've spent all day prepping my wooden pallets, but having gone through the instructables again and again, I have a question. Isn't the whole box just held together by the 4 screws that hold the bottom band of 1x2 and the 4 screws that hold the top band of 1x2 wood, both just one each on the corners. Is this actually enough to hold it together? If a piece of say 2x2 was put down in each corner and the sides screwed to it, wouldn't that make it stronger or is the box strong enough as is..? Cheers.

SacredDemon (author)2013-05-03

Also even if they ARE sturdy pallets are a challenge to pry apart, Trust me i've been trying haha

SacredDemon (author)SacredDemon2013-05-10

Edit: Found out the wonders of a metal cutting blade on a sawzall!

Meadman83 (author)2012-12-26

When my wife and I lived in northern Illinois (until recently), a local machine shop would leave pallets out by the end of their parking lot with a free firewood sign on them.

Most of what we took heated the house, but occasionally some really nice wood emerged from the pile. Even got a couple of pallets made from black walnut.

Meadman83 (author)Meadman832012-12-26

Sorry, I liked the article, too. :)

Your trunk reminds me very much of the only thing my dad ever built for me, a toy chest out of pallet wood, which my great nephew now has for his toys.

Edgar (author)2012-10-31

That's a great idea for outdoors storage, too! Just paint it and weatherize it, and make it stackable, with side lids, and a part of your backyard turns into a wharehouse.

Edgar (author)Edgar2012-10-31

Your Idea is divulged, here, on my Gizmo Blog:

VonyB (author)2012-10-23

Hey quick (and possibly silly) question: when you said you attached the base using nails, where did you nail it in? I'm totally new to DIY, and can't see how you've nailed in the base!

ProRock (author)VonyB2012-10-23

Yeah, it's kindof hard to see, but i used nails around the bottom edge of the trunk. They went through the trim and the slats into the plywood. Make sure your nails are pretty long, otherwise you won't get much stability.

tecc501 (author)2012-08-30

thanks for a great instructable! your creativity on this is great. i used some pallet wood to make a box quite like yours but different.
thanks again

danzo321 (author)2012-07-24

It is considered a bad idea to nail or screw into the edgegrain of plywood, which we are both stumbling into here. Gluing is fine.

danzo321 (author)2012-07-22

Thinking.. If you had cut bottom as soon as you made the rectangles, you could have put it in place at bottom and upright side pieces could have sat on it, maybe a more elegant construction. I might have used slats for bottom but it would leak whatever.

ProRock (author)danzo3212012-07-24

I see what you mean. That would work for sure. I lined the interior of mine so you can't see the bottom from the inside, and I wasn't planning on people seeing the bottom very often, which is why I did mine this way.
The only drawback of your idea would be that the side slats wouldn't be as sturdy when screwed into the rectangle around the bottom. But I'm sure that you could combat this problem pretty easily.

Ninzerbean (author)2012-07-24

Thank you ever so much for sharing this, it is really great.

maxman (author)2012-07-23

Very nice. You could sell those.

outdooradventureman (author)2012-07-23

I have built a few of these. You can make them look really nice with the right type of wood from the pallet. I always use the hardwood boards, but if you take it slow you can make a blade and a saw last a long time. If you dont sand it watch out for splinters.

BigPeteCT (author)2012-07-23

Way to go, if this means anything, you get a "Green Star". This is making use of what would go ina landfill, and two creating something both useful and beautiful. WAY TO GO!,


colin37 (author)2012-07-22

I like that. Please could some one tell me what is a reciprocating saw? (used to cut the mails).

ProRock (author)colin372012-07-22

You might know it as a sawzall. Here is the wikipedia page

redknight1971 (author)2012-07-22

I love this idea.

Eh Lie Us! (author)2012-07-22

Right on, Donkey Kong! Great instructable. I like how you attached the wood screws from the inside. Very clean look. The rusty hinges are a great touch! From the outside the trunk looks like it's decades old. Might want to explain to people that might not know what 'ripping' wood is. What's your take on what some are saying that pallets are unsafe and toxic? I'm a big fan of reusing wood but I'd be curious to know what you think.

ProRock (author)Eh Lie Us!2012-07-22

I didn't really think about that when I started my project. But I'm not to worried about it anyway due to the fact that the pallets that I used were very old and had been sitting outside in the weather for quite a few months. They also didn't have any markings on them saying that they had been treated.
I noticed some other instructables that talked about disassembling pallets and what to look for. They did talk about some pallets being treated so that they last longer. If that is something your worried about, check out this instructable

jtmcdole (author)2012-07-22

I think this looks awesome and is a great use for reclaimed wood! I wish I had used some of my scrap hardwood flooring to try out this idea. Thanks for sharing!

dkiehl (author)jtmcdole2012-07-22

That is a great idea... I just used my last remaining hardwood flooring at my daughters Condo. Oh well something to start looking for on Craigslist

ProRock (author)dkiehl2012-07-22

There's always people on craigslist getting rid of pallets. I've been looking for some more on there and have had many choices to choose from.

steelchef (author)2012-07-22

Looks like a nice, simple way to make use of old pallets. But: CAUTION ! If you attempt ths or any other project using pallets be aware that many of them are hardwood and will ruin a saw blade, even burn out a motor in no time. Carbide blades are not immune. Unless you have an industrial strength table saw, approach any hardwood with a very slow feed speed. Do not allow the RPM to drop too much or for too long. Change blades if you smell smoke o see scorching on the cuts.
Personal experience! Cost me $300 for a new table saw. :(

kleinjahr (author)2012-07-22

Not bad at all, nicely done.
For the top, you might consider using an odd number of boards ie: five rather than four. For some reason it just looks more aesthetically pleasing.

Takelababy (author)2012-07-21

Add a couple of big cushions and voila - extra seating.

ProRock (author)Takelababy2012-07-21

I never thought about it like that, but in a pinch it would work great.

l8nite (author)2012-07-20

very rustic looking trunk, I love it ! Thank you for sharing

cerene (author)2012-07-20

Really love it!

jessyratfink (author)2012-07-20

Best use of a pallet I've seen so far! I've been wanting a trunk to put my sewing/craft things in, and this looks perfect.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a college student who enjoys working on projects and living the college life.
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