Introduction: Pallet Wood Bench and Gabion Table

Picture of Pallet Wood Bench and Gabion Table

Green design gives us the opportunity to be extra creative. When materials or objects have served their original purpose, and are put in the category of "waste" (what an absurd concept anyway!), we give them new life by uncover their potential and beauty, and celebrate them in new ways.

These benches and table are made from reclaimed pallet wood, a metal storage shelving unit that's no longer needed, and a material that's locally abundant - beach pebbles. They are a fun blend of rustic wood, fresh colors, simple clean lines, and a touch of industrial gabion.

If you are wondering what's 'gabion', here's a good definition from wikipedia : "A gabion is a cage, cylinder, or box filled with rocks, concrete, or sometimes sand and soil for use in civil engineering, road building, and military applications."

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

Tools and materials:

  • Pallets, and tools to dissemble pallet. Our favorite method is with this tool - a Duckbill Deck Wrecker we got on Amazon. This tool lifts those boards easily, and you can take out the nails with a hammer.
  • wood glue and clamps

  • Kreg pocket hole jig and screws (you are not going to tell my woodworking teacher who taught me about joinery, are you?)

  • Circular saw or jig saw. We also made a cross-cut jig, see Step 3. (If you have a table saw, great!)

  • Sanding pad or power sander

  • acrylic paint or other type of water proof paint

  • Tung oil and citrus solvent finish, furniture wax - recipe to follow

When selecting pallets, look for the HT stamp, which means the pallet is heat treated instead of chemical treated. We used a deck wrecker to lift up the boards, then used a hammer to take out the nails. There are many other ways to disassemble pallets which you can find on instructables, youtube, etc.

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design

When designing these pieces, there are 2 main limitations to consider:

The beauty as well as the challenge of pallet wood lies in it's variations. They are quite different from finished wood sold in hardware stores. Although most boards on pallets are either 3.5" or 5.5" wide, the thickness can vary from 0.5" to 0.8".

The other limitation is tools. I am spoiled in my woodworking class with amazing shop tools. But I want to make these with very simple tools that most people with limited space can have, which means no surfacer, jointer, router, band saw, or table saw (sob!).

These diagrams show the basic structures and assembly of the benches and table. There are certainly other ways to build these and feel free to adjust them according to the wood sizes you have.

The hollow post that the table fit into will be secured inside the gabion. Because the gabion cage in this case is 15"x15"x15", the post needs to be a size that fits inside and still leave room for the pebbles / rocks, which are not just decorative, but more importantly - they contribute to a strong base.

Step 3: Build a Simple Cross Cut Jig

Picture of Build a Simple Cross Cut Jig

As you can see we need a lot of pieces of the same length. Even though pallet wood is quite irregular, we still want the cuts to be as clean and square as possible. This jig worked great.

This jig is made for our Makita circular saw, and cuts pieces under 1.5" thick. It very simple to make, but there are lot of considerations from blade cutting depth, to clearances on several parts of the saw when it slide along the guide. We had to trim and plane our jig a few times!

We used 1/4" and 1/2" plywood, and finished wood 1Xs to make the jig, after cutting the pieces using a straight edge guide which came with the circular saw, we glued the pieces together.

Please refer to the diagram which explains the design considerations for a jig that will work for your saw.

Step 4: Make Benches and Table

Picture of Make Benches and Table

For the bench and table top, select board of the same thickness. The sides can have more variations.

After all the pieces are cut and sanded, we painted the frames of the benches a lemon yellow to echo the gabion cage / metal shelving unit.

Next, drill pocket holes in the pieces the needs them, such as the bracing pieces under the table top and the bench top, and the frame around the table top.

To make the benches, the easier way would be to build the frame first with pocket hole screws, then glue or nail the side and top boards. But I somehow chose to do it the reversed order, only to learn a better way later!

To make the tabletop, arrange the measured and cut boards in a way that accentuate the varaitions of the pallet wood, attache back brace pieces with glue or nails, then attach the frame all around the 4 sides with pocket hole screws.

The base of the table slides into a hollow post stabilized by the metal cages filled with rock / pebbles. When making the base and the post, the most important thing to remember is that they should be the same height, and fit snugly. The dimensions shown in the diagram is adjustable depending on the size of your metal cage and the size of wood you are using. We made them with vertical boards joined together by horizontal braces, and pocket hole screws at right angles. There are about 2" to 3" of spacing all the way around between the cage and post for the pebbles.

And that took 50lbs of pebbles to fill!

Step 5: Non Toxic Finishes

Picture of Non Toxic Finishes

Before attaching the base to the tabletop, we applied wood finishing since it's easier. The finishing oil recipe we used here is from realmilkpaint.com, a 50% tung oil + 50% citrus solvent, to help the oil seep into the wood better. Now they offer this already mixed.

After applying a coat of this finish and let it cure for a day, repeat this process 2 more times. In my woodworking class we used a 'slurry method' where we sand with 220 -400 grit sand paper and create a oil-fine saw dust slurry mixture, which fill in the pores of the wood and create a marble like finish after doing it daily for 7 days.

We did not do it here, not that we are lazy ( well, hmm), but because we kept a lot of the surface character of the pallet wood. So we just wiped on the finish with a rag. Woohoo no long hours of sanding!

After the oil cures for a week, we applied a finishing wax, recipe from Amber Dusick. Melt 1 part beeswax to 4 parts olive oil in a double boiler, let cool, apply a generous amount onto the wood surface, and enjoy the delicious honey smell on your furniture!

There seems to be as many great wood workers as there are different recipes for wood finishes. You are welcome to share your favorites in the comment section!

Step 6: Assemble and Enjoy the Outdoors

Picture of Assemble and Enjoy the Outdoors

To assemble the table, collect some pebbles or rocks from your mountains and rivers nearby. We used beach pebbles, which make us think of the ocean.

And these chubby little pebbles weighed 50 lbs!

Center the hollow post inside the metal wire cage, fill pebbles all around the post to the top. Slide the table base inside the post. The pebbles heavy weight hold the post and table in place, and create a strong and sturdy base.

Now we can sit in the garden and enjoy a nice book outdoors accompanied by bird songs!

Comments

PDXHICKS (author)2014-07-02

Fantastic job on the furniture. I love how you used the gabion (rocks in the wire cage), a great idea to add needed ballast weight for the table while adding visual interest at the same time. Awesome job!

blissful2015 (author)PDXHICKS2014-07-02

thank you so much pdx! i can never have enough gabion! =)

Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2014-06-29

Such a beautifully designed table my dear friend. I loved how you have put rock pebbles to create the base. As usual , awesome work and details.

Oh and that touch of yellow is just so cool :).

so appreciate it dear tarun! =)

one of the things i love so much about india and many other cultures is the spontaneous use of colors, so free and artistic. here in the states, we tend to go 'neutral' ( i hear that in my design work often) on everything, and lose the magic color can bring to our environments lol!

I could not agree more about the colors my dear friend :). Very well said.

doodlecraft (author)2014-06-28

Awesome! Looks like the perfect summer morning hangout! :)

blissful2015 (author)doodlecraft2014-06-28

thank you so much natalie! =)

jmc75 (author)2014-06-28

nice work

blissful2015 (author)jmc752014-06-28

thank you! =)

MichałD (author)2015-07-12

thanks for inspiration

gavgav123 (author)2015-05-19

i love the table and chairs and wondered if any 1 know where to get the wire mech and corner caps from in the uk thanks

james.r.masters.9 (author)2015-03-08

Very nice project. I also love the stone base. My one suggestion would be to just screw the chair frame together(yellow). Since the screws will be covered by the planking. Thus eliminating the need for a pocket screw jig.

thank you for such a great suggestion james! =)

ClenseYourPallet (author)2015-02-11

The square seats on this are so cool!! You did a fantastic job!!

wow you make gorgeous stuff! thank you! =)

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

This is so nice,-

Thank you;

Rima

blissful2015 (author)SparkySolar2014-10-21

thank you so much rima! =)

blatantimage (author)2014-07-01

Nice job. I would however, recommend against the olive oil in the recipe.

Olive oil has a tendency to turn rancid, especially once the citrus has soaked in. I'd recommend linseed oil, tung oil (pure, not the "tung oil 'finish' "), or even use a good turpentine (which will draw the wax into the wood).

thank you so much for sharing! =)

brycekauai (author)2014-06-30

What kind of tool is that used to remove the pallets.

blissful2015 (author)brycekauai2014-06-30

it's a deck wrecker from amazon.

amekdala (author)2014-06-28

it is clearly the color makes it different,

awesome.

one more thing what is the software you use to draw in step 3?

blissful2015 (author)amekdala2014-06-29

thank you! =) i used sketchup for the 3d, then photoshop to do the notes.

jessyratfink (author)2014-06-28

What a beautiful set. Great job! :D

so honored you like them jessy! =)

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