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Purpose: Reuse scrap wood from a shipping pallet, to make something cool and useful

Tools: hammer, prybar or mallet, sawsall, orbital sander, pneumatic nail gun, table saw, table router, Photoshop, large plotter
Materials: old pallet, 3/16” foam core, hardware

Step 1: Disassembly

Sometimes it's the simplest tool you need, and a good old fashion hammer can do wonders.  Normally I would use a pry-bar, but since I was working inside with other people around I opted to go with a slightly less obnoxious method and use a rubber mallet.  The sawsall came in handy for cutting out unusable sections, but otherwise this was a straightforward process.

Step 2: Tips and Tricks

When dealing with reclaimed materials, and especially something that wasn't meant for longevity like this pallet, things will assuredly not go according to plan.  Reclamation is also different from demolition because you actually want to keep the materials.  That being said, some of the nails did not want to co-operate.  Periodically I would shear a nail head when pulling this pallet apart.

Number one: How do you get under a sheared nail head without gouging the wood?
Flip the lumber over and use another nail to tap the broken bit out!

Number two: How do you pull a long nail with no head?
Don't waste your time with pliers, just bend the nail over to the side!  Now you have some surface area to pull out normally.

I mainly wanted the slats and didn't plan on including the 2x4's in this project, so didn't worry about buried nails.  However, I might change my mind later, so I made sure to mark any remaining nails to avoid surprises.

Step 3: Frameable Art

While I was taking apart the pallet, I had plenty of time to think... primarily about what I was going to do with the lumber once I finished.  The bathrooms at our shop were looking a little bare, and the lumber would be a perfect size (without too many modifications) for making frames.  So what was I going to frame?

A few months ago I came across an awesome series that someone had done of x-rayed game controllers.  This little project became the perfect opportunity to apply the images, but they were only black and white.  I added a quick background using some of my Photoshop tricks.
  • Duplicate the background (ctrl+J) so that you can edit it without losing the original
  • “Select” > “Color Range”, click the white background and adjust the Fuzziness slider to the desired result.  Delete.
  • Add a new blank layer below the one you just edited
  • Pick a color, or in this case a gradient of two
  • Done.

Step 4: Building the Frame

“Just because it's made from garbage, doesn't mean it has to look like garbage.”  - wise professor

One of the main reasons I wanted to reuse a shipping pallet is because I love the aesthetic of rustic or industrial materials, especially when it plays off of clean technology (such as the art being framed).  However, that “rough around the edges” look still needs to be dressed properly.

The wood was trimmed and sanded, but I didn't try to hide the weathered texture or fully plane down the surfaces.  IMPORTANT NOTE: do not, under any circumstances run reclaimed lumber through shop equipment without being 100% sure that you've removed any and all metal bits.  If you are not certain, don't cut.  If you are certain, check again.  You will ruin your tools if you are not careful.

That caution in mind, I ran the lumber through the table saw and only removed ~1/16” from either side to ensure they were all the same width.  The miter saw got me the 45o corners, then pneumatic nail gun, and finally sanding to finish things off.

Step 5: Mounting

Since I wanted the frame and art to be independent and interchangeable, I built a channel on the back to slide the foam core in.  This was done with the table saw and table router, where I made sure my dimensions lined up with the frame itself.  I was then able to just use a scrap block to ensure the piece was straight and level without any fuss.

This channel also had enough clearance for mounting purposes, so it wasn't necessary to add braided wire before putting this on the wall.  That's it!  From junk to funk for free.

For more resources, tools, and training, head over to TechShop!

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Bio: Part man, part machine -- all awesome!
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