As anyone who owns a pellet stove or purchases bulk quantities of animal feed will tell you, pallets have a tendency to stack up... literally. You can give them away, or if you spend a lot of time on Instructables and Pinterest you can usually find a great, crafty idea for them. In this instructable I will describe how to break down some old pallets into a more utilitarian product - a storage chest.
Step 1: Choosing Your Pallets
There are many, many pallet varieties out there, but I found that the block pallet on the right (with perimeter base) yielded the most useful wood.
Here are some great things about this pallet:
- Its top deck had no gaps and yielded 11 useable boards.
- The stringers and bottom deck boards yielded another 6 pieces of wood.
- These all varied in width from 1.75" to 2.5" with a maximum length of 47" and a thickness of 3/4".
The stringer pallet on the left was useful mostly for its 3 stringers. It yielded about fourteen 5/8" thick boards, from the top and bottom decks but most of them were split or broke when separating them from the stringers
The storage bench we will be constructing will use:
- All of the block pallet materials (about 14-15 boards in total).
- The stringers of the stringer pallet.
- 4-5 deck boards from the stringer pallet.
- 4-5 deck boards from a 3rd block pallet (though you could probably collect all of the necessary materials from two block pallets if you don't mind slightly thinner stringers).
The bench built in this example has finished dimensions of 18"x17.5"x47". Depending on your available materials and your preferences you may have slightly differing dimensions.
Step 2: Choose Your Tools.
For this project you will need:
- Safety Glasses
- Ear Plugs
- Circular saw
- Measuring Tape
- Drill w/ 1/8" bit
- Impact Driver w/ phillips head bit
- Coping saw or jigsaw
- Carpenter Square
- Carpenter Pencil
- 1&1/2" wood or decking screws
- 1" wood or decking screws
- Wood clamps
If you have to deconstruct your pallets first, you will need additionally:
- Pry Bar
- Framing hammer
- Container for pulled nails.
Step 3: Deconstruct Your Pallets
Note: If you have deconstructed material available already you may skip this segment.
Using the hammer and pry bar, separate the boards from the pallet frames. Start with the top decks and work your way from one end to the other, being very careful to avoid splitting any of the boards. Pallet nails have spiral shanks and do not come out easily and you may end up pulling the nail heads through several boards when removing them from the stringer pallet.
The block pallet in this example had common nails, so removing the wood is as simple as using the pry bar to leverage the gaps in the material until separation.
Once you have removed the boards, tap the tips of the nails with your hammer to back them out and used the pry bar to fully remove them. The old nails went go into a container for disposal. The boards are separated by size into different piles.
Step 4: Create the Framework for the Chest
Measure and cut the three stringers from your reclaimed pallet to create the frame work for the bottom and sides of your chest. Be mindful of the thickness to be added to the bottom and top later.
The stringer pieces with the notches that make up the vertical frame ribs are 16.5" in length. The cross member that makes up the base is 16" in length. This allows you to get two pieces out of a single stringer or board.
Save your longer scrap pieces. They will be used later.
Butt the two vertical frame ribs to the ends of the base rib, using the images for reference. Drill two 1/8" pilot holes and then screw the pieces together.
Repeat this step two more times to make a total of three frame rib assemblies.
Step 5: Face the Frames
Building the chest faces using the reclaimed top deck boards from the block pallet is a matter of combining the different widths of boards to create front and back faces with the appropriate heights and then screwing them in place.
Note: The front of the chest in this example was 17.25" high while the rear was 18". This allows for a lip in order to add hinges if desired. You may have to adjust the spacing between the boards to achieve the desired heights.
Note: The front and back faces were not cut in any way. Their full 47" length was utilized.
To start lay a board face down and measure 3/4" in from the outer edge on both sides. The outside edge of the frame will stop here so when the side panels are installed you will have a relatively neat butted corner.
Center the middle frame assembly between the outer frame assemblies. They can be spaced blindly at first, but be sure to line up the two outer frame assemblies with the lines you previously drew on the back side of your face board before you fasten them pieces together.
Tip: The original nail holes are a good reference point, and provide ready made pilot holes.
Once the front and back are complete, cut the remaining boards into 16' long pieces and attach them to the sides. The sides in the example were 17.25" high as built.
Step 6: Install the Bottom
Using the thinner 5/6" decking material from the stringer pallet, lay the boards down in the bottom of your chest. There will be gaps at the front and back at first. Scribe where the board touches the frames and notch them out using the coping or jig saw. This will eliminate the large gaps and allow the bottom of the box to be sealed if desired.
Use 1" screws to fasten the boards in place.
Step 7: Build and Place the Lid.
Construction of the lid is fairly simple, but the measurements can be tricky. As shown in the second image, there are 3 cross brace pieces that hold the 5 top boards together. These three cross members are the same 3/4" material that the base ribs are made out of.
Cut the block pallet decking boards to 15&7/8". You should be able to get two from a single board, and make up the third using saved scrap. (You did save your scrap didn't you?)
Utilizing the same method as you used in step 5 lay your boards face down and measure a strong 3/4" in from the outer edges on both sides. This will allow the lid to fit snugly into the rest of the chest, preventing it from sliding off.
Measure a reference point to the middle frame and transfer this to the lid boards. Use clamps to hold everything in place while you flip it over to fasten, otherwise you will need to ensure you can keep everything in the correct locations while assembling the lid.
Tip: Use the 1&1/2" screws to fasten the lid to the cross braces, the 1" screws are too short unless they are countersunk.
When the lid is assembled you can place your bench wherever you want it.
Step 8: Bring in Inside and Fill It With Stuff!
I immediately found the perfect use for my bench chest in the entry hallway to the house. This chest is now where all of our winter footwear is kept and at 18" tall it's the same height as a kitchen chair so it's easy for the children to sit on while they tie their shoes.
I'm not going to paint or sand this chest. I like the aged pallet wood look, and with the plaid blanket my fiancee threw over it for a cushion, it has a certain rustic charm.
Please leave feedback in the comments. I'd love to hear about your experiences or other ways to build.
Thanks for reading!