Introduction: Beginner Outdoor Pallet Side Table

About: Day time public servant who likes to create things

Hi Everyone,

This is my first Instructable, and really the first creation I have made entirely by myself. Over the past year, I have been learning a variety of trade skills and have been working on projects with those who know what they are doing. I decided that I would put some of my skills to the test, to see what I could do, without the supervision of others. Also wanted to note that I took Instructables' "Wood Working" class, which has helped develop my base of knowledge with wood working. Anyways, enough intro here is my Outdoor Pallet Side Table.

Edit: I started writing this Instructable two years ago. I have written it with a lot of detail that most may find to be too long and drawn out, hell, even confusing (hopefully not), but it was my idea to make a very very detailed Instructable for the most beginner level to try out a simple project. Happy to hear feedback in the comments.

Step 1: The Right Tools and Materials

First Step is to ensure you have the right tools and materials. I have listed all the tools and materials used for your reference. Quick note, I included the approximate price for each item (may be sale price), as this Instructable may be helpful for beginners. You do not need these exact tools, this is simply everything I used:

Health and Safety: ~$20

  1. Eye Protection Glasses - $3.00 (from dollar store)
  2. N95 Respirator Mask - $8.00
  3. Ear plugs - $5.00

Tools: ~$230

  1. Pencil - I'm sure you can find one lying around
  2. Clamps - $20 Multipack
  3. Speed Square - $25
  4. Measuring Tape - $20
  5. Prybar/crowbar/nail remover - $20
  6. Hammer - $10
  7. Drill/Driver - $50 (super on-sale)
  8. Drill/driver Bit - Recommended to buy a bit set ($25) that has the bit that matches your screw
  9. Circular Saw - $60

Materials: $20

  1. Wooden Pallets - Free! (I recommend you get more than one)
  2. 1 1/4'' Deck Screws - $10
  3. 1 1/2'' Deck Screws - $10

Step 2: Get Your Free Wood

The best things in life are free, but labour intensive. I picked up a couple skids from a local grocery store. Most of the time stores are trying to get rid of pallets. You simply need to just ask around. (Sorry about no pictures)

Disassembling the Pallet

There is no easy way to describe this step except to try prying off as many pieces of usable wood as possible. There is a high chance that you will break a couple pieces along the way (maybe more). Don't get frustrated (or try not to). The best practice is to just get more pallets than needed, as mentioned in the material section. Here are three strategies that I used depending on the piece I was trying to remove:

A. Pry pieces off:

Wedge your prybar under the wood where the nail or staple is located. Try and centre the pry bar where the nail is. If there is not enough room to slide your prybar between two pieces of wood, put the prybar against the gap and hit the opposite end with a hammer until you are under the wood enough to gain leverage.

Pry down on the wood just enough to get some movement. Try your best not to force too much as this may lead to the wood cracking. When you have some movement on one part of the wood, move to the middle nail and repeat the same steps until there is some movement. Apply this step to the last fastened point. Repeat steps as needed until you have your piece of wood free.

B. Remove nails or other fasteners:

Sometimes you will be fortunate enough that the nail or staple is protruding up from the wood so that you can pull it out with a nail remover. The nail may also be accessible from when you were prying the wood. This method is always the cleanest as it has the lowest chance of cracking the wood, and it will save you the step of removing the nails afterward (see Removing Nails).

C. Hammer pieces off:

If pulling doesn't work, try pushing! Take a scrap piece of wood and put it behind the piece of wood you are trying to pry off. From the back, hit the scrap piece of wood, while holding the base of the wood that the nail is secured to. This may loosen the wood enough to pry it, remove the nails, or completely detach the two pieces from each other.

Realistically, you will might be using all three of these methods, depending on the state of each board.

Removing nails:

If you used option A or C and there are still nails in your piece of wood, you can remove them by hammering the pointed side of the nail until it begins popping through on the other side. You can keep hitting the nail until it is completely out of the wood, or enough that the head pops out and you can use a nail remover to pull it out.

Step 3: Inventory of Pieces and Cutting

Take inventory of what wood you have to ensure you have enough materials to make a table. Below I will list what I had, but your inventory may vary depending on size, amount of wood, and how big you want the table to be.

  • 4 pieces to make the table top frame
  • 6 pieces for table top
  • 2 pieces that would provide 4 legs

With this, I was able to determine that I could have a 19 1/2'' x 19 1/2'' table that is 18 1/2'' high. For the table top measurements, I approximated it would be around 18''. This is the width of the table (19 1/2'') minus the thickness of the panels of the frame (each side 3/4 multiplied by 2 sides = 1 1/2''). However I did not do any table top cutting until the frame was assembled to ensure that any variations in measurement would be accommodated for in the building of the table top.

From here, I began cutting the materials for the frame. First cut from your table top frame two 19 1/2'' length pieces, and two 18'' pieces. Measure and mark the measurements on the wood, then draw a straight cutting line on your wood with the speed square.

Next, cut the materials for your legs.

Note: the pieces of wood that I had for the legs already came in the shape you see, therefore I can not instruct you on how to cut the legs so they curve out like the picture.

You will want to cut your legs at 17 3/4'', marking the wood after measuring and then drawing a straight cut line again with the speed square.

Step 4: Assembling Legs and Sides

Now that you have your first set of materials ready you can begin preliminary assembly.

Gather one of your legs and an 18'' piece of wood. I assembled it in a way where I had my rougher leg pieces in the back of the table so the nicer ones would be more visible up front, but that is up to you and depends on your wood quality. Just something to keep in mind.

On the side piece, measure down from the width of the wood 3/4'' and mark. This will be the space to leave between the top of the leg and the top edge of your side piece, allowing your table top sit within the frame of the table and be flush with the top edge of the side piece. You can go ahead and make this mark on each end of each side piece of wood. Adjust these measurement according to the thickness of your table top wood.

Line up your leg so the intruding bottom faces the long part of the 18'' piece. Ensure that the backing of the leg is flush with your side piece edge. Once your pieces are lined up, clamp the pieces to one another and align your speed square with the backing of the leg and the bottom of the side piece. I also clamped the width of the wood to prevent splitting, but you may be fine just pre-drilling the pieces before screwing. Using the driver, fire in two 1 1/2'' screws, one at the top of the sidepiece and one at the bottom. Repeat this step to attach the second leg.

Repeat the above set for your second side and second pair of legs.

Step 5: Attaching Sides to Create Frame

At this point, you should have two identical 18'' side pieces attached to two legs.

Take a 19 1/2'' side piece and line up perpendicular to the back of the leg so it is flush with the side piece.

Like the leg pieces, ensure the side piece is square with your leg and clamp in place. Fasten two 1 1/2" screws to the top and the bottom of the side piece. You may also want to put a screw in where the side pieces meet. Put a smaller 1 1/4" screw in to that area near the center to bring the corners together

Repeat this step until you have a free standing frame and legs for your table.

Step 6: Creating Table Top

Cutting and calculating:

Last step in this process is making the table top. As mentioned before, I did not pre-cut any table top pieces until the frame was assembled in the event there was any last minute variation in measurements.

For this step simply measure inside dimensions of the table frame. The inside of my frame dimensions were 18" x 18 1/4''. Ensure that the width of your wood, placed side by side, will fill the width of the frame dimensions. That will allow you to determine how many panels you need for your table top. For myself, I had to make a slight variation to one panel in order to get a snug fit for 6 approx 3'' wide panels. Feel free to get creative and modify your wood widths as you see fit.

Once you have your calculations for amount of panels needed, start cutting the length of your panels to the length of the inside of the frame. In my case, I ended up cutting 6 pieces at 18''.


Once your table top pieces are cut, you are ready for final assembly. First off, line up the panels as you think looks best. Consider the quality of one side or another, and how different colours will look. There's no right answer here; just take some time to imagine how the final product will look best. Once my panels were lined up, I took 3 scrap pieces of 3/4'' wood cut at 18 1/4'' length to brace the pieces together from underneath the table top.

Two things to consider before bracing:

1) Make sure the bracing starts beside the entry point of where the table top will sit on the legs. In my case, I started bracing at least 1 1/2'' below the panel edge to allow space for the top of the legs to reach the underside of table top once installed

2) Make sure there is at least one screw per panel, per brace.

Once this is all determined, line up your boards so they are flush with each other. Then, starting with the middle brace, use 1 1/4'' screws to fasten the brace to the pallets. Be careful not to over tighten or you may end up with a screw protruding through the top of your table top!

Step 7: Final Installation

If all went well, this should be the easy step! Simply pop the table top you created into the frame. I attached a picture of the bottom of the table to show you how it should all fit in.

Congrats! Your table is now complete.

I ended up using this table as a kind of work table so I didn't bother to sand, stain or finish it. It's simply a rustic table that could stand to take a little bit of beating up.

Step 8: Final Note

Thanks for reading the Instructable. Hopefully it is a helpful one for first time makers to cut their teeth on. If you liked it, feel free to give me a vote in the Trash to Treasure contest, a like, or a follow. If you have some questions or tips (hell, even criticisms) feel free to comment as well.

I am hoping to post some other more exciting projects that I have been working on over the last 2 years (Pictured Above). Stay tuned.

Trash to Treasure

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