Introduction: DIY Pallet Coffee Table

Look into your pockets. Broke? Well we know how you feel and here is an idea which will help you turn free pallets into a living room centerpiece which all your friends will be jealous of. Follow through these nine simple steps and you will have a new coffee table that will be ready to use within two hours.

Before we can get started here are the tools you will need to get started:

  • Hammer
  • Wood Saw
  • Box of Nails
  • Measuring Tape
  • Marker
  • Course Sand Paper
  • Level
  • Two Pallets

Finding some pallets:
Pallets are a free source of wood and are easy to find in most areas. The majority of college campuses have wood recycling yards which will be located near the campus garbage dump. If you do not have this option available to you then look behind large box stores like Walmart, Target, or K-mart and there will often be a pile of old pallets.

Once you find a pallet pile look for two pallets that are clean and have no broken slats. It is also important to make sure that the two pallets you choose are the same size, but if you can’t find two that are the same size, it’s not a big deal.

Step 1: Choose Tabletop and Legs Pallets

With the two pallets you have selected, see which pallet has more slats with fewer gaps on the face so it will serve as a good tabletop. When that is determined you now know that the other pallet will serve as the legs.

Step 2: Measure and Mark Pallet for Legs

On the pallet you selected for the legs, measure the width of the pallet and draw a line down the middle to mark your cut. If you want a shorter coffee table, which will be about two feet high, then measure down the middle of the 36 in side so you will have two 48in X 18in pieces after cutting. The recommended method for drawing the line down the middle of the pallet is to mark 18 in on each end and then use a 2x4 to connect the two markings to ensure a straight line. (Refer to pictures 2a and 2b for visual representation)

Step 3: Cut Pallet in Half for Legs

WARNING: Use of wood saw requires extreme caution with hand placement and make sure the pallet is secure when cutting. Additionally, the use of gloves is recommended.

Once your line has been drawn use your wood saw to make a straight cut through the pallet. Cut through one side of the pallet at a time. Cut top first (refer to picture 3a), then cutting the bottom (refer to picture 3b). It is important to try and make sure you stay on the line to ensure an even cut. You will be able to even out these cut later on, but if they are somewhat straight, it will make that step easier.

Step 4: Cut Legs Down to Length

WARNING: Use of wood saw requires extreme caution with hand placement and make sure the pallet is secure when cutting. Additionally, the use of gloves is recommended.

Now that you have two even sets of legs, it is time to match these up with the tabletop. If you were able to find two pallets that were the same size, or at least two that had the same length or width, great! This means that the two halves of the one pallet (the legs) will fit perfectly flush with the sides of the tabletop and you can skip the rest of this step. Also, if you find that your legs are shorter than your tabletop, then just center the legs underneath the tabletop and proceed onto the next step.

If you find that the legs are longer than the tabletop, then you should measure the tabletop and the legs. The difference in the two lengths is what should be cut off of the end of the two legs (refer to picture 4 for visual representation). When you go to cut down these legs, cut the main struts that are running horizontal and connect all the vertical slats together (there should only be two maybe, three). If you find that a vertical slat is in your way when you go to cut, the easiest way to deal with this, we found, was to simply pry it off. There is really no good way to do that, just take a hammer and keep working the nails out until you’re able to remove the piece.

Step 5: Leveling the Legs

Now that you have the length of your legs taken care of, it's time to bust out the level and make sure that this table with be nice and flat. Take both sets of legs and set them with the cut end of the slats down (there should be a 2x4-ish strut on top, having this facing up will make it easier to attach the tabletop to the legs later on). Now, if both sets of your legs are perfectly level, good job! You may move onto the next step. However, if they are not level or a bit wobbly when you shift weight around on them, then you may need to break out some sand paper and sand some of the slats down. This is not a science; just keep working the slats until you’re happy with the amount wobble in the legs or how level they are. Obviously the more level and less wobble, the better.

Step 6: Align Legs Under Tabletop

Now it is time to unite the tabletop and the legs. This step might go smother with two or even three people, but it is possible with one. Take both legs and line them up so that the nicer sides of the pallets are facing away from each other (these are going to be the visible sides once you attach the table top, refer to picture 6a) and the cut ends of the slats are on the ground. Once you have both legs lined up, place the tabletop onto the legs so that the legs are inside the outside supports for the slats of the tabletop (if confused, see picture 6b).

Step 7: Uniting Tabletop With Legs

Once the legs and top portions are cut and aligned, the next thing that you must do is secure them to each other. When using nails it is important that they are long enough to penetrate two layers of the decking boards. If they are not long enough to do so, they may not be strong enough to properly secure the legs to the tabletop.

It is now time to determine the attachment locations. It is recommended that you use at least two nails at each connecting point between the tabletop and legs (refer to picture 7a for a visual representation). With this in mind, you should have three connecting locations for each leg (refer to 7b for a visual representation). In total, six nailing locations are recommended for this table.

Step 8: Surface Finishing

After you have nailed the legs to the tabletop, sanding the rough surfaces will be your next step. Since pallet surfaces are usually rough, sanding will help smooth the wood out in an attempt to make the surface more comfortable and safe (refer to picture 8 for a visual representation). In addition to sanding the rough surfaces, sanding any sharp corners is also advised. Just sand the edges and corners enough to where you feel comfortable running your hands along them and don’t find any splinters.

Step 9: Enjoy!

Now that your pallets have been measured, cut, assembled, and sanded, you are ready to kick back and enjoy your new coffee table. If you don't know how to kick-it, checkout picture 9!