Introduction: Fence Paling Tote

About: I'm an IT professional with a master's in library science. I enjoy woodturning, film making, and being frugal. Sometimes I make stuff that isn't horrible.

Over the summer, I helped a family member replace a section of fence. The boards were purchased were taller than needed, so each was cut to the same length, leaving fairly uniform off-cuts. So, naturally, I saved the off-cuts from all 18 fence palings. Fast-forward a few months later, and I need a way to store/carry/sort my newly-acquired hardwood scraps. Salvaged fence off-cuts to the rescue!

For this project, we'll be using three materials (all reclaimed/salvage/scrap)

  • Fence Palings
  • Nails (approximately 12)
  • Rope/Paracord

You could obviously use new, store-bought materials, but reclaimed/free is my general budget. My nails were harvested from an assortment of pallets and the rope is leftover from other projects. You could also forego the rope in favor of another plank/dowel for the handle. I wanted the extra room and the potential for shoulder-carry with a long-enough rope.

This type of fence paling is available at my local big box store for less than $2/board. There is also free twine/string available at the exit for tying down large purchases that could be repurposed for the handle in this project.

Be sure to watch the accompanying youtube video!

Step 1: Layout and Material Prep

All of my boards were already cut to the same length/width/thickness. Use common sense and change your dimensions/design accordingly. Overall width will be the same as each paling -- Layout the bottom panel, resting the two sides ontop of the bottom board. The two end pieces will also be attached with a butt-joint.

There's nothing wrong with leaving the end pieces as-is. For a slightly more refined look, cut an angle on both sides of each end piece. I used a jigsaw, but this task is easily carried out with most any saw. I will caution that cutting both at the same time, thinking I'd match more accurately and save time, caused me to bend the blade and resulted in some interesting lines. If you use a jig saw, I highly recommend marking one, cutting it, tracing the cut on the other piece, and then transferring those marks to the other sides.

Prior to assembly, go ahead and mark/drill the hole for the rope. The diameter of the hole is dependent on the intended rope thickness. Since I've chosen to go with found/reclaimed/available, Each of mine have been different. I drilled both boards at the same time, clamped together to my workbench.

Step 2: Assembly

I would recommend pre-drilling each hole before nailing. Most palings are thin and while they might not be as prone to splitting, with the added moisture from being treated, the pallet nails are often not straight and will result in blowouts with the thin material. Even with that, I ended up squeezing the joint together with a clamp to join the sides to the bottom.

I nail in each side piece with two nails through the bottom, referencing the edges of the boards as I go. If your boards are all even/congruent, you can align the ends with the true bottom. If the sides are slightly off, like mine, you may need to align with the top of the bottom board. I attached the end pieces with two nails on each side. If yours are flush with the bottom, it might be helpful to nail through the bottom as well, but is not crucial for my applications. I took a moment to use a nailset, trying to ensure that none of the heads were proud of the boards. This is especially helpful if the bent nails cause a not-so-flush head.

Step 3: Adding the Cord

I've now used paracord and some salvaged, waxed rope on two of these totes. For the paracord, I recommend melting the ends before working with it. This will keep the core from pulling out and stop fray. You can see in the pictures where I like to press the molten end of paracord against something metal -- usually the scissors I've trimmed the cord with. This works best for me to keep the end tidy.

I roughly measured my paracord by doubling it over the length and adding some slack. This would give me options on knots and also leave it usable for something later, should I choose to change the cord out. Pairing the ends, I doubled the cord down and took the bend through the hole from the inside. Here, I formed an overhand loop. Satisfied with that, I pulled the working ends through the other hole and tied an overhand knot. Any slack left here, and there will be some, will compound with the flex in the cord from the weight of the tote/cargo. The knots here should be sufficient in size to cover the hole and keep from pulling back through the tote.

Step 4:

Now we're done, structurally. You could obviously finish this project in any number of ways -- oil, stain, or paint. If you used treated lumber, as I did, many of these will be more difficult or unnecessary. I might make some more of these in the future out of cedar palings for a more natural look.

I see using this project as a garden tote, because I think the rustic aesthetic of the fence paling lends itself to that, but don't stop there! The first one I made was actually to collect my scrap wood, which had quickly outgrew the size and durability of the plastic bag I'd been using.

What will you put in your carry-all? How about some tablets? Maybe you need a trendy way to carry all of your MacBooks? Or why not all the tools it took to create this project? If you made one yourself, I'd love to see it in the comments.

If you enjoyed this instructable, please favorite, comment, vote, and follow. You might enjoy my other articles on everything from pallet wood to sock puppets. You can find me at:

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