Introduction: From Pallet to Valet - Furniture for Free (almost)

As one gets older, the floor seems to get further and further away, until eventually picking up one's clothes becomes a chore. To avoid this problem a couple of hundred years ago the Dumb Valet was invented (pronounced "vah-lett", not "vah-lay" as the french would have you believe).

This is a piece of furniture which sits quietly and allows one to hang one's clothes upon it, keeping them at a convenient height for when they are next needed.

Traditionally, this had a means of holding a pair of trousers uncreased, a hanger for one's shirt and a tray for the contents of one's pockets.

Traditionally, this was made from the highest quality exotic timbers, and so I searched several industrial estates before selecting the pallets to be used. I also skimped quite impressively on the fittings: I was going to use some nice brass hooks which I found online until I noticed that they were $5 each. So I bought a cheap coatrack at the bargain shop for $2 and used two of the hooks from that.

In total, I think that I spent fifteen bucks NZ on this project, so about $9 US. How about Instructables runs a "Furniture For $10" contest?



Two pallets, one plywood and one timber

Couple of dozen 1 1/2" screws (35mm)

Coat-track from the $2 Shop


Varnish to finish.


Hand tools


Electric sander is optional but will save you a lot of time.

Step 1: Design Decisions

There was no planning involved here and no formal design.

The finished piece would have to fit into a small corner of my room and the footprint was quite limited.

That thought inspired me to make the feet of the piece in the shape of feet.

Boards from pallets are usually about four inches wide (95mm) and a bit less than an inch thick (22mm) so five of them stacked together would give me a square section for the upright.

It would also give me a rather heavy lump, so I decided to go for three layers of wood in the upright, with a couple of extra layers just at the bottom to allow the four feet to spread out around the base.

Having three boards forming the upright was a good compromise between the thing being too heavy, and the strength being unacceptably reduced by the inevitable flaws in the pallet timber.

To allow the trousers to hang freely, I made a wild guess and set the hanging height at around the bottom of my rib-cage, and that worked reasonably well.

Step 2: Building the Upright

Since I needed long boards, I didn't want to damage them in the middle when I dismantled the pallet, so I sawed the pallet into individual boards, and then split the cross pieces with a mallet and chisel, leaving the nails free so that they could be removed without damaging the board.

I selected the best pieces (fewest knots and least warping) for the uprights and top, and then glued the three best of them together to form the main column. I staggered the pieces for two reasons. Firstly, so that the nail holes did not align and leave weakness at the same points and secondly so that there was a little shoulder at the top end for the cross-pieces to sit on.

Once the upright was glued (padded by less favoured remnants of the pallet) I sanded the outside faces using the power sander, which left a surprisingly nice finish on the wood. This could be done by hand, but it will take a while.

Next, I took the cheek pieces which would expand the size at the foot of the column, stacked them together so that I could cut a nice slope for their top end and then sanded them smooth.

They were glued into place and left to cure.

Once that was done, the final height of the upright was guessed at and the base was cut squarely across.

Step 3: Making the Feet

Originally I tried to draw around my own feet, but I wasn't supple enough, so I just drew one in LibreOffice and then scaled it according to what wiki said was the link between shoe-size and mm.

If you have larger or smaller feet, then you can easily scale the drawing by using the "keep ratio" tick box, but if you have exceptionally dainty feet, then you might want to oversize this for stability.

I printed out the drawing and taped it onto the plywood pallet, picking the area of the pallet which had the fewest obvious flaws.

The shape was cut around with the jigsaw to give one correctly-sized foot.

Rather than waste money printing out three more templates, I just placed the wooden foot on the pallet and drew around it for the next three feet.

The four feet were glued and screwed onto the base of the upright, taking care to make sure that they were co-planar.

Originally I had planned to use nice brass screws and cup-washers, but the temporary cheap screws looked fine, so I didn't bother replacing them once the glue had set.

Step 4: Show Off Them Shoulders Lovely Boy

To make the hanger for the shirt, I first tried to copy the profile of a coat-hanger, but then decided that I didn't like it, I didn't think that it was a good shape to hold the shirt and that it would require the piece to be too high.

So I made a profile by drawing around the base of a paint tin.

That was cut from a piece of wood, and then two more were cut by drawing around the first.

The three pieces were then glued together and after the glue had cured they were given a nice finish on the sander.

Lastly, the shoulders were offered to the upright and the top of the upright was sawn at a nice angle to give a decent profile. Then the shoulders were screwed to the upright temporarily.

Step 5: Pocket Litter Tray (miaow, Litter-tray? Geddit)

The tray to hold the contents of pockets had to be large enough to hold everything, but small enough that the hanger for the trousers would not be wildly off-centre and unbalance the piece.

Timber was offered up and marked, cut and then duplicated to give a pair of sides which were securely glued and screwed to the upright. (As an aside I'd temporarily replaced the shirt-hanger with some scrap, just in case there was damage or glue smearage while I was making the tray.

Once the sides were done, a piece of timber for the base was cut to fit.

Step 6: Tray Front/Trouser Hanger

It became apparent that there wasn't a great deal of spare height for hanging a pair of trousers, so I decided to make a curvy-uppy front for the tray.

This was drawn onto the timber Using a bucket for the curve, and then cut to shape with the jigsaw.

Then it was sanded to a nice finish and glued and screwed in place.

Step 7: Varnishing and Fitting Hanging Hooks

This was a really awkward shape to paint, so I ended up hanging it across the workbench with its legs in mid-air and giving the feet and lower upright three coats of stain where I could get at them.

Then I stood it upright and gave three coats to the rest of it.

Once all that was dry, I dismantled the $2 coat-hanger and used two of the hooks from it (and their associated screws) on the front of the litter tray.

Then it was off to my room, where it has been in use and giving yeoman service for a while now.

To attempt a post-factum budget:-

About a fifth of a tin of varnish, so about $10

20 screws, so about $2

Some glue, guessed at $1

Coathangers $2

So discounting wear-and-tear on my tools, that comes in at $15 for a piece of furniture. That's New Zealand Dollars, so it's about nine bucks US. I can't even claim petrol for picking up the pallets as I got them from an industrial area where I park fairly regularly anyway!

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