Introduction: How to Build a Desk From Pallet Wood

All those pallets that are thrown away....maybe they are worth their weight in gold? Seriously, is that free wood one could avail of? And recycling is good for the environment too!

So I decided to construct a desk from pallets that were going to be thrown away. This desk is intended to house a computer in the future so it has a cabinet with holes that will act as air vents. To add some style, instead of the usual plane panel as a side/leg, a mesh design is being used.

The desktop has holes to allow wires through the surface and conceal them under the surface. Instead of the usual circular holes, the word "DAD" has been routed through so as to also serve as a dedication to my father who introduced me to DIY :)

Not all pallet wood is safe to use, here is a good guideline to follow:

So, this instructable shows how to create a desk from pallet wood, let's go!

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials: pallet wood, some 10mm thick MDF for drawer bases.

Supplies: Adjustable legs, drawer rails, door hinges, dowels, scres.

Tools: Planer, thicknesser, table saw, router, straight edge router bit, straight edge router profiling bit, 45 degree edge router profiling bit, driller.

Step 2: Obtain the Wood

Collect pallets from factories, importers, etc. Dismantle them while trying to preserve as much as possible of the material and try to pull out as much of the nails as possible. Some pallets look real ugly, but beneath the surface lays their true beauty.

Saw them to the longest possible lengths you can get, and pile them up in preparation for the next step.

Step 3: Plane and Thickness

Pass all stock over a planer so that a flat surface is obtained. The plane the edges so that a 90 degree angle is obtained between face and edge. Use a thicknesser to decrease the stock to a uniform thickness; for this project I used 18mm.

Next categorize all stock by approximate width, for example, those ranging between 8cm to 10cm are grouped in one pile, and those ranging between 10cm and 12cm in another.

Set a table saw's cutting width to the min width of each of the above groups and cut all stock longitudinally so that groups of different uniform widths are obtained.

For extra neatness, thickness the edge of all stock by passing it vertically through a thicknesser.

Step 4: Forming Boards

Start placing stock of the same width, butt to butt, until the length of the desired board is reached. Add in rows until the width of the desired board is reached.

There will obviously be a gap between each butt. To eliminate this enumerate all butts using the same number for adjacent butts. Rotate one stock 180 degrees and place it on its respectively numbered counterpart. Pass the edges through a table saw so as to get an almost perfect butt-to-butt joint. Do this for all stock of the board being formed.

Place all stock vertically and glue the edges, clamp tight and leave overnight. Sand the board to get a smooth surface.

Repeat till boards are available to cover the dimensions of all the parts needed to form the desk: two cabinet sides, a cabinet base, a cabinet top, cabinet door, drawers, and a desktop. Cut the boards to the respective dimensions using a table saw or a handheld circular saw.

Step 5: The "DAD" Holes

The letters are best cut using a router and a jig. Calculate the dimensions of each letter, measure the circumference of your router, and that of your router straight bit. Use these dimensions to make a jig which can be used to cut out each letter relatively effortlessly and with full uniformity.

Step 6: Construct the Mesh Legs

Form a frame by using two long and two shorter pieces of wood, which would have been cut to the planned dimensions. Cut also an center piece, so that it has the exact height and width of the hole formed by the frame.

Start placing pieces of wood across the center so as to create the design of the desired mesh. These pieces will be joined together with dowels. Once satisfied, use a pencil to mark the points where the dowels will be placed. Cut dowel holes in each part, fill in with glue, insert dowels, and press all parts tight to form the desired design.

After some four hours, trim out the excess using a saw, and for more accuracy use a straight edge profiling rout bit with a bearing and use together with that center piece cut earlier so that the exact shape is obtained.

Place back inside the frame, and again mark points were dowel holes between the mesh and the frame are required. Drilled holes, glue, dowel and press with clamps, leave overnight.

Once tight, take a hinge hole cutter and drill holes at each intersection point. Following this rout out the excess to form the desired mesh design.

Step 7: Construct Cabinet

Cut out holes in the top and the side of the cabinet parts to save as air vents since a computer will reside in this cabinet.

Drill dowel holes in the drawer components, cut out drawer bases from a melamine sheet (I had some leftovers from a previous project), mark the positions where the drawer rails are required, drill holes for cabinet components, and assemble all without applying glue. Check the motion of the drawers to ascertain everything is in order.

Also mark the points where the door hinges are required and screw door hinges in place.

Tap drawer faces in place with two screws making sure the edges of the drawer are flash with the edge of the cabinet.

Step 8: Chamfer Edges, Fill Cracks, and Sand

Use a 45 degree router bit to chamfer the desktop edges, drawers, cabinet door, air vents holes, the "DAD" holes, and the mesh. This will give a sleeker finish.

Use a wood patty to fill in any cracks.

Sand every part smooth with grit 150 sand paper.

Step 9: Assemble Cabinet

Apply glue in all dowel holes and assemble cabinet.

Cut a back panel from a plywood sheet and fix to the backside.

Flip cabinet over and fix the legs of your choice, ideally adjustable ones.

Step 10: Construct Desktop Supporting Blocks

Construct blocks to be placed between the cabinet and the desktop. These are to be aligned by dowels, so drill holes in these blocks and underneath the desktop.

Step 11: Varnish

Varnish everything, sand with find sandpaper, and repeat three times. Sand with extra fine as a last finishing touch.

Step 12: Assemble All

Assemble all and enjoy :)

Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016