Introduction: Pallet Wood Coasters With Diamond Pattern
"Too much work for coasters", "Hell with that", "I believe an apology is in order!", "What a crazy guy", "Surely that's not economically viable". These are just a few of the handpicked comments that this project has generated so far. That said, I appreciate the compliments and also the reinforcement that I've set the bar exactly as intended, now let's get to the build! The things I do for you... 110lbs of pallet wood and glue turned into coasters through 7 different laminations and 2 massive resawing operations before cutting those boards into circles. That's what it took to achieve this pattern and I decided to turn it into coasters to be able to spread my sweat far and wide (I ended up with 300) and also because each one is entirely unique like a snowflake. Now get ready for a blizzard!
Step 1: Materials & Tools
Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:
- Pallet wood (~10 pallets) https://gph.is/2Q8HwQO
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/2UntaL1
- Cork https://amzn.to/2UoqMmY
- Tung Oil finish https://amzn.to/2PoP2lh
- Hearing protection http://bit.ly/2zLTWDX
- Table saw https://amzn.to/2SyP8ce
- Pipe clamps https://amzn.to/2SsrIFc
- Thickness planer https://amzn.to/2SwsFMC
- Rockler jointing sled https://amzn.to/2PoeBmy
- Glue spreader bottle https://amzn.to/2EjaU0x
- Circular saw https://amzn.to/2PoOImL
- Wood rule https://amzn.to/2PnyZnG
- CNC http://bit.ly/2G5oFBu
- 1/16" round over bit https://amzn.to/2PlUS72
- Random orbital sander https://amzn.to/2PskD5S
- Branding iron https://www.instagram.com/hillview_wm
Step 2: Roughing Out the Materials
It all starts off with the slats from 10 pallets. At least that's my best guess, I've resulted to just disassembling enough pallets in one day that in some regions of the U.S. it would be qualified as torture, but doing it all at once instead of spreading it out just seems better in my mind (not that that should be a frame of reference for any sane person). Each of the slats is sent through my thickness planer until each face is smooth and then we can get to work!
I use a miter sled on my table saw to cut all of the slats down to 8" long. This allows me to cut off any of the bad spots, square the ends, and then cut the pieces down to length. It's always hard to calculate quantity with these pallet lamination projects so always go for too much rather than not enough. In this case I was aiming to make at least 100 coasters but ended up with closer to 300. Anyway, once I got these pieces all cut down to length, I organized them all from widest to thinnest.
Step 3: Dividing the Slats Into Batches
The pieces were then split off into groups that were 3' long and I used the thinnest of the group to set the width and cut all of the other slats down on the table saw to match that width.
You can see a nice milled group of the slats here. I clamp them together temporarily to keep them organized and then set them aside and do the same for the rest of the slats, getting them all down to the same width within the group.
Step 4: First Set of Glue-ups
Now starts the first of the massive glue-ups. The first group of slats is pulled out of the clamp and I apply glue to the face of each of them. 2 pipe clamps are set up on my bench to hold the pieces while I apply the glue which holds them straight in that direction.
Time goes by quick while applying all that glue, by the time you get to the last slat, the first one is starting to dry. Clamps need to go on quick, so I apply 2 more pipe clamps to the top of the group and squeeze all of the pieces together. I also clamp a couple of long stiff pieces of wood to either side to make sure that the glue-up is straight in that direction as well.
Step 5: Unclamping and Cleaning Up the Glue-ups
I repeat that times 6 and then let it set to dry for the night before pulling it out of the clamps.
As much glue as possible (a lot of it) is scrapped off of the faces with a glue scraper and then each of these blocks is sent through the planer until each face is smooth. The planer takes away any inconsistencies in the glue-up along with any dried up glue that's left on the surface (eye contact is key though).
Step 6: Resawing
Now we get to start the first of the nightmare resawing operations. Who decided this was a good idea? I should be used to this by now I guess, but good news (not really) is that this is the easier of the 2 resawing operations that this project is going to take. So, each of the blocks is ripped down to width on the bandsaw at random width (roughly 1/4"-1/2"). These blocks were made to be 8" on purpose because that's the max capacity on my bandsaw. This means that it works, but it's slow going.
I end up with almost 30 of these laminated pallet wood boards and then use the jointing sled on my table saw to cut one edge of each of them flat and straight. Then I use the fence on the table saw to cut each of them down to width, removing the other ratty edge from the board.
The bandsaw always leaves behind a fairly rough cut, so the faces need to be cleaned up. To help my old 20-something year old eyes pick up on which surface has been touched by the planer, I draw a wavy line on each face with a sharpie. Once the face is clean from that line then I know that the face is all cleaned up. Also noting that I ran these through on the planers slow setting because otherwise the planer is tempted to pull the panels apart due to the direction of the grain.
Step 7: 2nd Glue-up
The glue-ups definitely don't get easier! I have high standards for myself though (way higher then should be allowed) so I go for it. Each of the laminated pallet boards has glue applied to one face and then I set it in the waiting pipe clamps to build up my lamination lamination, my 3rd step in world domination (don't worry about the first 2).
You know the drill, I apply approximately a million and a half pipe clamps and let the thing sit overnight to make sure that the glue is done doing it's job before I carefully remove the block from the clamps. And I weighed it because people ALWAYS ask for some reason... 110lbs (that's without clamps, no joke).
Step 8: Splitting the Slab in Half
Now I've glued together a massive chunk of pallet wood that is not capable of being cut by any of the saws that I own, I need to decide what to do next. Out of all of the bad options, the best is to split the piece down the middle to make it easier to handle. This is also where the magic happens to achieve that diamond pattern. I draw a line on the block at a 45 degree angle and set the circular saw over to a 10 degree compound angle.
I'm able to make this cut on both of the faces so that they line up with one another, but the circular saw only cuts about 2.5" deep, so I'm left with a few more inches that I need to cut by hand. So I pull out the old school handsaw and go to town using the 2 cuts I just made as a guide and connect the dots. Ideally, a giant beam saw would be great for this operation, but that has a much thicker kerf which means more waste in the form of sawdust.
Step 9: Angled Resawing
Look at that pattern on the right side!! It was only at this point where what I had envisioned in my head was actually confirmed, up to this point I was only hoping that all these operations would yield the pattern I was hoping for. With the piece split in half, it technically can be cut on my bandsaw again to cut the block down into a bunch of sheets. I say "technically" because this is another 8" tall resaw, but this time at an angle. I decide to draw a bunch of lines 1/2" apart on the face parallel to the cut I just made and start the cut with the circular saw like I did before.
As you can see, I did that cut on both faces, now I just need to connect the dots on the bandsaw. Sounds easy, right? Well, I have to tilt the table of the bandsaw over to 10 degrees to make the cut, so you really lose most of your ability to steer the cut left or right. Luckily the starting cuts help to keep things going pretty straight so most of the cuts go pretty smooth. I just have to do this ~60 more times. It gets easier as it goes though because with each piece cut off, it gets further and further from weighing 55lbs.
Now these sheets all get sent through the planer to smooth out all of the faces. I draw on each face with a sharpie again as reference and keep going until they are smooth. I again do this on the slow setting because these sheets are fairly delicate a this point because they are partial end grain.
Step 10: Cutting Out the Circles
And it finally time to now cut out the coasters! It's just a bunch of circles so this could be done on the bandsaw, but I decided to use my CNC to save a little time. It's a time saver mostly because while it's cutting out the circles, I can work at the same time cleaning up the edges of the circles that have been cut already. Now for lining things up to cut, I made a 4" reference disk out of plywood with an 1/8" hole in the center. This allowed me to line up the bit with the center of the circle and drive it to line up with the edges of the board so it ensured that I got the maximum amount of coasters out of each piece.
You can see here how the coasters were laid out in Easel to be cut with minimum waste on the X-Carve. The coaster on the bottom left is the one that I used to line up on 0,0 like shown in the previous photo.
All of the large sheets are easy because they are all the same, so I can just repeat the same tool path over and over again to cut these out. The smaller sheets from the last cuts of the big block are all organized from shortest to longest and I keep taking off the circle from the end of the cut when it no longer falls on the end of the board in the tool path.
Step 11: Cleaning Up the Edges
While the CNC is running, I'm cutting the tabs that held the circles in place on the sheet using the bandsaw. From now on, it's basically just moving all of these pieces from 5 gallon bucket to 5 gallon bucket.
A flush trim bit in the router table is used to clean up what is left of the tabs or any sliver of material that the CNC didn't cut all the way through. The edges are all cleaned up and then back into the 5 gallon bucket they go.
Step 12: Sanding and Rounding Over
I take a trip up to my friends shop to bum some time on his drum sander (he's used to it now). The faces of the coasters were still rough since the planer was trying to cut through partial end grain, so the sander brings the faces smooth and really pulls out that pattern to another level.
With the faces sanded smooth, the last surface to be sanded is all of the edges. I use tape on my fingers to give myself some grip but also to keep my finger tips from getting cut up on the sharp edges since I have to do this almost 300 times. But the edge of each of the coasters is run over the sander until it's smooth and then it gets tossed in the bucket.
Now the last bit of sanding is to soften the corners. I pull out my 1/16" round over bit to do this, it's a trick that I learned from an old woodworker. A 1/16" round over doesn't even sounds like it would be anything, but it's just enough to soften the corners and it creates a much more consistent shape then just sanding the edges would.
Step 13: Final Sanding and Branding
For the final sanding and branding, I created this clever little jig (if I can say so myself). The jig is a piece of plywood with a 4" circle cut out of it. I use the 4" template disk from before and drop that in so that the coasters can then sit on top of it. The circle in the piece of plywood holds it in place, while the disk allows for it to rotate easily to sand the entire surface with 220 grit.
Now for branding the disk is removed so that when I put the coaster in the hole it sits flush with the piece of plywood. The thin piece of plywood sitting on top just gives me a way to align the branding iron in the same spot every time so that the "Carolina" brand is in the same exact spot every time. There is just a single screw holding it in place so that it can pivot out of the way to reload each of the coasters.
I get a bunch of self adhesive cork disks to stick to the bottom of the coasters. First I blast them with my air compressor to remove any dust. The theory with applying the cork now before finish is that I thought the cork wouldn't stick so well after finish was applied. I did some tests after this though and I would recommend just waiting and putting the cork on after finish is applied.
Step 14: Finishing
Then I just need to get geared up for the last step, finish application.
The tung oil finish is applied to all of Carolina's coasters. I ended up with 4 coats on these until I was happy with the amount of sheen that had been built up. Because of all of the different species of wood, it absorbed into the coasters at different rates and 4 coats covered all the pieces up pretty well. To make the surface even more uniform and a bit more shiny I buffed each one of them on my lathe buffing wheels and then the first 100 were shipped off to Carolina Shoe!
Step 15: Test Run
Now one clarification about using these coasters, you need to make sure that you use a napkin or another coaster to protect them before you put your drink on them so that they keep their beautiful look for the long haul. (I'm only mostly joking)
Step 16: Glamour Shots
Thanks for taking the time to check out and read through this build. Definitely make sure that you click on the YouTube link as well to get the full Jackman experience on my YouTube channel!
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