Introduction: Recycled Potted Plant Table

After completing a largish rain barrel project, I had a number of decking planks left over from a 5'x4' wood pallet previously rescued from a dumpster. I decided to turn them into something useful, rather than figure out where to store them for future use.
This Instructable details the making of a simple, functional, sturdy reclaimed lumber side table that we use as a potted plant stand. Working with pallets has it's own unique challenges as the wood is very often damaged, split, wavy and knotty. It is also mostly rough saw-cut wood, so the potential for getting splinters is high. Work with care and lets get started...

Step 1: Tools and Stuff

The tools I used:

  • Miter Saw - for cutting to pieces to length
  • Table Saw - for ripping the boards into 3" wide planks. You can also use the table saw for cutting the planks to length but the Miter saw is far more efficient for this task.
  • Nail Gun - 18 gauge brad nailer with 1-1/2" brad nails and air compressor. You can use a hammer and nails if this is what you have
  • Steel Tape - for measuring.
  • Set Square - to make sure things are at right angles to each other
  • Wood Glue - Waterproof wood glue like Elmers Max

The raw material:

  • 6-1/8" x 1" x 49" boards from a 5'x6' pallet. I used 4 boards total.

That's all for the materials. And here's the disclaimer:
Please make sure you understand safe working practices for your power tools. They can cause serious injury very quickly. Make sure your wear appropriate safety equipment recommended in the manuals that came with your power tools. Always read the manuals for safe operation. A power saw can kick the work piece back at you at high velocity - always work outside of the "line-of-fire" - check your manual..

Step 2: The Outer Frame Legs

The table legs are 20" high. You can adjust this according to your needs. With the table top the overall height ends up at 21". With a 1ft deep potted plant on top, the surface of the soil is at 33" which is a nice working height - another backsaver project.

First job is to rip the boards down length-ways to create 3" wide planks. The kerf loss on the saw is about 1/8" so you end up with equal 3" wide planks. I have no idea what type of wood this is. It was quite difficult to rip. It had a very rich flower like fragrance when cut. Work your way carefully through all 4 boards so that you end up with a total of eight 3"x49" boards.

Using the miter saw, cut a total of four 20" long legs. You will consume 2 boards for the legs.

The rails are the pieces of wood that join the legs together. You will need two 18" rails. Apply wood glue to the ends of the rails and attach to the legs as shown. The rails should be centered with respect to the width of the leg. Make sure everything is square and use the nail gun to shoot 4 brads in to secure the rail to the leg. The nails are really a clamping aid that ensure the parts stay together while the glue dries.

Repeat for the other leg and then make a duplicate leg pair so that you end up with two sets of outer frame legs as shown.

Then cut two 13" long pieces that will be used to connect the two sets of legs together. Using glue and nails, complete the frame. The last picture shows the direction in which to shoot the nails to make a stable base. Remember to squeeze things together when shooting the nails to get the best clamping force.

Step 3: Completing the Table Frame

Cut another two 18" long pieces and another two 13" long pieces. These pieces will be used to connect the lower legs together to add stability and provide the support for a shelf to keep your gardening bits-n-pieces on.

To get the height of the cross pieces consistent all the way round, cut a 6" long piece of wood from one of your off-cuts and use that as a spacer. Then glue and nail the lower pieces in place. Follow the pattern used for the top pieces. Work carefully with the structure because the glue is still wet and too much pressure will loosen one of your already completed joints.

You should end up with a completed table frame as shown in the picture.

Step 4: Table Top and Shelf

The table top consists of six 19" long pieces separated by a 3/4" gap. This gives a 3/4" overhang on the long side and a 1" overhang on the short side.

Before you glue or nail anything in place, first place all six pieces in place and make sure the overhand is equal left to right, and front to back. Make sure all the edges are aligned and that your spacing between the boards is even (about 3/4" will work well). Then remove one board, apply glue to the underside where it will connect to the frame and place it back in position. Make sure it is properly lined up and then secure it in place using the nail gun. Slowly work your way down the table repeating this procedure until you have all the boards glued and nailed in place.

The bottom shelf consists of four 13" long boards separated by roughly 3/4". I didn't measure - just eyeballed equal spacing. The shelf boards are nailed and glued in place about 1/2" below the edge of the board to create a small lip for the shelf to stop things rolling off. What would be helpful here for construction is to rip a 1" wide strip and tack it in place along the bottom rails for the shelf boards to sit on before they get nailed in place. This will ensure consistent depth. I didn't do this - just went ahead and eyeballed - it was getting dark, I was hungry and the weather was turning bad.

Step 5: Finally...

Let the glue dry for a while before you load the table. I recommend over night but if you are impatient, 2 hours should be enough. After leaving mine overnight, I did a 200lb load test to make sure everything was ok. No creaks, groans or any other signs of instability. Success!

The table will get stained at some point but that's a project for another day. Time to clean up the tools and call it a day.

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