Introduction: Trellised Garden Retreat/Gazebo/Arbor From Pallet Wood

About: I am an escapee from modern life, now living by the sea in a forest garden in France. After over 20 years industrial experience, I quit my managerial position to study for a degree in Engineering. That done I …

We have a forest garden where our birds live freely, roosting in the trees. Much as we love our poultry we do draw the line at sharing our meals with them. It wouldn’t be so bad if they stayed on the ground but no, from six-week old chicks up they have the ability to fly and do, always onto the table or worse onto our plates of food. Creating a gazebo meant they left us alone at meals and also it gave us extra space to attach planters and climbers, for example, last year one side of the arbor was used to grow pole/runner beans..

If you have a compact back yard, this can be a great way of creating an outdoor living/dining space and for growing food, flowers and herbs all at the same time.

For an introduction to this project I include two films: The first shows how I created the posts and the rest of the framework and the second shows the construction of the trellis sections.


12 Standard Untreated Pallets

2 Untreated Pallets Longer than 6' (look for these at joiners, glazers, exhibition stand makers and kitchen and bathroom suppliers)

10 Metal Fence Post Spikes

Wood Screws

Wood Nails

Linseed Oil

Natural Earth Pigments

Bolt and Hinges for Door


Portable Drill/Screw Driver

Circular Saw

Router or Smoothing Plane

Vernier Calipers

Tape Measure


Tenon or Japanese Pull Saw

Try Square


Sledge Hammer

Spirit Level


Paint Brush

Step 1: Making the Posts

I had decided that the trellis panels were to be supported by wooden posts which were attached to galvanised metal fence post spikes driven into the ground. These spikes are not expensive here in France and not only give a secure method of holding the posts but also are a neat way to keep the post-ends from rotting as it is the spike and not the posts that are in the ground. I have found that the wooden posts cost at least 1½ - 2 times that of the spike and also are treated with chemicals, thus I decided to make my own.

The planks I used came from non-standard sized pallets (approx. 79" - 2m long), the best place for these seems to be bathroom suppliers and joiners, also if you have them in your area, exhibition stand makers, who tend to use extra large 'bespoke' pallets.

If you are in the US the standard spike measures 3½" x 3½" internal dimension so you'll need to:

cut, 2 planks to: 3½" width and

cut 2 planks to: two plank thicknesses subtracted from 3½".(see above 5 photos illustrating this)

The four pieces that result are nailed together, to form a square-section post that fits into the spike.

Some spikes use clamps but if you have spikes (as I did) needing bolts, then you should drill bolt holes through the wider planks, using the holes in the spike as the guide. Once drilled, I numbered each spike and post so I knew the holes in the post aligned with the matching holes in the spike.

If you are in Europe then the standard spike, as used by me measures 69mm x 69mm internal dimension so follow as above but using these figures.

I cut 4" - 100mm squares from pallet wood to act as caps to the top of each post end.

Step 2: Making the Framework

Before making the trellis it was necessary to get the framework in place. This was of particular importance in our planning as we wanted to have a herringbone pattern to our trellis and we needed to make sure of all the measurements so the pattern would work to its best advantage.

The spikes were then driven into the ground at the determined positions, ensuring that the posts would be vertical once in place. I used 2" - 50mm wide battens to connect to the top of each post and two planks at the bottom of each post so that there was a 6” - 8" or 150mm - 200mm deep gravel board barrier from ground level running around the perimeter traced out by the posts. I put an additional post on one side of the perimeter which was to support an entrance door. The door fitting between it and the corner post. A top 2" - 50mm rail joined these two posts. All this framework was treated with linseed oil tinted with a touch of natural pigment (green and red to remove the yellow tinging linseed oil produces), follow this link to my site for more details on using natural pigments

As you will see I did the cutting of the long planks before I made my Plankcutter's holdfast, so I've included the film on how to make one above and which makes for much easier sawing.

Step 3: Making the Trellis - the Door

The perimeter of the garden gazebo now being complete, the next stage was to make the trellis. This is the most time-consuming, but most satisfying part of the project. The trellis comprises individual framework panels to which the laths are nailed. The laths were cut to width from pallet planks and I started with the door because this was one of the most simple of the designs I had in mind.

The door comprised a rectangular frame of 2” x 1” (50mm x 25mm) wood for the perimeter with two diagonal braces of the same wood to stiffen the structure, to which were nailed laths of about 1" - 25mm wide timber. Once checked for fit, the door was coated in linseed oil and then hung in place.

Step 4: Making the Trellis Walls

A Foreword on Materials

As designs will vary and to give an idea of how many pallets you may need for any amount of trellis, as a simple rule of thumb, I cut three sections of trellis lath from each pallet plank.

Making The Individual Wall Panels

I had toyed with several forms of trellis pattern, before finally deciding on a chevron style. The main advantage was that for this design I would never need a lath longer than a pallet plank length. The normal square-patterned trellis would require laths the full height of the panel (normally 6' approx.1800mm ).

The size for each trellis panel was measured. I had decided that the trellis would fit between the vertical posts and be screwed to the top batten and bottom gravel boards that joined the posts.

The frame of the trellis was made from long pallet planks sawn to 1¾” – 2” (40mm – 50mm width). A third plank bisected the panel between the top and bottom edges. I made lapped joints at each plank intersection. Normally, the cutting of even such a simple joint can take a little time, but I found that by setting my table saw to a cutting height of half the plank thickness and making numerous cuts at intervals of the saw blade width, the joint could be created easily, accurately and quickly. The faces of the joint resulting from using the saw were not perfectly smooth but, as I was not going to glue the joint, I did not consider this to be a problem. The frame was nailed at the joints. I used 2" - 50mm nails....... ........which I bent over on the reverse side.

As usual with a rectangular frame the squareness of it was checked by measuring the diagonals.

The fit of each frame between the appropriate posts was checked before the laths were attached.

To achieve the chevron pattern I made a pair of guides (one a mirror image of the other). Each guide comprised a short straight plank to which was screwed, at 45º, a pallet plank of 2¾" (80mm) width. In use the guide was positioned such that the short plank rested against what would be the vertical edge of the frame, the 45º part of the guide would rest on either the frame perimeter or the central plank of the frame.

The first lath to be nailed to the frame was near to the top of the centre plank. I used 1½” – 15/8” ( 40mm) nails that were just less than the thickness of the lath and frame combined. Leaving the guide in place, the next lath was laid against the opposite edge of the guide and nailed in place. The guide was lifted out and laid against the edge of the recently nailed lath, the position for the adjacent lath being the other edge of the guide. A check could be maintained on the correct angle for each lath by keeping the short plank of the guide against the frame edge.

The surplus length of lath extending over the edge of the frame was removed by sawing flush to the frame edge, Some of the offcuts were long enough to be used elsewhere on the panel. Once one half of the panel was completed, the same process could be undertaken on the other side, this time using the ‘mirror-image’ guide.

To complete the design, I also incorporated a panel of small square trellis, along the South wall of the gazebo, again using a guide in the same way as with the chevron pattern.

Once completed, each panel was then put in place between the upright posts a g-clamp holding it to the top batten of the perimeter frame, screw holes were drilled in the top and bottom rails of the panel through which the fixing screws could secure it to the top batten and the gravel board of the framework.

Step 5: Finishing

To finish each panel I made and attached a weatherstrip to protect the top edge. The strip was a pallet plank wide enough to cover the combined thickness of trellis and top batten. The upward facing side of the plank was chamfered so as to shed rainwater. I used a router with a 45° chamfer bit to produce this but the same result could be easily produced with a hand plane.

Finally, the whole trellis and framework was given a coat of lightly pigmented linseed oil to protect them from the vagaries of the weather. So treated and with the action of the rain and sun, the pallet wood takes on a beautiful silver colour, which makes it look like oak!

We also added a couple of stainless steel squirrels for an extra decorative touch.

Hope you've enjoyed this project, it has made us a really useful space within our garden to relax and dine without having chicken on the table!

For more assorted off-the-grid, upcycling and recycling projects check out:

Organikmechanic Youtube

The Green Lever Site

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