My wife and I received some old barn wood from her grandparents not too long ago, and I didn't really know what to build with it. Well, a project came to mind and it ended up being the perfect use for this material that easily dates back more than 100 years. Watch the video above of how I made it and check out the written article on my website for even more details: www.bruceaulrich.com/blog/pallet-wood-bench
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Step 1: BACKGROUND
I always like when I see people use old barn wood in projects. I know, this look can be overdone at times, but I still think there is something very cool about a rustic piece of furniture. I don't know that I want every piece that I own to look that weathered, but I do like it some.
We have a front porch, and then we have what we call our "side porch." Many times, this is called a "friend entry." I don't know if this is a Southern thing (I'm in Mississippi) or if it is derivative of the French styling, since this is technically French Acadian, but we like it. It is a smaller, more intimate entrance to the house that we, and most of our guests use. We wanted to have a bench on this side porch so we could watch the kids ride their bikes in the cul de sack down the hill. We can see them from the front porch, but the bench on the front porch is right in front of the baby's window, and often the older kids are out there while he is napping.
Step 2: BREAK DOWN PALLETS
I started off by going through the pallets I had, seeing which would have the longest boards. We wanted this bench to be as close to 4 feet wide as possible, because that seemed like a size that would look nice on the friend entry.
Step 3: METHOD 1 - Hammer & Crowbar
I have broken down pallets in a few different ways. Choose whichever way is best for you and the project: Hammer and crowbar: this ends up splitting way too many of the boards, and you lose a lot of material.
Step 4: METHOD 2 - Circular Saw
Circular saw: cut on either side of the stretchers, then using a crowbar to pry the center one apart. You do lose a little more material this way, but not much. The only bad thing about this is if you have some nice, intact ends on the boards with the cool nail holes. If that is a look you are going for, this method is probably not for you. It eliminates the nail holes at each end.
NOTE: I don't have a photo of this particular method, since I didn't choose to do it that way for this project. I have used it in the past, and it works well if you don't mind losing the character of the nail holes on the ends, as mentioned above.
Step 5: FAVORITE METHOD - Reciprocating Saw
Reciprocating saw: use a wood and metal blade in this saw to actually cut through the nails with the blade parallel to the top boards. It shakes you to death, and it is quite loud, but it yields the most intact boards that I have found. Plus, it is pretty easy then to just use a nail punch and get the leftover nail heads out of the boards.
Step 6: REMOVE NAILS
Then, remove all of the nails from the boards. This will be very easy if you chose my recommended method using a reciprocating saw, since there will only be the heads of the nails left to remove. Simply grab a nail punch and a hammer, and pop them right out.
Step 7: GETTING a STRAIGHT EDGE
Next, I got out my jointing jig for the table saw and ripped a straight edge on all of the pallet wood. Then, I could flip the boards around and put that newly straight edge against the table saw fence, and cut the other side to be parallel. I wanted a few different sizes for the pallet wood top, so I made multiple widths.
Step 8: BASE
I cut a piece of scrap 1/2" OSB to the overall size I wanted the bench to be and used it as the base. I would attach the pallet wood to this so it would have a little more substance.
Step 9: LAYOUT
Then, I started gluing and nailing down the pallet wood in the pattern I envisioned. The glue does most of the holding here. The brad nails are really there to just help hold them until the glue dries. It is pretty easy to do it as you go like this, because you don't usually have to cut things to exact lengths. Just let the pallet wood overhang the edges and you can trim it all flush later. Just be sure not to put nails very close to the edge so you're not sawing through a nail.
Step 10: PATTERN
You can really chose any pattern you like. I wanted to do something kind of modern looking, but I didn't want to do just straight lines or diagonals. Therefore, I did a mix of both, and I think it turned out great in the end. (You'll just have to stick around and see how it turns out...oh wait, you've already seen the finished product. Hope you keep reading anyway.)
Step 11: CLEAN UP EDGES
After the glue was dry for the top, I took it over to my table saw and squared up the sides with the crosscut sled. I was able to do this because I already had one straight side. When I applied the pallet wood to the substrate, I made sure to align one side with the edge of the OSB board underneath. Then, I could just trim the other side flush.
Step 12: FRAME FOR ADDED STRENGTH
The top ended up being 42" wide, so I didn't want it to have a chance to sag. I twas a little less stable than I had hoped, so I built a quick frame out of a single 2x4. I used some pocket holes to join the frame together. Then, I just attached it to the OSB substrate with a few screws. This helped a tremendous amount to make the bench feel substantial.
Step 13: BARN WOOD
I had some old barn wood lying around that we were given by my wife's grandparents. It was on some land that their parents owned, so it was quite old...over 100 years. I really didn't have a project in mind to use it on, but this one seemed fitting. It was pretty rotted out, so it was not too much good for anything other than decoration. I ended up using it for the apron on this bench.
Step 14: WRAP THE BENCH
I used the barn wood to create a stretcher or skirt around the bench. I just used some wood glue and brad nails to temporarily hold the pieces to the 2x4 frame. Then, I came back with some 1 1/2" screws to make sure it held.
Step 15: FILLER
A few of the gaps were quite large, since this material was so warped, so I used some sawdust mixed with glue to fill in some of them. I was careful not to sand too much. I didn't want to take this nice patina off of the old, barn wood.
Step 16: LEGS
Next, I turned my attention to the legs. I wanted these to be an "L" shape and have a nice taper toward the ground, so I milled up some more pallet wood and made some legs.
Step 17: CUT THE TAPER
After marking the taper on each of the 4 legs, I cut the taper using the bandsaw. This was really easy, and since it was a rustic project, I didn't do much cleanup on the bandsaw cut. I left it pretty rough.
Step 18: ATTACH THE LEGS
To attach the legs, I had originally thought I would just screw into the apron boards. Since these were so warped, and it just didn't feel stable enough, I decided to use some pocket holes to secure the legs into the 2x4 frame. I drilled the pocket holes, attached the legs and still felt like they needed more to be secure. So, I grabbed my drill and a 3/8" forstner bit and drilled through holes from the outside of the apron through the legs.
Step 19: DOWEL PINS
Then, I glued in some dowels to add some strength and a little design flare. I really like the look of it, so I'm glad I did it. I just flush cut the dowels after they were inserted all of the way.
Step 20: ADDING FINISH
The last thing to do was to put on some finish. I just used some regular polyurethane in a semi-gloss sheen. I brushed it on pretty thickly with a chip brush. This old wood really soaked up the finish. In total, I put two coats of it on, sanding with 320 grit in between.
Step 21: FIX MISTAKES
This is the point at which I realized I messed up. I made the bench too tall. We wanted the bench to end up being about 18" from the ground to the sitting surface, which was what a chair we have is. We liked that height, but by the time time I added the 2x4 frame, and you added the pallet wood thickness as well as the substrate, the bench was closer to 21" high. I put a stop block on the table saw sled and figured out a way to put the bench on it, secure it with clamps and cut off some of the legs. This seemed to work quite well, and I'm glad I shortened it.
Step 22: TRIM LEGS
A few of the cuts with the table saw did not cut all of the way through when I was trimming the legs down, so I used a hand saw to finish the cut.
Step 23: FINISHED PRODUCT
At this point, the bench was done and ready to be sat upon. This was a fun project and I learned a lot along the way. I hope you did as well. Be sure to let me know if you have any comments or questions. Also, keep and eye out as I have many more projects on the way!