Pallet Wood Shot Glasses (100 of Them!)




About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ...

These decorative shot glasses are 100% reclaimed and 100% pallet wood! They were made for Carolina Shoe to use as giveaway items (keep an eye on their socials to see how you can get one). It's so awesome to know that my work will be traveling out to so many peoples hands. It took roughly 9 pallets to get the lumber for this build. A lot of it was turned into sawdust after all, but that's better than this good wood ending up in the landfill! I got some awesome lumber out of these pallets nonetheless (cherry, red oak, pine, poplar, white oak, maple, ash, elm, hickory). The shot glasses are intended just for display, but were finished with Waterlox Original (which is actually food safe and waterproof once it cures).

Notable Materials:

> Pallets (it took roughly 9 of them for this set of 100)

> Wood glue

> Blue tape

> Waterlox finish

> 1/4" plywood for template

Notable Tools:

> Speed bumps to disassemble pallets

> Alternatively: Hammer / Skill saw / Pry bar / Nail punch / Nail set / Metal detector / Palm nailer

> Thickness planer

> Table saw

> Pipe clamps

> Spreader glue bottle

> Screw clamps

> Fence clamps

> Drill press

> Wood lathe

> Carbide turning tools

> Carbide parting tool

> Lathe chuck

> MAP gas torch

> Branding iron

> Bench top belt sander

Teacher Notes

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Step 1:

First step is to find an unattended pile of pallets... Check!

Second step is to drive over enough speed bumps to disassemble the pallets... Check!

The pallets slats are first sorted out by thickness prior to running them through the thickness planner, this way I can start with the thicker slats and smooth down both sides working down to the medium and thinner slats until each side of each slat is smooth.

Got a pretty stellar load of pallets this time with lots of oak and some other cool hardwoods like ash and hickory, which I don't find too often.

Step 2:

Then a second round of sorting can occur, looking for any with ends that look too chewed up to salvage which are then chopped off on the miter saw.

Then a third sorting can occur, looking for any edges that are too chewed up to salvage and these are cut off on the table saw.

Then a fourth and final sorting can occur, grouping the slats in bundles that are just over 2.5" tall and with similar width slats.

Step 3:

I set up 3 pipe clamps on the bench to set the slats on for the 1st glue-up. Each bundle is marked off with a small strip of blue tape to remind myself not to apply glue to the seam between each bundle.

Lots of glue is applied... Each slat gets a liberal coating of glue with my spreader glue bottle before I move onto the next one and then all of them are clamped tightly together...

Lots of clamps!! Took 3 glue-ups so I could keep the similar width slats together and this worked out nicely.

I leave the clamps on overnight while the glue dries and then remove the clamps the next morning. The grungy edge of the glue-up is cut off first and then I cut a bunch of random width slices off of each bundle of pallet slats to create some cool striped slats.

The ends of each slat is cut square on the miter saw and then I inspect the haul, this range of species in the pallets creates some really impressive color combos!

Step 4:

Then it's the same process as before, groups of slats are combined until they are all just slightly more than 2.5" and each is designated with a strip of blue tape. Then again, 20 gallons of glue are applied to every surface before applying the clamps.

Lots. Of. Clamps.
Then one more for good measure.

This glue-up is set to dry for the night and then each one of the Pallet Sticks™ is cleaned up and cut down to a 2.5"x2.5" square on the table saw.

Then the end of each stick is squared up on the miter saw. I applied some oil to one because I was too impatient to checkout the color... this is going to be good!

Step 5:

My table saw blade is tilted over to 45° so I can cut the corners off of each of the sticks and bring them down to octagon shapes so I have much less material to remove when I turn them down to a circular shape.

Now the turning blanks are ready to go! I tried turning one set from one of these large "dowels" just between centers on the lathe, but the vibrations were excessive in the middle of the stick and I found that I wasn't really saving much time, if any. So I decided to go another route to turn them down to shape.

I decided to separate all of the sticks into separate turning blanks for each cup and attach them to the screw chuck in the lathe instead. Each one is cut down to 3" in length to give me a 2.5" tall shot glass with a little bit of room to hold it on the lathe.

I ended up with about 140 of these, which should be just enough once 40 of them explode or fly off the lathe... but I need a new computer wallpaper anyway :)

Each one of these blanks has a 3/8" hole drilled in the center of it. This has 3 purposes really -- a mounting location for the screw chuck, a starter hole for hollowing out the cups, and I drill to a specific depth so it set the depth of the cup later when I'm hollowing it out.

Step 6:

Now the turning can start! It all starts by mounting the screw chuck on the lathe and then I hold the blank against it with the hole lined up and carefully start the lathe to let the piece thread onto the screw.

First, I bring it down round. This is super easy since I already knocked all of the corners off so the cutting is a lot less aggressive and it shapes up quick.

You'll see this plywood template a couple of times in this process. I first use it to mark the length of piece I need for the height of the shot glass -- one edge of it is marked with this dimension so I can transfer it to the piece.

I use my parting tool to bring down the end of the piece to a roughly 3/4" tenon where I just marked it. This tenon will later be used to mount the cup while I hollow it out after I flip it around.

You can see the template at use again here. Each side of the piece of plywood is notched out to exactly the diameter of the top of the cup and the bottom of the cup. This way I don't have to fiddle around with calipers and they'll sometimes lose their dimensions, so this piece of plywood stays exactly where it is for all 100 cups.

Then to finish shaping it, it's just a matter of connecting the 2 ends together with a straight line.

Step 7:

They are on their pretty tight after all the force from turning them down to diameter, so I use my chuck key with the handle resting against the bed of the lathe to lock it in place while I manhandle the wood and unscrew it from the threads.

So, just rinse and repeat x140!
Only lost a couple of them in the first round of turning so we're off to a good start.

Now I replace the jaws in my chuck with my small jaws so I can clamp each one of these in place with the small tenon that I turned down earlier. I clamp them down as tight as I can because turning into end grain to hollow these out is going to take a lot of force.

Check out that concentration! The wall thickness is achieved just by eye, and after over 100 of them you get it dialed in pretty good and save a lot of time not fussing with calipers or measuring tools.

I use a round carbide cutting tool to hollow these out because it stays nice and sharp and cuts pretty well against the hard end grain. I just work my way out from the center center hole that I drilled earlier until I have both a 1/4" wall thickness and I reach the depth of the drilled hole.

So, just rinse and repeat x137ish!
Lost almost a dozen this round due to blowouts from weak grain or defects (knots/nail holes) in the wood.

Step 8:

With everything turned down to size, it's just a matter of smoothing them down by sanding through the grits. This brings the inside and outside surfaces down smooth, but also allows me to add a slight round-over to the inside and outside of the lip of the "glass".

If not before, it's starting to get a little repetitive now. Not too bad when you have some help though...

With everything shaped and sanded down smooth I can now add Carolina's logo with a branding iron. I heat it up with a MAP gas torch and reheat every few brands. Ohhhh fire :o

These are pretty tricky, but after a few you can get things dialed in. With the rounded shape, I need to rock the branding iron back and forth to make sure all of the letters are burned into the wood visibly and consistently.

Step 9:

I use Waterlox Original to seal up and finish the shot glasses. This finish is both waterproof and food safe once cured, so it will seal everything up nicely and give it a slight shine while bring out the amazing natural color of the wood.

Just the wipe-on of the finish makes it all worth it, the grain is amazing!

The finish is poured into a disposable plastic cup (the bottom of a water bottle) and I use a soft rag to apply the finish to the inside and outside of the cup while the lathe is spinning on it's lowest setting.

Step 10:

After all of the cups have finish on them, I let them sit for about 6 hours for the finish to cure and then hit them with some 400 grit sandpaper to knock down any fuzz left on the cups. Before applying a second coat of finish.

With 2 coats of finish applied and dry, I mount them all back on the lathe with some room between the bottom of the cup and the chuck jaws and use my parting tool to cut off the tenons.

You can see these guys all still have a slight nub left in the center of them so they need to be flattened down.

I use my bench-top belt sander to bring the surface all down flush and flat.

Now with the shaping completely done I can finish the bottom surface too. I apply 2 more coats of Waterlox to all surfaces of all of the cups.

Step 11:

Evolution from turning blank to finished shot glass! You couldn't achieve that finished look with just a log, plus with the glue-up process I did each one is completely unique!

Thanks so much for checking out the build, make sure you don't miss the build video too for the full experience!!

Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!

My Website: Essentially my entire life

YouTube: Me, in moving picture form

Instagram: Preview my projects as they progress #nofilter

Twitter: Riveting thoughts, in very small doses


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    25 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Doesn't look complicated, but talk about time consuming! I was in Gatlinburg awhile bag and toured the Moonshine store. Wooden mugs would be a great souvenier!


    2 years ago

    These are really cool, the branded logo really sets it off. Did you make the branding iron too?

    Alex 2Q

    2 years ago

    I'm no woodworker but I watched the entire video and then read the Instructable because I was interested to see how you managed to batch out such a large order.

    Great work on both the video and write up! You got my vote!

    Rory McPedal

    2 years ago

    Thanks for this! I have no intention of acquiring the equipment or skills to attempt this project, but the idea of driving over speedbumps to disassemble the pallets (along with accompanying gif) gave me a good laugh. Also, the glasses really are spectacular when finished.


    2 years ago

    I wouldn't use these for food. The pallet wood is treated with all kinds of pesticides and chemicals. This is necessary to avoid introducing invasive bugs into new environments, but the result is that the wood is not safe for eating out of.

    4 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    bloody awesome, however i work in the industry where we bring in goods from other country, 'IF' the goods are on 'heat treated' pallets and the import docs or what ever don't meet requirements or there is speculation the goods need to be treated, the container is fumigated, fumigation stamps only happen on exports, so there is no way to know if the pallet isn't stamped (stamping is not a requirement unless exporting) , if even you bring in the pallets you don't know if it was/wasn't fumigated by the last party who touched the pallet


    Reply 2 years ago

    You are correct but there are also Heat treated pallets that are 100% safe. When picking the pallets out make sure there is an HT mark on them which indicates they are heat treated. The ones with random letters and numbers are in fact treated with pesticides. He more than likely used heat treated as anyone that works with pallets should know this already.


    Reply 2 years ago

    That depends on how it was treated. I jave read some articles that some pallets are treated with sone pretty nasty compunds but some are actually just heat treated without the chemicals. I wouldbt be drinking from these though. But they do look good


    Reply 2 years ago

    These are just intended for display, BUT the danger of pallets has been very over-inflated. Methyl bromide pallet treatment is what people mostly worry about, but that is rarely used these days when almost all pallets are heat treated instead (you just have to look for the HT stamp like these had on them). The second concern is chemicals spilling on the pallets, but if you find clean pallets, you generally have nothing to worry about. Double check and make sure that you know they are only used once so they're clean or alternatively custom sized pallets are almost always single use and easy to find. Plus, after all that, shaving off the outer layer gets rid of all of the grime and the concentration of anything left is negligible. Ultimately these are for display use only anyway so we have no worries.


    2 years ago

    Is it safe to reuse? Search the Internet for “How to Tell If a Wood Pallet Is Safe for Reuse?” The first result should be:

    The ways that pallets are treated to get rid of wood eating pests is crucial. There should be an industry stamp. No stamp - DO NOT USE!

    There are two main things to look for on the stamp:
    1) The IPPC Logo: if you don't see it, don't use it! Even if a pallet may be perfectly safe without this logo, it could also mean that it was treated with chemicals!

    2) The treatment code : [HT] = Heat treatment / [MB] = Methyl Bromide / [DB] = Debarked / [KD] = Kiln Dried.

    Also, if you know what the pallet was used for that can save your life. When many pallets are made their future usage is not known. Many get used to move dangerous products. Those products can leave residues, which could kill you!

    laith mohamed

    2 years ago

    Wowww that is attractive (-:


    2 years ago

    respect. Would of got bored way before 100 were made! Had enough after maybe twenty of the same thing?

    Just been checking out pallets and found some pretty nice woods,not just endless pine boards but some oak, hickory and what looks like locust? Think some nice boxes on the cards.


    2 years ago

    Amazing work! Congratulations, very handsome.


    2 years ago

    Wonderful work!!


    Reply 2 years ago

    I assume they'll ultimately disassemble your vehicle, too. I'll just use my lump hammer.

    Beautiful work!


    2 years ago

    Nice build looks like a ton of work, kudos to you!


    2 years ago

    Very nice job. They look awesome.