Pallet Wood Toy Box




About: I like making things without spending very much money. I try to get my materials free (pallets), if possible. If at all possible, I'd rather fix something myself than pay someone else to fix it. If I don'...

I made this toy box as a Christmas gift for my 7 year old nephew. It is made entirely from old pallets with the exception of lining the interior with 1/4" plywood so he would not lose small toys in the uneven cracks of the pallet wood.

I enjoy making things out of used pallets. It is challenging because you are limited to what you can make based on the size of the pallet boards available to you. It's even better seeing the finished look after putting on a clear finish.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

These pictures show some of the tools I used on this project. I will try listing all of the ones I used and give a material list as well.


Good, fairly clean, safe to use pallets (marked HT and not had chemicals on them)

1/4" plywood - I bought a full sheet but only used about 2/3 of it

Wood glue - gluebot not necessary but works great and a brush for spreading the glue

Dow rod - size 1/4", could be different sized if you already have one

Brad nails or staples - size will depend on the size of your pallet boards


Safety first - safety glasses, dust mask and earplugs should be used when needed

For taking apart pallets: hammer, flat pry bar, vice grips or pliers, jig saw or circular saw, dust mask

For building toy box:

Sander / sanders with 80 and 120 or 150 grit sandpaper and dust mask

Brad nailer / stapler


Measuring tape


Clamps - various sizes

Framing square

Miter saw

Table saw

Drill and drill bits - impact driver if you have one

Pocket hole jig with screws

Circular saw - corded or cordless

Old chisel for excess glue removal or wet rags

Small hand saw for cutting dow rods

Straight edge for laying out straight panels

Pin nailer

Step 2: Disassemble Your Pallets

There are many different ways to take apart pallets and many different tools to use when doing so. Use your preferred method or research an existing Instructable to learn which method will work best for you.

I used a hammer, thin pry bar and jig saw to take my pallets apart. I cut most of the boards short, but did do several as long as I could make them for the longer sides of the toy box.

Step 3: Sand Your Boards

Once you have enough pallet wood to complete your project, sand each piece with 60 or 80 grit sandpaper. This is just an initial step to remove any rough surfaces and any dirt that may be on the wood. This will also allow you to give each piece a once over and to remove any nails or staples that remain in the boards. You can also toss out any which you are confident won't work in you project or set aside ones you might want to use in a particular part of your build.

For my build, after sanding, I set aside each board that had a live or natural edge. I wanted to utilize these boards on the front of the toy box for a certain look.

Step 4: Layout

Lay out your boards to get the look you are wanting. You may end up changing your initial design, which is fine. After all, you are working with pallet wood and it is not perfectly square or uniform in shape, size or color.

Try different looks to find the one which you like best. Take measurements for the boards which you will need to cut to size.

Step 5: Cut to Length

Once your design is established, you can start cutting your boards to the proper size.

Start by squaring off one end. Then measuring from the end which was just cut, use a miter saw to cut your board to its final length. On the left side of this picture you can see how I used a stop block on my miter saw to ensure each of my boards would be cut to the same length. Best of all, I don't have to measure any more after establishing my stop block.

If you are going to cut boards at a different length, just adjust your stop block to the desired measurement.

Only cut the boards you will need. Other boards may need trimmed later.

Some boards may need ripped down to size on the table saw to fit within the desired length of the toy box.

Step 6: Begin Assembly

Once your boards are cut to the proper size, begin laying them out again to ensure you have made your cuts properly. Now you can begin to put them together.

I used a combination of staples in my brad/stapler gun and wood glue. Glue the surfaces you intend to put together then use the stapler to hold the two pieces together. On each end make sure to use a square to keep the panel from being crooked.

While laying my project out, I had the desire to keep hidden any mechanical fasteners. These staples will be hidden by a plywood liner later. It's just a matter of thinking ahead about where to put your fasteners or to use them at all. Glue by itself will hold some of these parts together once it cures. The staples will hold it together until it cures or using clamps will achieve the same result.

The last picture shows a ledger board which is on the inside bottom of each panel. This ledger board will be used to hold up the floor of the toy box. I ripped this board in half on the table saw and used one half on each side panel, making sure that it gets attached on the inside of the panel.

There will be a total of four panels in this step. Two identical for the front and back, and two identical for the sides. Each will be assembled in the same manner.

Step 7: Attaching the Panels

After the glue has had time to cure, begin attaching the four panels to each other. I used a pocket hole jig to accomplish this. On both sides of the small panels I used glue and pocket holes to attach the small panels to the longer ones. I also used clamps to ensure a good solid joint would be made on each corner of the toy box.

This has created a box without a top or bottom as shown in the last picture.

The board across the bottom I did not attach until later in the process.

Step 8: Make a Bottom

Now it was time to add the stretchers which would hold up anything that is put in the toy box. I simply measured the distance from the front panel to the back panel and cut these strips to use. Each one has glue on the end and is stapled into the runner below. I made these strips by ripping boards of the same thickness down then cutting them to fit.

Now it is time to make sure the box is square, or as close to square it can be made. Measure the distance from opposite corners on the top of the box then measure the other two opposite corners. If the box is square then the two measurements will be the same. If they are not, adjust the box to make it square.

Once square, measure for the panel which will make up the bottom of the toy box. Cut out the panel and sand down the edges to remove any splintering. Test fit the panel to make sure your cuts are accurate. If the panel does not fit, mark the panel where and either make adjustments with the saw or use sandpaper to smooth out the panel to fit in the space which is available. Then apply glue to each board and insert the bottom panel again. I did use a pin nailer to keep the edges down and to keep the box from going out of square.

I used 1/4" luan plywood for the interior panels. For some reason this plywood had a reddish tint to it.

Step 9: Continue With the Interior

After placing the bottom in the toy box it was time to cut out the sides. These were attached in the same manner as the bottom was attached. The only exception was that the sides had more surface area to glue to than the bottom did.

Measure for each side panel because they will vary slightly in size and only do one panel at a time. For each one you put in, it will affect the size of the others.

As you can see in the first picture I used several clamps to glue the top portion of this interior panel. The pallet boards I used were not consistently the same size on this panel and left a gap between the boards and the plywood for the interior. The clamps held them together until the glue had time to cure, usually around 30 minutes but longer in cool or cold climates.

Step 10: Adding the Trim

Next was to add any trim pieces. These usually have no structural purpose but add to the overall finished look of the project and to cover any gaps which were visible.

I added trim to the bottom of each panel which matches the trim piece on the top of each panel.

I also added a vertical trim piece to each corner to cover up the joint where the side panels met the front and back panels.

All of these trim pieces were attached using glue and clamps.

Step 11: Final Trim Details

I wanted to cover up the top of each side panel and give this toy box a finished look. I did so by gluing boards and clamping them to the top edges.

I made each board slightly wider than the side panels. This will allow the trim piece to overhang the sides and gives it a finished look.

I wasn't satisfied with just the glue alone in the pieces. To keep with my desire to not see any fasteners, I drilled holes through the boards into the side panels. Then I added glue the the holes and hammered dows into the holes, these were purposely left longer than the holes I drilled. Then I used a saw to trim off the extra length on each dow. Now the dows add extra strength to hold the boards in place.

This accomplished two things. First it made the top frame more structurally sound since the dows extend into the vertical panels. Secondly, it allowed me to fasten the top without using nails, staples or screws which would have been seen.

There was also a crack in the top frame. I mixed up some sawdust and wood glue then spread it and forced it into the crack. This will make the crack less noticeable.

After all of the glue had dried, I had several spots where the glue ran down the boards. I used an old chisel to remove the dried glue. Wiping off the glue with a wet rag before it dries is easier, but I did not notice these until it had already dried up.

Step 12: Final Sanding / Finishing

Now that the entire project is completely together it is time for a final sanding. I went over everything with a 150 grit sandpaper using the various sanding devices shown in the picture. Not all of these are necessary but having different options will make the job easier and quicker.

Once I was done sanding I used compressed air to remove any remaining dust. Then I wiped down the entire box with a damp rag to remove any remaining dust.

Once it dries it is ready for the finish. I used a spray clear coat. I wanted to be able to see the variations in each board and let the character stand out. You could use any finish you like.

Step 13: Finished Project

Let the finish dry overnight, or longer depending on the directions of the finish you use.

I made this toy box for my nephew. He was ecstatic when he got it. He was proud that he would now have a place to put his toys. He even told me I did a good job, and that made it worthwhile.

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24 Discussions

Kink Jarfold

1 year ago on Step 13

I was browsing older posts and came across this. I liked the use of the pallet runners. That really added to the look of the design.


Nailed It!.jpg
3 replies

Thank you. I was trying to use as much of the pallet as I could. I agree with you, it does give something overall to the look.

Most definitely OSBF. That was exactly the idea I had when building my shadowbox bookcase. I was looking for that element that caught the eye. My next load of pallets will go into building something using your elements of great design.


spark master

2 years ago

if no one else says it, if a lid is added perhaps breathing holes in the chest walls, so if a kid goes in and the top comes down the kid can breathe. But maybe more important do you know where those pallets have been? what was spilled on them? And I do realize a tree can suck up nasty stuff or the mill does something stupid before during or after processing a tree, but pallets can be loaded with stuff. I worked for a very large company we had thousands of pallets, we had a guy who just looked after pallet inventory. , We used contract and common carriers and had our trucks and they hauled as back haulers all kinds of things and we exchanged pallets with them. They made everything, chemicals tires, anything that could go by truck. All of our stuff was double wrapped/boxed, so no issues but here not the same, and it in the kids room perhaps.

Still, it really is awesome looking, and the detail is really nice. I would have loved on , just made with virgin use wood. And I do know anything we get can be contaminated.

awesome box though

1 reply

I understand your concern but I am confident that the pallets I use are free of chemicals since I hand pick the ones I use. They are all stamped with "HT" and come from a facility that makes food grade materials. Most are relatively new and I leave them outside my home to weather to get the look I desire.

The lid was something I planned on adding, but ran out of time. My plan was to use a pallet runner and have the fork openings pointed up to leave two openings for hand grabs when opening the lid. I just didn't have time to follow through with everything because of a deadline.

It would totally make a great cooler on a back deck. Lots of room for all kinds of drinks.


2 years ago

Terrific. Well explained, logically built, and good looking. With an appreciative and expressive kid thrown in to boot.

1 reply

2 years ago

Great idea! My husband and I do a lot with pallets. This would be great on the back porch for storage and look good too. Would add a lid to it though. Very nice and thank you for sharing.

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

Yes, it would work great on a back deck or porch with a lid. It could also be used as extra seating, maybe a cushion that is kept inside it. Thanks.


2 years ago

If you put a lid on your toy box, PLEASE use counterbalance hinges on it!

You can find them at Rockler. Many children have been injured and killed by falling lids.

1 reply

Great idea for hinges. However, I didn't have enough time before Christmas to make a lid and the recipient is pleased the way it is, so I won't be making a lid for it. I will keep your suggestion in mind for later though. Thanks.

spark master

2 years ago

Also add 5 pieces of expanded foam and a plastic liner and you have an open cooler for parties.


2 years ago

I like how you incorporated the part of the pallet where the "forks" are inserted, I'll keep that in mind for my next pallet project!

1 reply