How to make a simple, attractive DIY pallet bench - the aim is a (deliberately) rustic bench seat for your backyard, garden, courtyard etc. The intent is not to disguise where the timber came from - pick a pallet with a strong colour scheme and make it shine. This is a simple and cheap DIY project that should cost virtually nothing provided you have a few tools and can scrounge a pallet for free or on the cheap and is a way to up cycle reclaimed timber
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Step 1: Find an Old Pallet
Find a used shipping pallet - I wanted to leave my bench unrefined and true to its original form (ie not sanded back) so I went with a red one. Try to avoid a pallet that is too damaged or warped (something I failed to check properly). Please note that one standard pallet (here in Australia) yielded enough timber for this project. You may want or need to adapt the measurements in case your pallet dimension are different. Ours are roughly 42 inches wide and deep. Also don't go stealing a pallet - see if you can find an old giveaway
Step 2: Tools Required...
Power drill and saw, clamps, screws, set square, wrecking/pry bar and mallet, tape measure. Please also use appropriate safety gear and take care while you are using a circular or powered saw. I recommend grabbing a whole bunch of long shanked exterior grade screws for putting it all together, plus maybe a countersink bit for getting the screw heads nice and flush
Step 3: Brute Force
Disassemble the pallet using wrecking bar and mallet. This is the slowest step as you'll need to avoid splitting or damaging the timber. My pallet involved helical nails (nails with shafts threaded like screws) so it took a long and difficult fight before victory was declared...
Step 4: Cut Down to Size (and Stain/paint or Seal)
After you are absolutely sure all nails, staples etc are gone (please check very carefully especially if you are using a powered saw) cut timber as follows using a power or hand saw:
4 legs each cut from the bulkiest timbers - in my case these were 3x4s cut to 18 inches long
The remaining timber cuts come from the thinner timber found on the top and bottom of the pallet: you'll need 2x38 inch lengths and 2x11 inch lengths. This provides the frame materials for the bench.
Pick the least attractive boards for the framing/apron of the bench as you'll want the best looking timber to be the top of the bench seat. Having now chosen three or four of you best pieces, cut all of them evenly to around 39.5 or 40 inches in length
Now is the time to sand and then seal/stain/paint to an attractive finish (I used a decking oil which made the timber hues richer while still highlighting the original faded red paint on my pallet). I only sanded enough to get rid of splinters etc - the aim was to preserve as much of the pallet's original paint and markings
Step 5: Assemble the Frame/apron
Screw together the 38 and 11 inch pieces into a rectangular frame. Those of you playing along at home will notice that I had to use a spare bit of hardwood for one of the long lengths - my pallet was in such poor shape that it didn't yield quite enough straight(ish) material. Insofar as the quality of the timber allows, try to get the frame reasonably square. In theory, if the diagonal measurements of the rectangle are the same the frame is square. But this ain't fine furniture and the timber isn't likely to be even in the realm of perfect so just do your best.
Step 6: Clamp and Attach the Legs
Clamp the legs to the inside corners of the frame - my wood was warped but came out reasonably square. I used two screws on each side which is nice and strong
Step 7: Check Bench and Avoid Rock and Roll
Put bench upright on flat level surface and check that the bench legs are at same height (ie shouldn't wobble on a flat floor) Adjust leg positions if need be. In theory you should check for square, but being pallet timber, it is unlikely to be milled square and free of warping, cupping, etc so the main thing for me was to make little adjustments until the bench was stable and didn't rock or wobble.
Step 8: Affix Bench Seat Slats
Depending on your pallet's dimensions you may need three or four lengths for the top. In my case two thinner strips and one wider board (all cut to approx 39.5 inches in length for a little overhang at either end) fit like a bought one. Screw these lengths on to the frame and then add a small cross bracing board underneath if it needs the extra strength.
Step 9: Finished
Go enjoy your cheap and attractive bench seat
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