We are four 11th graders at the Workshop School in West Philadelphia. We created a nightstand out of a shipping pallet for a school project. It has a power strip attached so that you can charge your phone or plug a lamp directly into the nightstand. Our school is project-based with an emphasis on building community. We did this project to practice collaboration and to think about the design process.
- Pallet (of course)
- Wood saw
- Sandpaper or power sander
- Finish and polyurethane (optional)
- Power strip
- Wood glue
- 1.25” screws
- 3” screws
- Thin nails
- Small metal hooks
If you want to see more of the great work that we do in our 11th/12th grade advisory at the Workshop School, follow us on Instagram: instagram.com/_101_ws
Step 1: Deconstructing the Pallet
The first step is to take apart the pallet. It’s important to do this carefully so you can use all of the wood for the nightstand. If some of it cracks or splinters, it might be unusable.
Use the crowbar to pry the the pieces of wood apart from each other and pull the nails out. If a nail is especially hard to get out with the crowbar, don’t force it! Instead, use the hacksaw to cut the nail so that you don’t risk cracking the wood around the nail.
Once you have all of your wood separated, measure all of the pieces you have and take inventory. If you have any wood that’s cracked beyond use, figure out how you can compensate with the remaining pieces.
Our pallet had twelve pieces of wood: seven were 3.5” x 52”, one was 4” x 52”, and four were 32” long and shaped like an ‘E’ with protrusions. We originally had two other pieces, but we weren’t able to use them.
Step 2: Nightstand Top
Next, we started cutting the wood for the top of the nightstand. We wanted the top to be about 20” x 20”, so cutting six 20” pieces from the 3.5” x 52” pieces was perfect. We made sure to save the leftover 12” pieces of wood from this for later. When we cut the wood, we measured a single 20” segment, cut it, and then measured the rest of the pieces using that segment as a guide. That way, even if our measurement was a little off the first time, the pieces would be a consistent size. We cut the pieces with a table saw, but a wood saw would have worked just as well.
Step 3: Sanding
Next we sanded all of our wood, particularly the surface of the nightstand. We didn’t want anyone to accidentally get a splinter reaching for their phone or a book on their nightstand in the dark, so the surface had to be perfectly smooth.
We put the wood in a bench vise to hold it in place while we sanded it with a power sander. We made sure to sand down any nails that were still in the wood. If you don’t have a power sander, you can use regular sandpaper.
Step 4: Assembling the Top
Next we put together the top of the nightstand. We took our six 20” pieces and lined them up. We put wood glue in between each one and clamped them together to let it dry. Once they had dried, we used our extra 12” pieces as supports. We screwed these pieces into the bottom of the nightstand surface with 1.25” screws.
Step 5: Legs
Next we attached the E-shaped pieces to the bottom of the nightstand surface to serve as legs. We held them in place with wood glue and clamps and then drilled 3” screws in from the top. We made sure that the pieces sticking out of the legs pointed inwards. The reason for this will be clear in the next step.
Step 6: Shelves
Next we created two shelves to fit into the slots created by the protrusions from the legs. We made these shelves the same way we made the top of the table, only smaller. We made them 20” x 15.5” using the same 3.5” x 52” pieces as before. We made four 3.5” x 20” pieces and two thin 0.75” x 20” pieces. We build these the same way as the tabletop: wood glue, clamps and extra wood supports on the bottom.
Step 7: Shelf Decoration
Next we slid the shelves on top of the protrusions and screwed them in place with 3” screws. Once the shelves were in place, we cut the 4” x 52” piece into two 17” pieces and put them perpendicular to the long side of the first shelf and screwed them in place.
We didn’t have enough wood to do this on both sides of the second shelf, but we would have if we could have.
Step 8: Finish
After we put the shelves in, we finished and put polyurethane on the wood. For the finish, we applied a thin coat with a small paintbrush. Then we wiped it down with a rag. We didn’t use much because we didn’t want it to get too dark. We used Minwax Wood Finish Golden Pecan 245, but any finish would look fine.
Once the finish dried, we painted the polyurethane on the same way.
Step 9: Power Strip Installation
Finally, we installed our power strip. Our power strip had two small holes on the back where a screw could fit in, so we put two small nails protruding from one of the legs so that the power strip could hang vertically down the leg near the tabletop. Then we ran the cable along the edge of the tabletop and secured it withH hooks that we hammered into the side of the nightstand.