We needed some way of storing all the toys my children play with but wanted it to blend in with the rest of our furniture in the lounge room. After making a bookcase out of pallet wood I decided to construct this toy storage unit/window seat using a similar method.
Step 1: Gather Your Equipment
You will need to make some decisions on how big you want the unit to be. I based mine off the window height and length of boards available as well as putting some consideration of the final size and shape of the crate. It is important to consider the size of the crate otherwise you will end up with a product that may be out of proportion and look unbalanced.
The following materials list is based on my unit which measures: 1375 long x 520 high x 500 mm deep. The final size of the crates is 490 long x 400 wide x 370 mm high. I was running low on pallet wood and used some 90 x 12 mm DAR Pine I had for the crates, this saved a lot of sanding as I wanted these parts to be the smoothest as they would be handled quite often.
Note: All sizes are in metric mm and may differ from your materials as I have ran a planer over the edges to clean them up. As always, make sure you do your own research on pallet wood so that you know what to look for when picking pallets to ensure you are getting 'safe' timber.
Frame (All Pallet Wood):
4 pieces of 85 x 28 x 1350 mm (outside pieces)
2 pieces of 85 x 28 x 1180 mm (inside piece)
4 pieces of 85 x 28 x 330 mm (ends)
4 pieces of 85 x 28 x 123 mm (middle support pieces)
Dividers and Planks (All Pallet Wood):
8 pieces of 85 x 28 x 450 mm
44 pieces of 85 x 12 x 500 mm
Crates (DAR Pine and Ply Wood):
24 pieces of 90 x 12 x 400 mm DAR Pine
24 pieces of 90 x 12 x 465mm DAR Pine
12 pieces of 42 x 19 x 350 DAR Pine
3 pieces of 465 x 380 x 12 mm Ply Wood
I used 3 mm MDF as the backing board as it will not be seen and its cheap. You could use plywood so that you can stain it to match the rest of the unit or even more pallet wood if you have enough left over.
I applied 2 coats of Stain (Walnut) and 4 coats of Gloss Polyurethane.
Small nails for holding the boards in place
Pocket hole screws (I used 1-1/2) (Alternatively you could use dowel joints or screw in from the ends as the frames will be covered in the planks)
Circular Saw or Jig Saw
Router with flush cut bit
Pocket Hole Jig
Drop Saw/Hand Saw
Step 2: Collect and Prepare Your Wood
Note: As always, make sure you do your own research on pallet wood so that you know what to look for when picking pallets to ensure you are getting 'safe' timber. If in doubt lick a few pieces and if you are not seeing pink unicorns its 'probably' safe. I always check for HT (heat treated) markings, ensure I cant see any chemical spills (yes some/most chemicals are clear) and collect them from companies that deal in dry goods (reduce risk of spills). Don't forget to ware PPE gear including a dust mask when dealing with saw dust.
There are many ways you can pull a pallet apart, pine wood pallets seem to pull apart with very little splitting but hardwood pallets have threaded nails that are a pain to remove and therefore split very easily.
My preferred method for reclaiming the most timber in the shortest time is to use a circular saw to cut through the ends of the planks and remove the side pieces. I remove the planks from the center piece by using a Multi Tool to cut the nails flush with the center piece. As the center piece is now full of nails it is safer to throw it away then run the risk of putting it through any of your tools.
I use a crowbar to remove the nails from the side pieces, the longer the better as it provides more leverage. If you have a stubborn nail or one of the heads breaks off I have found that it helps to drill a 3 mm hole beside the nail and use pincers to pull the nail towards the hole and it comes out easy.
Finally I separate all the pieces looking for the straightest boards and clean up the thin sides with an electric planer. You could also run them through a thicknesser to clean up the width of the boards if you have one, I wait until the frame is assembled and use a belt sander to clean them up, however this gets extremely dusty (ware a mask!)
Step 3: Build the Frames
Now that you have the timber prepared its time to build 2 identical frames. Cut the three long pieces and 2 ends to required length. Lay out the boards and make the middle spacers to suit. When laying out the boards consider which edges may be the the front and decide if you want the existing nail holes to be visible or hidden.
I used pocket hole screws to join these together but you could use dowel or lap joints or screw in from the sides. If screwing from the sides consider where the screw will be seen from and adjust the layout accordingly as you may be able to hide the screws using the planks on the sides.
Try to assemble these on a flat surface and check the pieces of timber are not too warped. You want a nice flat surface for the bottom so it wont rock on the floor.
Once they are glued and screwed clean them up with a belt sander. Do not focus too much on one spot as you may remove too much material.
Step 4: Lay the Boards
Use the electric planer to clean up the edges of the planks. Be careful not to remove too much and end up tapering the plank. My planks ended up between 80-85 mm thick depending on how much I had to remove.
Start laying out the planks on the frames and rearrange the pieces of timber until you are happy with the way it looks. Trim the boards so they are just a bit longer then the frame using a saw. Glue the planks into place by applying glue to the frame and edges of the planks and nail them onto the frame.
Some of my planks overhung too much so I used a circular saw to trim them closer to the frame. I then used a router with a flush cut bit to trim the planks so that they are flush with the frame. I find this method works best when working with pallet wood as the pieces are not always square and may have a slight curve.
Use a nail punch to push the nails into the timber and putty all the nail holes. You may want to skip this step to add to the look but I didn't like the shiny nail heads which would stand out even more once the unit was stained.
Once the putty is dry use a belt sander to clean the top and a disc sander to sand it smooth.
Step 5: Add the Sides and Dividers
Place the 2 frames on each other and decide which edges will be the front of the unit and which frame will be the top and which will be the bottom. .
I realized after I had made the 2 frames that the dividers would look better if they went right to the frame rather then sit on the planks. I decided where I wanted the dividers and marked out where to remove the material on the bottom piece. I then used a chisel to remove part of the plank. My plan was to use dowel joints so that I didn't have any pocket holes visible but I found some plugs and got lazy. You could also cut housing joints into both the frames if you are feeling adventurous.
Dry fit the dividers and check for squareness by measuring the diagonals and making sure they are close to the same length. Consider the thickness of the planks on each end, this may lead to being out a few mm, if you are out quite a bit then you will want to make adjustments so that the unit does not look like its leaning to one side and the crates fit in correctly. Once you are satisfied glue and screw the unit together.
Using the same method as the frames add planks to the sides of the unit.
Step 6: Make the Crates
I was originally going to make crates with spaces similar to fruit crates but I was concerned toys would stick out the gaps and make it harder to slide in and out. The design I chose wont have that issue however they did end up being heavier then I wanted.
As I was running low on pallet wood I used some 90 x 12 mm DAR Pine I had for the crates, this saved a lot of sanding as I wanted these parts to be the smoothest as they would be handled quite often. Part of me regrets not using pallet wood as it may have fit in better with the rest of the design. I also considered painting them white and sanding the edges back to make them look old and warn but decided to use what I had and went with a poly finish.
Use a 35 mm forstner bit to cut 2 holes for the handles and then use a jig saw to cut the gap between the holes. Use a router with a round over bit to round over the handles so they are more comfortable to use.
Make the long sides first by gluing and nailing the long sides onto the 42 x 19 mm supports. Then glue and nail the front and backs to the sides ensuring that the top of the box is level with the end of the supports. I positioned the base into the frame as I made them to help keep them square.
Turn the crates upside down and insert the plywood base. Add some glue to the base and drill pilot holes and counter sink the holes so that the supports don't split. Screw the base to the supports and the crate is ready for sanding.
I purposely made the supports shorter then the sides so that the base would be sitting off the floor. This means there will be less friction when sliding the crates into the frame.
Step 7: Add a Finish
Once everything has been built sand it with the disc sander starting with 120 grit and moving up to 280. You can make it fairly smooth without removing a lot of the features that comes with using reclaimed wood.
I used 2 coats of walnut stain and 4 coats of gloss polyurethane.
If you are using plywood for the back you may want to add it now or stain it and add it latter. One advantage of adding it latter means you have more light and easier access to the unit without the back added.
Step 8: Add a Backing Board
Once the finish is dry mark out and cut the backing board to size. I used 3 mm MDF as it was cheap and will not be seen. You could leave the back off but I didn't want the crates to be pushed back against the wall constantly as it may scratch or damage the wall.
Once the back was added I applied a wax to the base of the frame and the bottom of the crates, this made them slide in and out a lot more freely.
Step 9: Start Using Your New Storage Window Seat!
Now all that's left to do is to bring it inside, grab a cold one and sit back and enjoy!
Hope you enjoyed my first instructable, please leave any comments or advice and thank you for reading.