If you live off the grid or just have a lot of projects requiring wood, pallets are perfect.
They are a great choice for many reasons:
- They’re free
- They’re already nailed together
- There’re plenty of them
- They have about a billion possible uses
- You can find them EVERYWHERE
Where can you find them?
- Behind grocery stores
- In the alleys behind hardware stores
- In the garbage/recyling areas of businesses
- On Craigslist
What can you do with them?
- Make furniture for your house: benches and tables
- Craft projects: Signs, decorations, hangers for jewelry, etc.
- Shop uses: shelves, tool holders, work tables
- Dismantle them and burn them
- Build a shed or even a house
We’ve utilized pallets extensively on our off the grid property. We didn’t have much money the first year we lived here so free was a good if not necessary choice for a building medium.
We built a garbage enclosure, benches, LOTS of shelving units, racks, and we burned a lot of them during the cold months of the year.
We drove around town and just looked for places that had them sitting out in back and we always asked first if it was OK to take them. It works out for everyone. They get rid of surplus and we gain our next….you name it.
To cut them up or dismantle individual planks use:
- a jig saw
- a circular saw
- a pry bar
- a nifty tool we bought at an Ace Hardware called The Wrecker (a fancy pry bar with extra “bars” for whatever leverage you need
- a hammer and a chisel for working the nails out
- a hammer to just whack the slats free (might break it)
- a couple of two by fours to remove individual planks without breaking them
They also make special pallet tools called pallet busters just for the purpose. Maybe a good purchase if you plan on using a lot of pallets.
The biggest pain in the ass is the nails they’re put together with. My husband and I could just visualize some guy with a nail gun going nuts on the assembly line. No limit to the number of nails used in each pallet. We’ve gotten them so riddled with nails, it’s almost impossible to take them apart.
And the ones that are STAPLED together……If we were desperate enough to need the pallet, we’d have to remove every staple individually with a hammer and needlenose pliers. Staples that were about two inches long sticking out of the piece of wood after we ripped it off of the pallet. Sometimes we’d just take a hammer and whack them down flat rather than deal with them.
For assembling various projects use:
- A drill and drill bits for pilot holes through thick boards
- A screw guide for the drill (a MUST)
- Wood or deck screws of varying lengths
- Brackets made by screwing two pieces of wood together or metal ones from the hardware store to add extra strength at attachment points
- Circular saw for cutting leg lengths and larger straight surfaces
- Hand saw
- C-clamp for holding pieces together tightly (the third arm) while installing screws
- Jig saw
- Tape measure
- Wood router
- Wood pencil for marking (works even on wet surfaces)
- Other hardware such as hooks and hangers
As for the how-tos and ideas, I just looked online. The projects haven’t always come out looking pretty but that’s just my craftsmanship or lack thereof. Functionality is my main goal. You can make some really nice pieces if you do the job right and have the right tools.
- That screw guide for your drill makes sinking those long screws SO much easier
- C-clamp for securing pieces – night and day
- Pilot holes for those thick pieces. You’ll strip the screws otherwise
- Pilot holes to prevent cracking. You don’t always have to but if the wood is prone to cracking or on the thin side, it’ll help
- Look for the better specimens in pallets. There are some shitty torn up ones you just pass up
- If you DO end up with a shitty pallet, you can add slats from another shitty pallet to make one whole NOT shitty pallet
Here are some photos of things we’ve done so far: