Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cleansing Our Pallets, Part II

The internet will back me up on this: there are endless uses for the ubiquitous pallet. And, in this case, necessity is the mother of invention. My necessity was to get rid of extra pieces of pallets that wouldn't work for building flats. Believe it or not, all those "waste" stringers I mentioned in Part I were the perfect material for something else I didn't even think about needing: tables to put the flats on! Construction was very simple. Each table requires 11 stringers, which you can get from three or four pallets (depending on their design). I started by removing the extra wood and nails from them. This step isn't absolutely necessary for the legs and top surface, but it looks much nicer and you won't have nails grabbing you as you walk by.
I had removed the boards for flat material by cutting right along each stringer with a circular saw. That left the stringers you see in the photo here, complete with pieces of board still nailed in. I found I could break these off of the nails easily with sideways hammer blows. I was left with nails that could not be pulled out. Most would allow themselves to be hammered in, some were bent and hammered flat.

All of the stringers were 48" long, so I let that dictate the length and width of the table. Two stringers would form the crosspieces, making the table 48" long, and five stringers would be cut in half to make ten surface pieces for a 24" wide table. The legs were cut to 37" to create a reasonable height. I chose the six straightest, flattest, and strongest stringers for the legs and cross-pieces.

I assembled the surface first, laying the 24" surface pieces flat on the cross pieces and nailing them. The gap between each was something like 1½". Then I upended the surface and attached the legs with screws. I spent some time making sure they were square before affixing them, but it turned out not to make a clear difference. They were a little wonky anyway.

When I righted the whole thing it was obvious that it was not so stable, so I added the diagonals you see in the photos. They were scrap flat material.

I needn't state that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that function often comes before aesthetics for me. If I find that Warren Buffet writes me into his will I may commission an Amish cabinet maker to fashion me some nice mahogany flat tables. Until that point, though, I will be very pleased with these. They are sturdy enough to jump up and down on (our seedlings do a lot of that), durable enough to last at least a few seasons, and were free wood.


  1. Nice, Dan. Did you know that the entire bar at the Berkeley Cafe Gratitude was made from pallets? And it's quite a pretty bar, too, I might add. They covered it with tons of lacquer, which makes it shiny and pretty. I love reading what you write. Keep 'em coming. (And I saw this one on my own; you didn't even have to tell me you posted a new one!) :)

  2. Oh, drat! I forgot to send you... Well, I am glad you found it!
    I didn't notice the bar when we were there. But then, I have only recently become attuned to the omnipresence of pallets :)

  3. I started experiencing déjà vu after seeing your post then the pile of wood Gary tore out of the attic and threw into the yard bellow. Seb said maybe he could make something out of it like a work table for Chelsea and I. And he did! I showed him your post and told him how timely all this was.

  4. Thanks for the inspiration. I've got a similar project I've been meaning to work on here for a while. Anyway, I wanted your advice on constructing a terrarium. I have several large pieces of unframed glass. Can you recommend a technique for safely building a structure to provide extra sun to tomatoes? It's a tall order, but I thought I'd ask.

  5. Hey Bryce!
    I've actually been rolling that kind of project around in my head. Mom had all of the windows in the house replaced a few years ago, so the old glass (in frames) and storm windows are currently lying stacked in the barn. I intend to use them to make some cold-frames for our seedlings.
    If I had unframed glass I would first frame it, probably using 2x2s. I would use a table saw to cut a groove longways in the wood that the glass could seat in, assemble them into frames, then put the frames together into a structure. This would be heavier than metal and create a lot more shadowed area inside, but it would be pretty easy, and much better than nothing.
    Let me know what you do - I'll be interested to see how it works! I'll be sure to post whatever I come up with.