Wood pallets are easily accessible items that can be found almost anywhere. Businesses, such as grocery stores, hardware stores, and lumberyards, often have them lying around and are happy to give them away for free. I’ve also found them through construction companies and businesses that have items shipped in crates. Make sure you ask first, just to be sure, as sometimes pallets are sent back to the companies they came from.
Once you have your pallets, taking them apart isn’t difficult, but it does require a bit of muscle and some patience.
Start by laying the pallet on the ground, making sure there’s ample room to work around it. If the boards on the edges are cracked or you just need smaller pieces for a project, use a circular saw to cut along the center braces and remove the usable parts. For longer pieces and whole boards, use a crowbar and hammer. Remove any nails that are already sticking out and hammer the crowbar under the edges, carefully pulling up a bit at a time around the nails to make sure you don’t crack the board.
You can also use the hammer to hit the board from behind where it connects to the thicker brace to loosen it up, but do only a little bit at a time, because it’s easier to crack the boards that way. A reciprocating saw will cut through the nails, so cutting between the brace and the board is an option, but it may be more difficult to get the nails out of the wood if you take the boards apart that way. Whichever method you choose, be sure to use proper safety equipment.
Wood Pallet Storage Chest
Perfect for a child’s room or storing away gardening supplies for winter, this chest can be customized to fit any theme or style. For example, a nautical look can be achieved by painting the chest dark blue and drilling holes in the sides for knotted rope handles. You can finish the inside by cutting a few pieces of heavy cardboard 1/8 inch smaller than the dimensions of each side of the chest, covering one side of the cardboard with spray mount, and wrapping each piece in fabric. Use a staple gun to secure the cardboard pieces to the inside of the chest to give it a more polished look.
Tools, Materials & Cutting List:
- Nail gun or hammer
- 3/4-inch nails
- 1-1/2-inch nails
- 3-inch nails
- 3/4-inch screws
- Miter saw
- Wood glue
- Table saw
- Phillips screwdriver or drill with bit
- Tape measure or ruler
- Metal gate brackets (4)
- Metal handles (2)
- 2-inch metal hinges (2)
- Casters, optional
Cutting List (from pallets):
- Sides (20): 20-by-4-1/2 inches
- Bottom (5): 27-by-4 inches
- Lid (5): 27-by-4-1/8 inches
- Braces (2): 16-by-1-1/4 inches
- Accents (4): 27-by-3 inches
- Accents (4): 20-by-3 inches
1. Sand all pieces smooth.
2. Lay out one of the 27-inch accent boards with the good side down. Place one of the side boards, good side down, on top of the accent piece, square with the corner, and then glue and nail it in place with 3/4-inch nails along the top and bottom of the accent board. Repeat with five more side boards, lining them up across the accent board.
3. Repeat Step 2 with the other 27-inch accent board and six more side boards. These will create the front and back of the chest.
4. The sides of the chest will be created in a similar fashion, using one 20-inch accent board and four side boards for each. However, the side boards will be centered on the accent piece, leaving 1 inch on each side to create a lip. Be sure that the bottom edges are flush, and then glue and nail in place. Repeat with the other side.
5. Attach accent boards to the top of the front, back, and both side pieces, in the same way you attached the bottom accent boards.
6. Now it’s time to assemble the chest. Take the front and one of the side pieces and stand them up to form a corner. The 1-inch overhangs created in Step 4 will act as a lip to hold the pieces together more firmly. Carefully attach the two pieces together using glue and 3-inch nails along the corners, and 1-1/2-inch nails along the sides.
7. Repeat Step 6 with the back and remaining side to create the other half of the chest. Line up the two halves and nail them together to create a box.
8. Take the five 27-inch bottom pieces and lay them across the top of the box with the long edges lining up to create the bottom of the chest. Attach by carefully gluing and nailing all around the edges using 1-1/2-inch nails. Set aside.
9. Lay out the five lid boards. Measure in 6 inches from what will be each side of the lid, and draw a line across all five boards, going from what will be the front to what will be the back of the lid. Place a 16-inch brace piece on the inside of each line and attach with glue and 3/4-inch nails to hold it in place. Flip the lid over and reinforce the brace boards with 3/4-inch screws across the top.
10. If you wish to paint or stain the chest, do so now. I finished mine using Rustic Pine wax to keep a lighter color and to bring out the natural tones of the wood. Set aside to dry completely.
11. To attach the lid, measure in 5 inches from both sides on the lid, and the same distance on the top edge of the chest. Use the screws that come with the hinge to attach it. You may need to use shorter screws on the lid so they don’t come through the other side, depending on the size that comes with the hinge.
12. Attach the decorative gate brackets to the four front corners of the chest, and then attach the handles to each side. You may also add casters to the four bottom corners of the chest, if desired.
These projects are reprinted with permission from Wood Pallet Wonders: 20 Stunning DIY Storage & Décor Designs Made from Reclaimed Pallets by Samantha Hartman, published by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2018.