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January 2, 2018 > Pallet projects deliver creative crafts

Pallet projects deliver creative crafts

By Daniel O'Donnell

There is a trend for restaurants, coffee houses, and retail clothing stores to use repurposed materials for their decor. Reclaimed barn wood planks are used for decorative walls, burlap coffee bags are sewn into curtains and furniture upholstery, and salvaged ceramic tiles are laid to create one-of-a-kind decorative floor patterns. Competition makes it hard for a homeowner to get reclaimed materials for do-it-yourself projects without having to purchase them. But there are exceptions. One of them is the wide availability of wooden pallets.

There are thousands of wooden pallets used in the transportation of materials and merchandise every day. Many are never reused. They are hauled away and chipped into mulch or used as fire wood. Some companies are beginning to use corrugated paper pallets that are recycled similarly to cardboard, or have switched to reusable standard-sized, heavy-duty plastic pallets. Even so, there are still plenty of opportunities to find wooden pallets that can be used for a wide range of creative projects.

Wooden pallets are not all created equally. They are made from different types of wood, have different densities, textures, colors, grain patterns, and differ in the number of natural imperfections such as knots. There are also a wide range of sizes and weights to choose from. The range of different pallets gives every project its own personality.

Finding a free pallet is not difficult. Most shops will allow someone to take one or two. Finding one with specific characteristics is a bit harder and can take time. Hobbyists on Craigslist often have specific types of pallets listed. Small businesses are more likely to allow someone to take a pallet because they probably do not have a contract with a hauler. Businesses that have dry goods shipped to them are more likely to have clean, undamaged pallets.

Avoid pallets from pesticide or chemical processing companies and ones labeled ÒhazardousÓ or stamped with MB. Methyl bromide is a pesticide that is hazardous to humans and may have been sprayed on pallets originating in Asia. Pallets from restaurants and grocery stores with food or oil stains should not be used. Food stains have the potential for unpleasant smells or can support mold growth.

The tools needed for a pallet project will vary. Gloves are the only consistent tool needed for every job, including collection. Every pallet regardless of its appearance has the potential of an unseen nail sticking up or frayed wood that can cause splinters. Eye protection is necessary whenever cutting or sawing is involved as small wooden splinters, pieces of nails, or staples fragments can be launched into the air. A dust mask should be used whenever sanding. Any other tools needed will depend on the scope of the project.

Dismantling a pallet and salvaging the boards to work on woodworking crafts is a great way to up-cycle something that would have otherwise been discarded. The sky is the limit on potential projects. There are hundreds of different types of pallet projects that can be created for inside the home or around the garden by using the intact pallet as the foundation for the art composition or furniture piece.

Interior pallet projects are usually more time intensive and take more skills to accomplish because there is a higher standard for indoor furniture and decor. There is a pallet design for every type of furniture that exists. Pallets can be made into bed frames, bookshelves, sofas, and coffee tables. They can also be made into a wide range of decor items as well, including wine racks, wall facades, and cup holders to name a few. If the proper tools are used and patience is exercised, then it is likely that the design chosen will deliver an exceptional creation.

There are plenty of worthwhile decorative and functional wooden pallet projects for the garden. Some are uncomplicated and quick to make. A pallet compost bin does not require sanding, many cuts, or painting but is comparable in function to any that can be purchased. Other projects can range from simple construction to detailed assembly and elaborate artistry. A wooden pallet tool rack and potting table project can have a basic appearance or a colorfully dramatic presence. Pallet patio furniture does not need to be complicated if covered by large cushions and bright pillows. The same furniture when sanded, etched with artwork, and painted or stained will not need anything to hide its appearance.

There are plenty of websites dedicated to creating wooden pallet projects. One of the most comprehensive is 1001 Pallets ( The site offers photographs, ideas, design plans, local sources to acquire pallets, links to purchase tools, woodworking tutorials, submissions of completed projects, and general information about pallets and the history of the industry.

Creating a piece of furniture or a work of art by repurposing a wooden pallet not only leaves someone with a magnificent object, but carries the weight of having accomplished something to be proud of.

Daniel O'Donnell is the co-owner and operator of an organic landscape design/build company in Fremont.

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