A friend of mine had some old pallets lying around, and I was aching for another DIY project.

As it turns out, he didn’t have a garden table so I decided I would make a table out of the pallet wood! My colleague Robbert-Jan, who also turned out to be into DIY, offered to help me out in preparation of his own pallet table ;).

I’m posting a step-by-step here, for future reference and for other DIYers to take ideas from.

Step 1: Dismantling the pallets

First, I used a crowbar to pry the pallets apart. This turned out to be quite hard to do without damaging the boards. They tend to crack and split. Ultimately, I think the best way was to hammer a crowbar behind the thick beams with the “boards” part of the pallet on the floor. Middle beam first, then the outer beams.

Here are the pallets. I’ve already taken one apart. Pallets, one taken apart

All done! Boards sorted and good to go! Pallet wood

Step 2: Design

After we have the wood, it’s time for the design. I wanted to make a table with the decking inlaid in a frame (as inspired by this project). It was not clear to me how he did the lengthwise connection of the beams, so I had to guess at that.

This is the design for our table:

Table design

Step 3: Frame

Next step is assembling the frame from the beams, using Ronald’s awesome table saw to cut the beams, and copious amounts of glue and screws to connect everything.

Estimating the size of the table (this was, as we say in The Netherlands, “wet finger work” ;) ) The frame

Lap joint and bolt for the lengthwise beam connection. Not really visible in the picture, but be sure to drill a gap so the bolt head recedes a little. We forgot the glue here, and it’s really hard to make the lap ends the same size so with the single bolt, the beam ends had a little room to rotate. Luckily, we fixed that with the steel support beam that we ultimately screwed on but this way of connecting the beams is less-than-ideal, and it’s quite visible to boot. Lap joint and bolt

Nevertheless, everything is coming together nicely! Frame completed

Step 4: Legs

The legs are made from the wider pallet boards, screwed onto the inside of the frame. They’re the thickness of a board from the top of the frame.

One leg connection. We’re using a steel corner piece to reinforce the corner joint some more and forcing the angles to be more-or-less straight ;). Leg connection

All done, the table can now stand up and we can work at a more comfortable height! Legs finished

Step 5: Decking

Our plan was to lay in the boards along the table’s width, so they would be easy to affix and all boards would be long enough. We attached a long strip of wood to the inside of the frame, just low enough so the decking boards would fit on top and be flush with the frame.

Guide rail attached to the frame. Wood strip for putting boards on

In the corners, we can reuse the leg. One board sawed and fitted. Looking good! One board inlaid

Now we only have to cut all boards to size and lay them into the frame. Every board is measured to size individually, because the odds of our table being nice and rectangular are very slim :). Cutting the deck

Finished! Looks nice and table-y. Now all that remains is sanding down the table. This is a hell of a job, and will take ages to do properly. (We haven’t finished yet) Inlay finished

After sanding, the boards can be nailed down. Boards nailed to the support strip

Step 6: Fixing a stability issue

We found that the table was quite wobbly, so we added some diagonal cross-beams for support to the inside of the frame (again: glue, nails and screws). This fixed the stability problem quite nicely and it also looks a little more decorative. Because we attached them high instead of low, people can still sit at the head of the table, which is quite nice as the table surface is quite large so it would be a shame if the edge wouldn’t fit enough people to make full use of it. Diagonal supports

Step 7: Finished! (mostly…)

The table is finished! Well, mostly. It still needs another treatment of fine-grained sanding (so far I’ve only done rough-grained), and after that it will need some treatment to withstand moisture and the outside weather, which will also give me the opportunity to add some color back. Finished

Things I learned

The most interesting part is: what did I learn during this project, and what would I do differently next time?

  • Plane the wood! Old, used, weather-worn pallets will be crooked. I figured that they would be mostly straight, and they are, but for a nice finish, and especially the table top, it would be nice to be able to plane the wood. I am definitely going to get a plane before I do my next DIY pallet project.

  • These boards cannot take a lot of weight. Because there is no support for the decking boards in the middle of the table (they are only attached at the sides), they are a bit wobbly and couldn’t support a lot of weight. For ordinary use this way of attaching the boards is okay, but a human could not stand in the middle of this table.

  • Needs a different lengthwise joint for the side beams. Our current joint is serviceable, but it doesn’t look very good and it’s slightly crooked. For my next project, I’m going to have to try something different.

That’s it! I hope this exposition is useful to someone. If so, or if you have any tips for future projects, please leave a comment!

There’s also a video!

Recorded by Robbert-Jan on his fancy-schmancy phone ;)