Introduction: Pallet Wood Slat Bench
Second Prize in the
Before and After Contest 2017
This 100% reclaimed bench is a piece made for Carolina Shoe who is planning on using this for all sorts of different display purposes. They tell me this bench is going to be more well traveled then me. So this was constructed from a total of about 8 pallets (Red Oak, White Oak, Pine, Poplar, Aspen, Mahogany, Cherry, and Maple) along with some threaded rod thru bolts which were abandoned in a dumpster when the fire protection was being renovated at a local retail store. The pallet slats were left rough on the underside, front, and back to add a really cool texture and also some history to the piece. The threaded rod is mostly aesthetic, but it'll also add some structure to the piece. Hand engraved "Carolina" and "Built For Work", finished with 6 coats of lacquer.
> Pallets (8)
> Threaded Rod, Washer, Nut
> Black Paint
Step 1: Materials & Pallet Disassembly
As with a lot of my projects, this one starts at the "lumber yard" which is the pallet pile behind my buddies tile shop. They get lots of heavy loads so there are always a bunch of hardwood pallets here.
I ended up grabbing a couple of pallets for this build... ended up using about 8 of them in the project.
To disassemble the pallets I just cut off the end runners with my circular saw. If you try to pry these off the ends quite often crack and the spiral nails take forever to get out so I find it best just to scrap these. Then it's just a matter of prying them off the center slat. (watch this for more detail on my disassembly technique)
Now I have a stack of wood with a bunch of dangerous pieces of metal sticking out. To pull out the nails I use a nail punch that is usually used to put small trim nails in but it works great for bending these nails back straight and hitting them out backwards so I can pull them out. I also run a small metal detector along each board to make sure there isn't any metal that I missed.
Here's the stack of slats! Lots of great wood in there, you just can't see it yet.
Step 2: Milling Down the Pallet Wood
I have some junky blades that I use for the initial surfacing of reclaimed wood. The slats are all organized by thickness into 4 different piles so I can maximize the yield of material from the boards. Each pile is planed down until smooth on both sides.
Check out this haul! Red Oak, White Oak, Pine, Poplar, Aspen, Mahogany, Cherry, and Maple.
Since none of the pallets slats are straight I use this tapering jig to "joint" the one of the edges of each board. This is typically used to create tapers, as you might expect from the name, but this gives me a flat parallel surface as well since I don't own a jointer.
This project ended up really just being a challenge of logistics. These are all of the slats planed down to thickness and flattened on one edge. They're categorized by thickness and layout this way so I can grab them and cut them down based on their length. I leave the other edge rough to add some texture and history to the piece.
I run through the pile and cut them all down to final size on the miter saw. To create a faux box joint on the corners every other board is the width of the bench minus 2x the width of the slats (2.5"). It makes more sense when you see it put together.
Step 3: Preparing for the Glue-Up
While I'm cutting out the pieces to final length I'm also organizing them because the top slats thickness has to match up with the side slats thickness to get a proper joint when glued together. Here you can see the top laid out along with one of the sides and the other side is on a different table.
This is going to be a hectic glue-up so I make sure I'm prepared!!
Step 4: Glue-Up and Clamping
This glue spreader bottle thing was a life saver for this glue-up. It actually gave me enough time to get everything clamped together before the glue started to set.
The top is laid out on top of the clamps with the flat side down so it keeps this surface pretty smooth. I clamp the corner lightly while I apply glue to the slats on one side and alternate sticking a piece on the side and inserting one into the joint.
Once this "L" shape is together I lean it up on end to make sure that all of the long top slats are pushed tight against the side.
I then lay the assembly back down flat on the bench and glue and insert the pieces for the opposite side.
Then I quickly clamp everything up with every long clamp I own and take a breather. This is easily the most hectic glue-up I've ever taken on.
Step 5: Flattening & Cutting Sides to Length
I let that whole assembly dry for the night before removing the clamps then I pull my work benches apart so I can bring the bench down to work level. This is one of the big reasons I made my work bench in 2 sections, it's nice when things pan out :)
Even though I'm careful during the glue-up, due to the nature of the materials this surface is pretty far from smooth. I pull out the hand power plane to bring the surface down flat and level.
To make sure it's flat I work back and forth with this metal straight edge and the power plane until all 3 sides are flat.
This is the first reveal I get of the color and textures of the wood, I'm totally in love with it.
Now I cut off the end of the legs to bring it down to length (18") by drawing a straight line parallel with the top and cut it with my circular saw.
Step 6: Contouring the Seat
Next I want to round out the seat to make it more comfortable to sit on and, well, it'll just look cooler. I take some scrap pieces of pine to make a template and use this flexible PVC sheet to scribe out a contoured shape.
I cut these to shape on the band saw and screw 2 scrap pieces on either end to hold the contoured pieces in the right place and allow me to run it up and down the length of the bench.
All I use for this is a palm router with a 3/4" rabbeting bit and a whole lot of patience. It takes small 1/8" cuts back and forth until I get it down to the depth. I end up taking out 3/4" a the deepest point in the center.
A sigh of relief after the final cut. There really is no good way for dust collection during the process so you just have to slap on the dust mask and goggles and take it in the face.
The surface comes out from the router fairly smooth, but it's evened out using my random orbital sander.
Step 7: Drilling & Installing Threaded Rod
Everything is down to size and contoured so it's looking good, but I want to add one more accent before I start engraving! I decide to add some thru bolts mostly just for aesthetics but it'll also add some structure since I'm sure this thing is going to be moved around quite a bit.
I first drill out a shallow hole with a forstner bit to fit the washer and nut so it's flush with the surface, the rest is drilled with a long 3/8" drill bit from either side and the hole meets in the middle. This took a really good eye because I had to make sure I was cutting nice and straight since there wasn't much room for error with the contour in the seat.
The thru bolts in the bench actually come from these long threaded rods that I pulled out of the trash at a commercial space that was being renovated and was moving around the fire protection piping, so they scraped these.
My best friend and I then insert the 6 threaded rods into the holes tighten them down with a washer and nut on either side.
Step 8: Filling & Smoothing
Next I mix up some 2-part epoxy with some fine saw dust to use as filler. I fill up all of the knot and nail holes with this mixture and it blends in really well.
The corners are all pretty sharp at this point and it doesn't feel good on the legs so I run along all of the edges with a 1/8" round over bit.
Step 9: Carving
Last is the carving for Carolina. This is always a strangely methodical and calming process. I print out the pattern on regular office paper and tape them together and then tape them in place.
"Carolina" is engraved in the top and their slogan "Built For Work" is engraved in the side. I transfer the pattern to the wood using a piece of carbon paper and tracing out over each letter.
Now I just use a rounded carving tool and carefully run along each letter and gouge it all out. Doing it this way makes sure it looks super unique because of the randomness and you can tell it's hand carved.
Once this is done I use a foam brush to apply some black paint to the letters.
Then I move onto the sides, but these are a little different because I decide to engrave the negative version of the letters. I pull out my mobile CNC machine ... my palm router ;).
I use a small 1/8" bit in the palm router to cut around the perimeter of each letter and then use a chisel to cut a small cavity down into the letters.
The same is done with applying paint to these letters and then once it's dry it's sanded smooth. I love the texture of the negative lettering like this, almost wish I did the same for the top but I didn't want the carving to be this deep since you'll be sitting on it.
Step 10: Finishing
Carolina actually asked for me to put my logo on the project somewhere so I used my branding iron to stamp my name in both sides along the bottom.
Finishing time!! This is the best because you get to bring out the color from all the varied species of wood now. I use brush on lacquer for the first coat to get it deep into all the surfaces and then spray on 5 more coats.
Last step is adding some feet. I'm not sure yet where this bench is going to live so I install some adjustable feet so it can be leveled out depending on where it is. I drill out for the plastic inserts and attach them in the holes with epoxy, then the feet just screw in.
Step 11: Glamour Shots!
Glamour shots next to the big red barn.
Thanks for checking out the build! If you can't tell I had a blast with this one. For the full experience make sure you don't miss the build video >>>
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