After graduating from graduate school I needed to make something with my hands. I had created so much with my mind and this keyboard, but it was time to build something I could touch. Here’s my journey and process.
For a couple years I’ve wondered about making somthing out of pallets.¹ I like the idea of reusing discarded things. I also like to save money when I can. The internet is bountiful with different ways people have repurposed pallets and other reclaimed objects. Pallets are plentiful in Seattle so I knew I could find as many as I needed.
This has been a long and healing process. In the past I had a hard time starting and finishing things. I finished tons of papers over the past 3 years and they handed me a fancy diploma. I’m sure at times I will have a hard time offering my work to the world, but now I have some new options. I can start and finish project much easier now. I’ve grown those new nuero pathways in school. Now I get you use them everyday.
This table represents many things. It marks the shifing of my avaiability to others. I now have more time in my life to invite people in. I have room for them to come and sit at the table I made. Now, it’s our table. I’m finished with the time and energy commitment of grad school, and that feels really good. I hold the hope of a schedule that someday soon can be mostly quarintined the standard Western work week. It will be nice to be more in sync with my loved ones. A schedule that I have a little margin for… well anything other than pizza delivery and writing papers sounds good. Hopefully soon.
Now, here’s how I built the table. For starters, I only spent $45 on this project. It was it was split down the middle for the legs and stain. The rest was given to me or I already had it.
I’m going to try to spell this project out as much as I can for those novices who are trying to get their feet wet with a project. I’ve linked tools I’ve used in the project so you know what I’m talking about. I used my compound miter saw to cut most of the wood. You could also use a circular saw.
I started with a simple frame. I lucked out and found a 6 foot long pallet. That meant that I didn’t have to join the long sides. Make sure that it’s square before you start adding the top decking. I was so excited and distracted by my sons that I had to backtrack a little.
I laid out the pallet boards on the frame to make sure I had enough material.
I used 4×4 pressure treated posts for the legs. I was hesitnet to use that thickness, but I wasn’t happy with the other sizes the lumber yard had. I attached the legs with 3 1/2 inch hex bolts and washer on both ends. Using a 1 inch spade bit I drilled holes so the end of the bolts would be flush with the wood or “recessed.”
My neighbor saw what I was up to and he let me barrow some tools. One of which was a finishing nailer and air compressor. That made putting on the tabletop really easy and relatively fast. The last peices I put on the deck I cut or “ripped” on what would be the inside seam of the table, not the edge. I don’t have a table saw and I’m not great at straight long cuts by a circular saw. I chizzled and sanded the pieces of the top so they would fit together better. I intended to make this a rough piece, so I wasn’t concerned that they fit exactly. After I got the top on I used a jig saw and made the top flush with the edge of the frame.
I used a belt sander and a grinder with a sanding wheel to even out the different thinknesses of boards. Then I took a my finishing sander to it. If you haven’t done much sanding, make sure you use sandpaper that increases in number. For instance 60 is a rough grit paper, and should be used first. It will take off more slivers and chunks for you. Then move to 80, 100, 110, 120, etc. It all depends on what you’re making and your preference.
I wanted to keep it rough, but I also didn’t want water to settle in to the frame so I filled seams in the middle of the table where the top rests on the frame. This is the part of the table that I’m least happy with. Maybe I should have used a darker filler or taken more time to sand it down. I’m not exactly sure what I would change. It just adds to the rough and reclamed nature of the table. It’s not enough for me to sand off the finish and redo it. At the end of the day it will hold, plates, glasses, and conversations just fine.
I knew I had the seal the table, this is Seattle afterall, but I didn’t want something high gloss. I wanted rough, but not lacquered pine funiture you’d see in a lodge somewhere. I decided on a satin finish. I think it turned out quite nice. Here are some pictures of “finished” product.
Now I’m ready for some (more) guests. If you want to have a better view, you’ll have to visit. Mic drop. Gauntlet thrown. You’re welcome (come by) and you’re welcome (for this post).
I hope you stop on by. Be uncommon.
¹ I can’t pass by the word pallet without mentioning my Uncle Gene. He had a saw mill and made pallets. I thought of him off and on during this project. [Chest thump] R.I.P. Uncle Gene.