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04 March 2015

DIY Tutorial: Pallet Coffee Table

Has everyone been bit by the pallet craze yet?!

I'm bringing this DIY tutorial to you so you too can build your very own pallet coffee table, complete with a handy storage shelf! Because everyone always needs extra storage space...

Maybe I'm a bit late to the pallet craze... but I'm pinning pallet ideas constantly, I'm promising pallet gifts to people, and the garage is steadily building up with the things. Sorry, Dad. But have no fear, I want to build pallet storage next! That might take up a bit more room in the garage though...

DIY tutorial pallet coffee table with a shelf - quick and easy!
Here in the UK, some companies do try and charge you for pallets, but luckily, I've managed to find a company who I can get pallets from for free and in good condition, and they're super lovely and kind! The guys there even help fill my little Ford fiesta up!

Mind you, I can only fit three big pallets in there. That's with the seats down too...

I was surprised I could even fit one in and so were the guys who helped me! Honestly, I was so grateful that they even helped me get them in the tiny car. Chivalry is not dead. Neither are good manners. But they are in some places, as I found out when I popped over to a different business estate to get some more pallets. Their pallets were crazy big but the most perfect wood.

Yes, I am that crazy pallet lady now. Move along crazy cat lady, crazy pallet lady is the new thing.

They simply said I could help myself to the pallets round the side and just left me to it. So after about 15 minutes of struggling to get this humongous pallet in the back of my poor little fiesta (with the back seats down and everything!), and pulling heavy pallets back and forth their front, open office window with them all staring at me... I finally got one pallet in, with a lot of grunting and pushing, and a slightly bruised arm.

And then someone comes out to check on me and see if I needed a hand. I was a tired and a slightly sweaty mess by this point. I did however need their help about 15 minutes ago. But thanks for the offer guys, appreciate it. I've never been back there since to help them get rid of their pallets. (Here in the UK, most companies will have to pay people to take their pallets away, or take them to the tip themselves, so really I'm kinda helping them out!)

This is my first big project -  A COFFEE TABLE! With a shelf too!

It was a Christmas present for my sister and her husband. This was also my first time using a electric saw, sander, drills, basically every DIY tool of my Dad's. I think he was just praying I didn't break his lovely, shiny cordless drill. Oh, and lose a finger.

I started the planning and breaking pallets apart in late October and was finished in December (this was me learning how to use everything along the way too). It really wasn't the best weather here to get started on a huge wood project like this; lots and lots of rain, very cold winds and just miserable weather really. And the garage is like a freezer too. I'll be doing all my builds in summer next time.

Now time for the long how-to instructions. It was really quite easy looking back on it. I'm just a slow learner at wood work, I guess! If I made another pallet coffee table like this one, it would probably take me a week or so to do. So it's an easy build for everyone to do! Those handy with their woodwork skills, I could see this taking them a weekend, if that!

Warning: This will be a photo heavy post, so go grab a cup of tea or coffee now :)

Items used:
- Chisel & hammer to break pallets apart. (I found this worked best for me, but do whatever is easiest for you!)
- Skill saw
- Hand saw
- Belt sander
- Mouse sander
- Cordless drill
- 2-3 pallets
- 2x4 wood, cut into 4 (used for the legs)
- 60mm flat head screws
- 4 small brackets
- white spirit
- clear varnish or wood stain of your choosing


After you've collected your pallets from wherever - if they are wet, store them somewhere to dry out (it shouldn't take more than a couple of days, depending on how wet they are). Or if you're lucky to snag dry pallets, you can get started straight away!

Wedge the chisel between the bits you want to separate and using the hammer, carefully knock on the end of the chisel and wiggle them apart. You want to be really careful not to split the wood. Or break a chisel like I did. Try not to let the hammer knock against the wood as this can leave dents in it... As I quickly learnt! Rookie error.

Separating the pallets is the most time consuming job with any pallet DIY. And winter in the UK is definitely not the time to do this in. But once they're all separated, you can store them anywhere dry, ready for your next pallet build.

I was really lucky in find one particular pallet with thick sections of wood, which I then saved for the table top of the coffee table. Look out for which bits of wood to put aside for different sections of the table. It's here when you can start to decide what size of coffee table you wish to have and I've put all the dimensions of this table throughout the post for you to use as a guide, to adjust to fit your home. 

Cut the pallet strips down to your desired size. The strips for the table top that you see here were cut down to 97cm across.

Once all the pallets are separated and cut down, then get to sanding them all! Yes, all four sides, leaving no side rough. We used a belt sander here to achieve the best results and it works faster than a tiny hand mouse sander! 

Surprisingly, most pallets are really good quality wood. When you sand it back, you get to see a great grain to it, giving it character that your standard Ikea Malm collection lacks! 

But that doesn't stop me owning an Ikea Malm chest of drawers though. Haven't quite figured out to build one of those out of pallets yet... 

Now! The physical planning stage! The wood is sanded, smooth and ready to be placed into position to be drilled! So measure EVERYTHING TWICE! Remember - you can't go back once it's drilled. Well, you could try but it would be super messy. 

So measure twice, cut once. Wisdom words from my Dad, which are now engraved into my mind every time I DIY and they should be engraved into yours too!

Here is when I laid the top pieces down, positioning them to be drilled, making sure the measurements are accurate. As you can see in the bottom left photo, I've left a gap at either end of the table - this is where the legs will be attached to each corner. I used 2x4" softwood planks, pretty cheap from Wickes or B&Q and perfect and sturdy for this build.

Once the top planks are laid out flat, then take the supporting 2x4" legs of your table that are cut down to a height of your choosing. Mine were 50cm tall. Place them across either end of the table length ways and run a pencil down the side closest to the middle, this is your guide of where to drill the attach the legs. 

Then take the 55cm shorter shelf piece and place next to that same line, drawing another line next to that - as you can see in the bottom right photo. This is now your guide line of where to drill. The sides of the table will be sanded straight later to get rid of an uneven edges or excess.

Next - mark off where you want the screws to be. Evenly space them out before marking with a pencil. Then pre-drill the holes to make it easier for the screw to grip and to prevent the wood from splitting. 

Place the planks on top of the supporting shorter pieces and hold steady and prepare to drill. I didn't wood glue the pieces to the supporting piece but in hindsight it might have helped.

As you can see in the top left photo, place the screws into the holes and drill. It's easier when you have someone else holding everything still. so grab someone and make them handy!

Continue drilling each plank into place, pausing after each plank to make sure they are in line and tight together before placing the next piece. As you can see by the bottom right photo, every piece is tight and screwed down, creating your sturdy table top! 

You're nearly there...

Now take your 2x4" legs, of the height of your choosing, and make sure any rough edges are sanded down. Then take a right angle ruler and measure in all four corners where you want your legs to be placed and the screws to go. To be extra sturdy, I used two screws to secure each leg in place. Plus, y'know... symmetry...

Then voila!  It's starting to look like a table! Optional - you can sand down the top of the table now to remove any pencil marks and make the surface flat and smooth, or you can do this at the end too!

Turning the table on one end, drill a further 4 more screws from the inside into the leg, to hold the supporting piece to it. Just to reinforce the table, I added these metal brackets into each corner where the legs are, these are optional but felt it would help the table carry a heavier load if needed. Now your table is super sturdy!

To build the shelf, saw some planks down to 82cm, or measured to fit the space inside the legs. These will attach to the supporting piece of wood under the table top. I chose to leave gaps between the planks because I loved the effect it gave. Simply drill one screw into either end of the planks to secure into place.

If you so wish, you can sand down the whole table again, making sure every piece you touch is soft and not rough with the risk of splinters! Now take a small hand held brush and brush down the entire table, removing all the dust created from sanding. You don't want any dust there when it comes to varnish or staining!

Once clean, use a cloth and white spirit to clean the table. This will bring out the wood grain even more. Use a light dash of white spirit over the table. Important - leave to dry in a place where you won't be breathing in the fumes!

 Then once the table is dry, you can varnish or stain it. For this table, we used a clear varnish just to seal it. As the table is a gift to my sister and her husband, it was best left natural without a stain. But you can do whatever you wish to make this the table of your dreams! Make sure the varnish/wood stain is completely dry before bringing into your home and using.

Now kick back, relax and marvel at your handy work... You just made a table!

You go, Glen Coco!

The table really did come out exactly how I wanted it to, and my sister and her husband were super happy when they received it on Christmas Day too. They had no idea I was making them a piece of furniture for their home... I just hoped it would to fit into their house!

This whole table cost me around £10 to make, totally inexpensive! And if you've got a weekend to spare, I urge you to go for it and make a coffee table or something made from pallets! It's super rewarding to see your hard work pay off. And a huge relief that you finished it too. 

There was a point during this that I thought there would be no table. 

My dad had the same thought... but just before I had even started the build! I came to him with the idea... and he laughed. Such faith.

Are you up to the challenge of making something out of pallets? Are you going to make one of these handy shelf coffee tables?! Tell me below in the comments about your DIY pallet dreams!

Add your comment

  1. Very nice! Love the idea!

  2. ah this is such a good DIY!

    from helen at thelovecatsinc.com

    ps. win the rose gold GHD styler and hairdryer on my blog here!

  3. Amie Cadwallader30 April 2015 at 15:24

    That is absolutely incredible! I am seriously going to have to try this now. I need to have one of these in my house!

    Love, Amie <3


  4. Thanks Amie! Let me know if you get round to making one, would love to see it!! :) They're super easy to make once you get into it, definitely worth it in the end! x

  5. Wow, nice pallet ideas. City Pallet Recycle Pros (Edmonton) also provide with recycled pallets.

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