In case you’ve been living under a rock – or have never heard of Pinterest – there’s an entire home decor genre that revolves around the upcycling of shipping pallets, crates and barn wood. A unique charm comes with aged, weather-beaten lumber. Each board tells a story: It’s been places; It’s done things; It’s transported the T-shirt. I find myself intrigued by upcycled pallet wood furnishings but I’m far too “thrifty” to ever buy any. Especially considering how easily (and cheaply) I could build my own from free discarded shipping pallets. Our friends at Elmer’s sponsored this rustic pallet wood hall table project that we hope will inspire you. Let’s gather a few skids and make this awesome pallet wood hall table!
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
This pallet wood hall table is an easy to build project that’s perfect for all skill levels. There is no joinery to fuss with and no tricky cuts to make. You can get as fancy and complicated as you want, but it’s all about the character. The wood is usually free and cosmetic blemishes are often a bonus. Heck, the boards don’t even have to match! Furthermore, build time is quick, very few tools are required and you end up with a great piece of furniture. It’s the perfect project!
The most notable downside, however, to working with pallets is that busting them apart can be a tricky, dangerous task. Not all pallets are created equal. Some break down easier than others; so be careful and use leverage wisely. Or just con some poor sap into doing the hard work for you. Hey, whatever you’ve got to do; this table isn’t going to build itself!
Which Pallets Are Palatable – And Which To Avoid
This could easily be an entire topic on its own, but here’s a quick rundown: Pallets are treated to avoid the carrying of insects or plant diseases across international borders. You can identify the treatment method by a logo stamped or branded into the wood. Here are the markings you’re likely to see in the United States:
“HT” = Heat Treated (should be safe to use)
“DB” = Debarked (should be safe to use)
“KD” = Kiln Dried (should be safe to use).
No marking = Domestic use pallet (generally safe to use)
“MB” = (Poisonous) Do not use these pallets! They were fumigated with a Methyl Bromide insecticide.
Be cautious about using pallet wood around food products. Avoid pallets that are painted, may have been used to transport chemicals, or that have oil stains or embedded gravel or other debris. Sometimes, more than one treatment method will be indicated. If “MB” is one of them, don’t use the pallet! These are only general guidelines; if in doubt, don’t use it!
Get A Leg Up
To build this pallet wood hall table – as with anything worth doing – we’re going to start with the legs and work our way up to the skirt. I’m using notched 2×4 pallet runners because they give me an interesting shape to work with. More style with less effort! Sometimes it pays to be lazy.
All part dimensions I share are purely for reference. Don’t be afraid to alter measurements to suit your needs. That said, I’m making my legs 36-1/2” long for a belly height table.
Cut Off At The Hips
Next, I cut all four legs to the same length then gave them a good sanding. When sanding pieces for the pallet wood hall table, the goal is to round over all hard corners, eliminate all splinters and generally make everything soft(er) to the touch. Sand enough to remove the dirt and grime, but no enough take away the deepest mill marks, dings and character.
A Quick Run To The Toy Store
It was about this time that I realized I wasn’t going to get much further without some good wood glue. As luck would have it, our friends at Elmer’s kindly stepped in to help get the job done. So it’s off to my home away from home to grab a bottle of Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue Max. This stuff is the perfect consistency for pallet projects. It’s thick enough to bridge small gaps in mating surfaces and has reasonably good resistance to dripping.
I will be tacking the pieces together with a brad nailer to hold everything in place while the glue dries. So I also grabbed a container of Elmer’s Probond stainable wood filler to fill in the brad holes. Elmer’s also makes a variety of pre-tinted wood fillers. But I haven’t decided what color stain I want to use so I’m playing it safe with the stainable Probond.
Elmer’s Probond will work just as well as other wood fillers on the brad holes, even with lighter stains. But for larger fills, it best earns its keep when used with darker stains and painted projects. Any other wood filler would stick out like a bright sore thumb on a stained project, especially with darker stains.
Got Some Purdy Legs For A Pallet Wood Hall Table!
With glue in hand, I can finally proceed. Next, I grabbed some 3” wide slats and cut six pieces, each 13” long. Four will act as shelf cleats. The other two are the sides of the apron (aka, skirt). The length of these pieces determines the outside dimension from front to rear legs. I’m very happy with the dimensions I chose, but again, dimensions are not critical. Size the table to suit your own needs, space and taste.
You do (well, I do. You may not), however, want the apron to be the same width all the way around, so if you don’t have enough for the front and rear aprons, cut the side apron pieces from whatever slats you will be using for the rest of the apron.
I glued the six pieces to the legs after giving them a good sanding. A framing square was used to be sure I got everything at right angles. Rather than clamping, the parts were all tacked together with brads. That way I could continue working without waiting for the glue to dry on each piece. Brads alone will not provide sufficient support, so don’t rely on them for a strong project. Glue must be used at every connection.
Be sure to align the ends of the pieces to the outside edge of the legs. There’s one apron part where I failed to do so and it inadvertently became an Elmer’s Probond “to the rescue” moment, as you’ll see later! So… yay?
Skirting Around The Issue
If you haven’t caught on yet, an apron – sometimes referred to as the “skirt” – is the band of wood that wraps around a table, connecting the legs to each other and supporting the top.
My front and rear aprons are 29-1/2” long. Assembly is fairly straightforward: first attach only one end of the apron to a leg, checking for square. Then verify that the two leg assemblies are parallel before attaching the other end. Be sure to align the top edge of the apron to the top of the legs.
After attaching the rear apron, I stood the assembly upright then attached the front. I did this to make sure all 4 legs end up contacting the ground at once. Alternatively, turn it upside down on your workbench. Either way, nobody wants a wobbly table.
Pallet Wood Hall Table – Leg Stretcher
It’s nice to stretch your legs every now and then. But if your table stretches its legs, it won’t be quite as refreshing. A “stretcher” spans the lower shelf cleats, adding stability and preventing the legs from wobbling left and right (or from moving closer together/spreading apart). For maximum stability – short of using joinery, that is – the stretcher is the same width as the shelf cleats.
Pallet Wood Hall Table – Shelf Slats
Now, the shelves: I used four narrow pallet slats (each measuring 5/8” x 3” x 27-1/2”) per shelf. Your number and dimensions may vary, so measure for yourself and work with the material you have. Whatever size slats you use, make sure they are thick enough to support sufficient weight without sagging.
As before, I wasn’t too concerned about avoiding all the bad spots that I would normally cut away and discard. Imperfections can become features; embrace the features. Some people pay extra for features; I find mine out by the dumpster!
Sanding Parts for the Pallet Wood Hall Table
Sanding pallets is a job most enjoyably done with power tools. Use a random orbital palm sander – if available – and don’t hesitate to dig in with the edge when needed (a practice to be avoided with most other projects).
It’s strongly recommended to use good dust collection when sanding pallet or any other reclaimed wood. At the least, wear a decent dust mask. You never know what the wood may have been exposed to, and it’s always good form to breathe in as little sanding dust as possible.
Slat Attack – Shelving The Pallet Wood Hall Table
I started in the center of my shelves and worked my way out. The lower shelf has the added support of the stretcher running down the middle. The front and rear slats are attached only at the ends. If you expect heavy loads on the shelves, you may decide to add additional support or use thicker slats. As is, however, both shelves will be plenty sturdy for my needs.
Don’t forget to even up the overhang on both ends when gluing the slats in place.
Cut The Notches
The corners of the outer slats have to be notched to fit. Lay them in place and mark where to cut then perform a little snip-snip to the softwood.
Remember to sand the new edges and corners after cutting the notches.
Pallet Wood Hall Table – Top Stretcher
The only piece I ripped narrower in this entire build is the top stretcher. My reasoning was to provide more clearance for when I’m loading or rearranging the top shelf. I may never need it, but I have it just in case. The top stretcher spans the front and back of the apron, keeping things rigid and adding support to the top.
Headed Straight To The Top!
There’s only one thing left to make: the top. Then I’ll use the Elmer’s Probond wood filler I picked up at the toy store. Finally, I’ll stain and finish this pallet wood hall table before poking it with a fork and calling it done.
My top is 37” long and overhangs on both ends and the front. The back is flush with the rear apron so the table can hug the wall. The leading edge of the front board is “live edge” (the original outside of the tree that the bark once attached to). That live edge has a nice flowing contour and texture that perfectly compliments the rustic style.
Woodworking Confessions! [cue sultry music]
Ok, so I got the Elmer’s Probond wood filler because I originally planned to fill all of my brad holes. But the further into the project I got the less I minded them being there. They seem to fit the character of the piece.
Later, however, I realized that I messed up early on and didn’t get one of my end apron pieces lined up with the edge of one of the legs. It turns out I’m not the perfect woodworker I pretend to be. I know; I was surprised too! Everyone messes up from time to time. That’s right; I’m taking you down with me!
I know this is a rustic piece. But my standards of quality won’t allow me to ignore the gaping valley going on in the apron. If I can’t be proud to attach my name to it it’s not good enough for me. So I grabbed that Elmer’s Probond stainable wood filler and set out to camouflage my screw-up.
Staining The Pallet Wood Hall Table
Most of the table was colored with a light “golden pecan” stain. To add a little contrast – and help mask my error a little better – I used a slightly darker “special walnut” stain for the apron.
Technically, you can stain the pieces before assembly. But I use oil based stain and I don’t want to risk it interfering with my glue joints. Therefor, I usually stain after assembly. The downside is that it might be harder to get into the crevices between parts. A cheap chipping brush, however, works wonders.
After getting the crevices with a brush, I used a rag to apply the rest of the stain. Wipe it on then back off again shortly afterwards. I do that twice with only about 5-15 minutes between applications. The end grain will almost always stain darker than the long grain. But I still usually apply stain to the end grain several extra times for good measure.
Make sure you’ve allowed the stain to dry before moving on.
Crossing The Finish Line
We’ve made it to the final step of this reclaimed pallet wood hall table project! It’s time to protect it with polyurethane. There’s something sold as “wiping varnish” or “wipe-on poly”, which is polyurethane thinned with mineral spirits or some other solvent. Some swear by it. Frankly, I find it a waste of money (though you can mix your own if you insist).
When I build pallet projects, I always wipe my poly on with a rag. But I use just regular old polyurethane rather than wasting my time or money on thinned poly; it’s of no benefit here. To apply the polyurethane, use the exact same technique as we did with the stain, but grab a fresh brush and clean rag.
A Perfect Matte Finish
I like a matte sheen on my pallet projects. Shiny gloss just doesn’t look right to me. With my application method, I get the same matte finish no matter what polyurethane I use. In this case, I have more of the gloss poly so that’s what I used. When applying the finish, be sure to wipe up any puddles that form – and any finish that doesn’t soak in – or they will dry with a shine. Also, end grain is thirsty, so give it several extra coats.
Another benefit to applying the polyurethane with a rag is that you can actually touch and re-position the piece right after application and not have to worry about fingerprints or finish blemishes. You can also apply more coats without waiting for the previous coat to dry. In my experience, applying poly with a lint free rag is a reliable way to get consistent, error-free results.
A Board Reborn
This pallet wood has a lot of stories to tell. But its new story has just begun!
Elmer’s Probond stainable wood filler can be purchased from Lowe’s in several package sizes:
You can also get Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Glue Max at Lowe’s:
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Elmers. The opinions and text are all mine.