good for bristol

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Is there anything you can't make out of old pallets?

It's easy to find old wooden pallets in Bristol. Even easier if someone gives you a couple of truck loads. Here's what we're doing with them.

My approach is:
  • make practical, useful and robust items
  • develop simple and reproducible designs
  • a minimum of additional materials like screws and bolts
  • no or very little use of power tools
  • don't worry too much about surface finish

Cider press. Not one of mine, sadly. Looks great and - almost - works. Maybe a bottle jack instead of the scissor jacks will really splat those apples. Quality workmanship, done very practically too.
A great looking, sturdy fence. Again, not one of mine. One of the best bits of woodwork done on-site. It's surprisingly solid, with pallets on edge behind the fence giving it really strength.
Quick patio, looks good and works well. A layer of scruffy pallets on the ground, levelled with wedged-in bits of wood, covered over with nailed-on pallet planks. The nails used came from the pallets themselves. Again, not one of mine. I sat and drank beer while it was made.
We got a shitload of big pallets with strong beams in them. This is a half-finished first attempt at a picnic table, the aim is to get all the proportions (table length and width, seat width, distance between table and seat) right and the construction solid and come up with an easily reproducible design. Ideally the design should be do-able with thinner wood.
Planter. Again, not one of mine. This is my favourite design because it's simple, quick, can use all sorts of different sizes of wood and looks great. Who knows, we might even be able to sell some of these.
The raw materials.
Table. Made entirely out of pallet materials, no screws or bolts used. This first attempt at a table worked well and used to look good. The design needs lots of improvement and the finish is poor but it's robust enough.
Has the weather caused all that staining so fast - or has somebody been using my masterpiece for spray painting? Hey, I don't mind - it's getting used.
Having a workbench is fantastic. Being able to work with both hands at the right height feels so good. The top is a fire door but the rest is all pallet. Ooooh, the days of crouching on the floor holding down a bit of wood with one hand and sawing with the other are over, hopefully for ever.
What I've found out:
  • breaking up and de-nailing your own pallets is good, you can inspect and check the wood
  • having someone else break up and de-nail the pallets is even better, it's a pain in the arse job
  • have a good idea what your end product will look like and how you're going to make it
  • tools you need are a claw hammer, crowbar, big screwdriver, tenon saw, ordinary wood saw, tape measure, drill, pen / pencil and hacksaw
  • even basic interlocking joints are great, but time consuming
  • measuring and marking properly takes time and can often be skimped on
  • any thing other than right-angles sucks up time
  • 10mm bolts cut from threaded bars really hold things together

This webpage is fantastic: 100 things to make from pallets. While a lot of the stuff featured is a bit twee, impractical and time-consuming some of it is bang on. Especially the staircase.

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