Pallet projects - Top tips
Working with pallets is very different to working with the perfectly straight hardwoods you see the pros using on YouTube. And you'll often need to be flexible with your approach, and adapt your plans depending on what challenges the wood presents. However there's nothing more satisfying than turning a discarded pallet into a thing of beauty. Here are my top tips for completing your own pallet projects :
Choose your pallet carefully. Look for the ones with minimal damage and nice straight boards.
Check the pallet for the HT stamp. HT stands for Heat Treated. This means the producers have heated it to around 60℃ for approx 30 mins in order to eliminate parasites and insects. This is the one you want. If you see MB this stands for Methyl Bromide. This means the producers have treated the pallet with a highly toxic pesticide, and should be avoided.
You'll need to break up the pallet to release the individual boards. Get your game face on and prepare to do battle. A nice long crow bar and mallet will work wonders. But if the boards are splitting, you might just need to saw off the sections between the nails.
Work out which parts of your pallet project need to be accurate vs which parts can have some variation. Save the straightest, squarest pieces for where you really need them.
Don't assume all the boards are the same thickness. I learned this one the hard way. Once you pull it apart, check this before you go any further.
As I said, be flexible. In fact these days I don't even put measurements on my pallet project designs. I start with a rough idea and then let the wood guide me.
Get yourself a good orbital sander. It's so satisfying to sand off the top surface to reveal a lovely grain pattern. Pallet wood can be quite beautiful.
I don't try to fill all the cracks, gaps and holes. This would be a lot of work, and adding filler often ruins the finish. I love to leave the old battle scars in the wood, as I feel it gives it more personality and character. If you want a perfect piece of wood, you probably won't find it on a pallet.
Use a knot sealer. I've seen knots fall out months after the build is complete. I seal all knots before I apply my finish.
Be creative and have fun. You're working with cheap pallet wood so this is your chance to go nuts and try some crazy ideas. I'm far more sensible when I'm working with an expensive piece of walnut!
Best of luck with your pallet projects, and please do let me know how you get on.