Single Pallet Coffee Table

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Project by garbonsai posted 01-18-2013 09:14 AM 3854 views 13 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The Mid-Michigan Woodworkers Guild had a pallet competition last meeting. The goal—create something from a single standard pallet. Seeing as I had roughly two dozen of them out in the garage (I have a few spots I check on a semi-regular basis for the purposes of snagging any decent looking wood), I took the pick of the litter in terms of relatively straight stringers and slats. Imagine my surprise when I ran one of them through the planer and ended up with the figuring on the end pieces.

This is the first piece of furniture I’ve ever created. My experience is more in refinishing, and in rough carpentry. So I learned a lot while putting this together. And I cut a lot of corners.

The table frame is has biscuits in the corners, and the slats are glued into a slot running around the inside edge. I could have simply captured them in place, but I was afraid there might be a little play left to right, and they might slide around given the chance. The tapered legs were created by laminating four slats together (after planing them), and then cutting them free-hand on the bandsaw and finally sanding them on the belt sander. The stringers are mortise and tenon, although I cheated like mad—I don’t expect them to hold up, as I simply shortened the tenon, rather than rounding it or squaring the mortise (I didn’t have a 1/4” chisel). Finished with a coat of BLO about an hour before I took it to the competition—I’ll probably rub on a few coats of semi-gloss poly before putting it to use.

The last picture was taken at the competition. There were only four entries, so I don’t feel particularly awesome in saying that I won first place. But it does feel pretty good.

Thanks for looking!

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

25 comments so far

View jakub76's profile


56 posts in 2619 days

#1 posted 01-18-2013 10:59 AM

That’s bloody GREAT!

If you’re worried about M&T gaps use epoxy when you glue up. Not only does it fill the gaps but the slow set seems to allay a lot of stress.

What a great 1st furniture piece and a great idea for reclaimed wood. Nice work!

View jdh122's profile


1039 posts in 2964 days

#2 posted 01-18-2013 12:00 PM

Nice work, very interesting design. Especially for a first project it’s incredible work. And congratulations on winning first prize. Any idea what kind of wood it is? maple/birch, or maybe something more exotic?

I may be wrong, but I would worry that gluing the panel into the frame is going to cause wood movement issues, especially with the grain running the way it is – it may push the end pieces of the frame right out. Or maybe there’s enough gap between the slats to account for movement.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 2927 days

#3 posted 01-18-2013 12:39 PM

Good work fellow lumberjock and MMWG member.

I was there, too. It’s good to see it posted here at lumberjocks.


View DavidIN's profile


81 posts in 2135 days

#4 posted 01-18-2013 12:47 PM

Cut outs you did made the piece. Nice job.

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2380 days

#5 posted 01-18-2013 01:23 PM

Looks great! I hope the seasonal wood movement doesn’t make it crack. If the moisture content of the boards was high when you built it a few gaps between the slats may develop. If the wood was stored inside and had dried out it could expand by a 1/2” or so in the most humid parts of the year. Finish it on all sides equally to reduce the chances of swelling. Seal up the top and underside equally, one coat at a time.
In the future the center panel of slats needs to float in the groove with a deeper groove on each end to allow for the wood to move.

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Oldtool's profile


2723 posts in 2337 days

#6 posted 01-18-2013 01:45 PM

Great looking table, well done. I really like the way you incorporated the fork lift cutouts rather than cut the boards straight & thinner. Very nice, you earned first place in my opinion.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View garbonsai's profile


154 posts in 2102 days

#7 posted 01-18-2013 01:53 PM

Thanks for all the tips and hints—I waffled back and forth over whether to glue the slats or not. In the end, I did. The slats aren’t edge-glued to one another, and there was some wiggle room, but I doubt that’ll help. I’ll make sure to apply finish to the bottom of the table-top as well. And, if I come home from work one day to find a pile of pallet wood that was once a poorly constructed coffee table, well, live-and-learn. :)

@DavidIN: As for the cut-outs, those are actually the cut-outs you would normally find on a pallet for the forks of the lift-truck. I simply smoothed them out using the OSS in the corners and belt sander in the middle. First time I got to play with the OSS, and, as with every tool I’ve ever bought off of Craigslist, I’m going to have to pull it apart and clean it up before I use it much more.

@Oldtool: Thanks. Those were definitely a eureka moment. That, and the tapered legs.

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29877 posts in 2485 days

#8 posted 01-18-2013 03:03 PM

Cool idea. Good utilization of the pallet.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View david38's profile


3518 posts in 2490 days

#9 posted 01-18-2013 03:12 PM

nice job

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3187 days

#10 posted 01-18-2013 04:09 PM

Very Cool !!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View JR_Dog's profile


526 posts in 2467 days

#11 posted 01-18-2013 04:13 PM

Great build; that’s suitable for any room.

I really like how you used the runners and kept the natural shape; usually those get scraped – great job

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3724 days

#12 posted 01-18-2013 04:56 PM

Cool design and amazing use of pallet wood.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3003 days

#13 posted 01-18-2013 04:59 PM

Very unique, a graet looking table.

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View woodtarded's profile


15 posts in 2115 days

#14 posted 01-18-2013 06:27 PM

What sort of business do you find a pallet of that quality. Everywhere I look for them they are usually just garbage…

-- Jimmy---- Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the Ark, professionals built the Titanic.

View garbonsai's profile


154 posts in 2102 days

#15 posted 01-18-2013 07:01 PM

@woodtarded: I’ve had the best luck with places that deal in heavy machinery and/or raw metal. The pallets tend to be heavier-duty (oak instead of pine/fir/etc.), and tend to be in better shape because they need to handle so much weight. As a for-instance, the day before yesterday, I checked one of my favorite spots, and came home with two 48”x100” pallets with four stringers each of 2”x4” oak.

-- Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

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