Wood Pallet Projects, by Chris Gleason
by J. Norman Reid
Are you looking for fresh ideas for some fun woodworking? Would you like to build things with free lumber? Do you favor the "shabby chic" look you get from rough-surfaced wood? Then this may be just the book you need to get you started on your way.
Maybe you've thought about building projects with wood salvaged from pallets. It sounds both fun and easy—and it can be. And pallets sometimes contain very interesting and desirable wood, such as hickory and sycamore, which can result in beautiful projects. But as Chris Gleason points out in the introductory section, there are things you need to know when choosing and using pallet wood. First, while pallet wood is often free for the taking, it's important to get permission. Sometimes owners reuse their pallets, but often you'll be doing them a favor by taking them off their hands.
And, not all pallet wood is desirable. Gleason gives some guidelines on which pallets to get and which to avoid. Especially important to know is the coding system, which tells whether the pallet wood has been heat treated or kiln dried, methyl bromide treated, or contains spruce, pine or fir components. Also important are the size of the pallet and the degree to which it fits your intended use.
Gleason briefly reviews the tools you may want to use in working with pallet wood. These range from hand tools, power sanders, powered hand saws and large machines, including band saws, table saws, jointers and planers. He emphasizes, however, that pallet wood can easily be worked with a minimal set of tools, making pallet wood a good choice for beginning woodworkers and those on a limited budget.
Gleason includes a major section—dubbed "palletpalooza" —that offers a veritable cornucopia of ideas about many of the ways pallet wood can be used. This illustrated section is sure to stimulate your woodworking passions and get you excited about the many opportunities pallet lumber offers.
The bulk of the book is devoted to descriptions of 12 projects that range from the simple to the complex. The first grouping—Easy Home Projects—begins with tea light holders, which can be made in several configurations. The other projects in this section are a mirror or picture frame built up from several layers of wood, a basic box with a decorative handle and a magazine display box that can also serve as a filing box.
This is followed by four projects for inside and outside furniture. These are a charming entryway caddy with a mirror, a chair and an easy-to-build outdoor love seat.
The final section is titled "Fun and Functional Projects." These are a stylish birdhouse, a toolbox for toting your hand tools, a workbench with a drawer, and—incredibly—a ukulele!
Not only is this an informative book but it is easy to read and, frankly, fun. Each of the projects is well-illustrated, accompanied by cutlists and described in step-by-step detail so they can be easily replicated. But Gleason encourages their use as models for inspiration as much as plans for copying, and most woodworkers will have no trouble using them as jumping off points for their own variations. If you are seeking a fresh source of inspiration or an entryway into using pallets as a cheap source of lumber, you'll find it here.
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Wood Pallet Projects
The author is a woodworker, writer, and woodworking instructor living with his wife in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a woodshop full of power and hand tools and four cats who believe they are cabinetmaker's assistants.
He can be reached by email at