Pinterest is great. It makes you long for things you’ll probably never get and put on your to-do list DIY projects that will never get done. That is unless you have an awesome significant other, like myself, who has carpentry skills and tools any Pinterest pinner would die for. I saw these cool posts about pallet coffee tables (inspiration 1 and inspiration 2) and my husband assured me that he could get a few pallets really cheap and could totally build me a coffee table. Then he actually did. It was awesome. It took us over ten hours to complete and that does not include that time we let it set outside to dry and air out from the clear coat. While he doesn’t do as much of it any more, Chris’ trade was painting and carpentry so we had access to a lot of cool gadgets that aided us in getting it done in one weekend.
We used three pallets. On one, we took off the bottom boards and used the top boards as our new bottom. Then we tore up boards from two other pallets. We used pallets that were made of different wood but still the same thickness so our table would be (somewhat) even. Taking the boards off of the other two pallets to use as our new table top was the hard part. Some of them split and we had to toss those boards to the side. Chris used a sawzaw to cut through the nails between the board and the frame in order to get the boards off of their original frames. We cut the boards down to the size of our first pallet.
Then we sanded every board on every side.
Then we clear coated the top of the bottom boards with poly. We knew we were designing the piece so that the top of the bottom boards would become the bottom of shelves. I wanted to set books and other items on the shelves without fear of splinters or ruining book covers. Then we stained two of the top boards and the sides of the coffee table. I wanted the finished look to be non-uniform and still look like a pallet. I purposefully spaced the board so that they would not be flush with each other, I stained only two pieces on purpose, and chose different wood with different treatments to give our table a unique look. (There is some concern that because pallets are treated wood they should not be used indoors, since we sanded and coated our boards with a clear coat we are confident our table is fine to use indoors.)
This is a picture of the stain and poly we used. I did not want a heavy look to the stain so Chris painted the stain on and then wiped off some of the stain with a towel to achieve the look I wanted. We added a Japan Drier to the clear coat so that it would dry quicker. However, this makes the remaining clear coat not usable afterward, so be sure to put it into a separate pail with your estimated usage before adding the Japan Drier. Also remember to apply both the stain and the clear coat in a well ventilated area while using gloves.
At the end of the first day we had our design, all the boards cut to the correct length and placed (but not nailed down), the inside of the table clear coated, and specific pieces stained. We let it sit in a well ventilated area overnight.
The next morning we spent an hour at a hardware store configuring our leg frame design. This ended up being the most expensive part of the project as we used piping and that cost quite a bit (see inset in picture below). As this table is something we proudly made together and is supposed to last for more than a little amount of time, we decided to go for exactly what we wanted instead of making do with re-purposing another piece of furniture (our other idea for legs).
Once we got back to our work space, we clear coated the actual bottom of the table (the bottom of the bottom boards) and set that aside to dry. We cleaned up the piping with a thinner and put our frame together. We used 1/2 inch piping for the legs and sides and 3/8 inch piping for the pipe running down the middle. Once the clear coat had dried we attached the pipe frame to the bottom of the pallet project and turned it over. Then we nailed the top boards down with a nail gun.
Since we had started the project by cutting our boards down to size, the cut off ends still had the original nails in them. We re-purposed the original nails as decorative detail by drilling a small hole and pounding the original nail head into place. These nails are not actually holding the boards down to the frame. We used a pin-nailer to attach the boards to the frame. We applied a coat of poly, let it dry, sanded the first coat, and then added a second coat of to the top boards and sides.