andrew brooks bio photo

andrew brooks

internationalist turned economist turned data scientist



  • 2 wooden pallets
  • jigsaw
  • miter saw (optional)
  • hammer
  • nails (1-2 inch)
  • crobar/prybar (optional)
  • grade 100 sandpaper and powersander (optional)
  • mineral oil
  • tape measure


I am by no means a woodworking expert. I wanted to see what I could create with some pallets I had laying around in the yard, so this is what I came up with.
This post is light on details because 1: my memory is also light on details, 2: there are lots of smart(er) ways to do this project and 3: be creative!

Getting pallets:

Wood pallets are super cheap, plentiful and easy to acquire materials to start a project. You can probably get them for free from Craigslist, a big store, warehouse, or somewhere else. However, whatever you do, don’t steal pallets. Apparently pallet theft is a $750 million problem:

CHEP estimates that each year, about 1 million pallets travel through the black market.

there have been cases of organized crime rings stealing pallets and containers.

a Plastic Industrial Theft Taskforce run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recovered $7.4 million in stolen plastic pallets and containers, made 74 arrests, and shut down 30 illegal grinding operations.

- DCVelocity

Step 1: Disassemble the pallet

This actually requires a lot of manual work, but you can do most of it with a just hammer. Use of a jigsaw can help speed things up. I started watching a couple YouTube videos of people hacking these pallets apart. This guy gets it done in just under 7 minutes.

For my project I only really needed the boards, so I didn’t worry about banging the nails out of the blocks connecting the top and bottom deckboards. Parts of a pallet

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Starting point with pallet #1.

Using a jigsaw to cut the boards out saves a lot of nail removal work.
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Lots of nails. And this isn't even all of them.

Using a crobar helped with some of the blocks that were hard to get out with just the hammer. However, be aware that the crobar can split the wood you're prying if not careful.

All the pieces post deconstruction (2 pallets).

Step 2: Creating the walls/panels of the box

Use a miter saw (or jigsaw) to cut all the boards to the same height. I chose to cut all my boards to the height of the smallest board. This happened to be 28 inches.

Create the 4 panels (walls of the box). I used a couple clamps to keep everything in place.

Use a powersander to sand down the edges and surfaces of each panel. I used grade 100 sandpaper. Depending on how rugged your pallets are, you might want finer (higher grade) or coarser (lower grade) sandpaper to smooth your wood.

Step 3: Putting it all together

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Nail the 4 panels together using 1.5 inch nails (or longer). The box also needs a bottom. My box will be my clothes hamper, so I figured leaving some space between the bottom boards might not be a bad idea to get some air in there.

Step 4: Finish the wood with mineral oil

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I applied mineral oil to the whole thing (right photo). Although the oil doesn't bring out the natural elements of the wood like I've found it does some on other projects... probably because the wood is of a lower quality. I think it looks OK as is, but might experiment with some different oils or darker stains.

Step 5: Create something cool with the leftovers

Wall shelf: a random by-product from the leftovers