Looking for a fun weekend project as spring quickly approaches? This is a simple undertaking for the intermediate craftsman to finish in a day or two. Building an end table from pallets is a relatively easy and inexpensive project. You are likely to have most of the tools in your workshop and the pallets can be found for little or no charge at a variety of places. If there is an end table that you need to replace, or one that you’ve had your eye on, just make note of the table’s dimensions and do it yourself! Follow these simple instructions to make a woodsy and rustic end table for your home or cabin.
- Table Saw
- Drill Bits (with screw attachment)
- Pry Bar
- Hand Saw
- -1 ¼”
- -2 ½”
- Tape measure
- 3 Pallets
For this project, I spent about $10 for the screws and the pallets were free. I had everything else on hand.
Step 1: Find 3 Pallets
Many recycling companies and other businesses have pallets for little or no charge. Call your local stores and businesses to see if they will let you pick up pallets. Many Craigslist.org ads offer free pallet removal as well as small businesses, construction sites, hotels, and restaurants.
Three pallets should be plenty, but you don’t want to come up short in case you break any of the boards. Break the pallets apart using the hammer and pry bar. This can take a while, so be patient. Make sure you remove all screws, nails and staples because they could cause problems later if you have to cut through them.
Step 2: Measuring
Measure out the size you want your table to be. Start by figuring out how wide you want it. I chose a square table for my project. Lay down some wood until you have reached the desired width, then measure it (keep this number for later). Also, make sure that you measure how tall you want it to be. I based my height on the end table I was replacing.
Step 3: Making the table top
Lay the wood you want to use for your table top on the ground. Use your earlier measurements to cut the pieces of wood. These cuts should be as precise as possible. While there is certain flair to having this type of rustic looking end table, having the edges lined up gives it a much nicer look and feel. Once all your boards are cut, lay the side that you want to be the surface facing down on the ground.
Step 4: The Legs
Cut the legs the height you would like them. These have to be perfect or your table will wobble. Fortunately for me, I was able to find some 4×4 rail road ties and use them as the legs. Another option is to take some of the 2x4s you get from tearing the pallets apart. Put two of those together and you get a 4×4. Once you have these cut, set them on top of the table top to get a feel of what it will look like. Turn the legs so that the “good” parts faces outward.
Step 5: The Support
Take some of the 2 x 4s and cut them the same length of your table top. You will need four (4).
Step 6: The fun part
You now need to put notches in the support wood (the 2x4s). Measure the height of the 2×4 (mine was about 3.5 inches). Divide the number in half and add about an 1/8th of an inch and set your table saw to that height. Take the leg of the table and place it between the blade and a guide. Hold your support pieces so that the narrow side is on the table. Cut every support 2×4 with this measurement. Make sure to cut both sides of each board so you get a clean line. Next put the same 4×4 (leg post) next to the blade and add a 2×4. Repeat the same step as before until you get two cuts on the right and left side of each support. There will be a total of 16 cuts. Once you are done with the cuts, use a chisel to knock out the piece of wood between them.
Step 7: Finishing the top
For this step you need to take the outside pieces of the table top you made earlier. On your table saw you will need to place the 4×4 (leg piece) next to the blade. Use a piece of tape to mark where you need to stop cutting (which will be the back of the 4×4). You will now cut a corner out of the table top. A hand saw will be needed to finish off the cuts you started.
Step 8: Assembly
Building the table upside down will help keep your table as flat as possible. Take your table top (good side down) and place it on the ground. Next put the 4 legs in the corners you just cut and place the four support pieces next to the legs. Because of the the knotches you made earlier, everything should fit snugly together. Use your drill and the longer screws to secure the supports to the legs. Once you have attached the supports to the legs (use eight screws) flip the whole table over. It will be wobbly, but don’t worry. Flip your table top over and secure it with the shorter screws.
Note: It might be helpful to make a pilot whole (a pre-drilled whole) for all of the screws. It helps prevent the wood from breaking.
Step 9: The bottom
The bottom is built similar to the top in that you will be building a support again using four support beams. Cut a few of the pallet tops into one-inch wide pieces of wood. Next, cut them so that their length starts and ends half way between each leg. You will need to repeat the same steps for making the support as you need for the table top, except this time the distance for the knotches needs to be measured. After you have made all the cuts, place a piece of tape on your saw table. Then place one of your supports next to the tape so you can have the appropriate distance for your knotch. Chisel out the knotch. Put these four supports together and secure them with a screw where they touch. USE A PILOT hole or else the wood will break. Next, find pieces you want to use for this layer and cut them to size. Secure them to the support you just made, using a hand saw cut out the corners.
Step 10: Final assembly
Just as you attached the support beams for the top of the table you will be attaching the bottom shelf. Use pilot holes to prevent the wood from breaking, and do this part upside down as well. I put the bottom shelf about 2 inches from the ground and used clamps to secure it in place. After all the screws are in place flip the table over. You can do some sanding, painting and staining if you like. I left mine with the natural look.
I hope this has been helpful in building furniture with a few tools and free supplies!