Justin Newcombe: Pleasure pallet

Why throw away that old pallet when you can make useful summer furniture? Justin Newcombe shows how it's done Justin's ready for summer with his recliners and pallet table.

Justin Newcombe with finished portable lawn chair. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Justin Newcombe with finished portable lawn chair. Photo / Steven McNicholl

You couldn't get too much more utilitarian than a pallet. This is an object of practicality so simple and understated it's almost invisible; not quite rubbish yet somehow unworthy of acknowledgment. From time to time one of these unremarkable articles crosses my path as the vessel for pavers or bagged builders' mix, and sometimes I find a use for them.

For example pallets make the perfect compost bin, one meter by one meter square and it's an easy job to nail three together to form the bin. The pallet compost bin also has another great advantage because the gaps in the timbers provide perfect aeration. I've had great results using these for compost bins.

A wholly more ambitious use for pallets is house-building. I recently read about a couple building sleep-outs using pallets with added wall cladding. The pallets were joined together using a sheet of ply on the outside, the cavity was packed with recycled polystyrene or rammed earth and the inside lined with either ply or plaster board. The design featured a simple pitched roof line over a loft and small living or office space, all in a footprint of around 10m square.

At that size, in most council jurisdictions, it wouldn't even need a building consent as long as it followed a few boundary guidelines, and the building code of course.

In more modest projects, I've used pallets as a bed as a poor student and found the experience to be wholly satisfying once I had learned, painfully, that you do want pallets that are the same dimensions and that they do need to be bolted together as they can move around a bit - if you catch my drift. A mate of mine actually bolted his pallets together and raised the whole structure on casters: a coat of black paint and he had a pretty reasonable-looking set up. Well for a student at least.

Which brings me this week's project, a pallet table to go with last week's trolley truck recliners. I've done the research and found that if you're going to utilise your trolley truck recliners properly, you need somewhere to put your stuff. All the accessories you accumulate when you're doing nothing much like books, sun lotion, your iPod, the food platter of leftover Christmas treats, a cold ale...

On its own, a pallet might be a bit industrial and lack a little finesse so I lined the outside of the pallet with left-over decking, then whitewashed the table with watered down paint.

Lining and painting the pallet should address the aesthetic challenges facing my table without compromising on its strength and, of course, its utility.

Step 1 Select a pallet which is not too old and damaged. Make sure the top is reasonably flat and the nails are driven home. Most pallets are made of 20mmx150mm rough sawn untreated pine so it's pretty easy to replace any timbers if need be.

Step 2 Using baton screws, attach the wheels to the bottom of the pallet. Make sure at least one or two of your wheels have brakes, as you don't want your table rolling out of arm's reach.

Step 3 Measure the length and depth of the sides of the pallet and using a mitre saw, cut eight lengths of 90mm pine decking (two for each side) so the corners are mitred where they meet.

Step 4 Screw the first side plank so it will stands proud of the top of the pallet, so when the decking is laid it will sit flush with the decking that will form the table. The second, lower side-piece will sit hard up to the bottom of the top piece. Repeat for all four sides.

Step 5 Measure and cut the decking for the rest of the table top, then screw to the pallet.

Step 6 Mix white paint with water in a ratio of 50:50 then apply with a paint brush. Don't apply too much at once as the paint will run. Better to do three or four thinner coats, as the idea is to still be able to see the grain. Or you may want to try a blonde stain instead of paint.

- NZ Herald

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