Hi friends, welcome to my blog! This is my first blogging experience, so bear with me as I stumble through this. If the name didn’t tip you off, I love sewing and woodworking, probably because they both involve power tools! I would like to start with a project that I am very proud of, my pallet coffee table. This post is a bit wordy, sorry about that – feel free to just look through the pretty pictures.
Zach and I had a coffee table that we picked up at the local thrift store for $10 when we first moved to Wisconsin. I never liked it, but it was functional. Late last summer I acquired some pallets from a local business; they were free of chemicals, bugs, and mold – score! Note: getting pallets that are suitable is important, I found this information to be helpful. After debating what I should build and postponing the dreaded pallet deconstruction process, I decided it was time for a new and improved coffee table.
Deconstructing pallets by hand is the worst. It requires a crowbar, a hammer, and brute force. Naturally I chose a very hot day to let out my inner Hulk on my pallets, bad idea! I was dripping in sweat, grunting like a man, and completely exhausted after ripping apart just one. Over the course of a few days I had deconstructed a few pallets. I laid out all my wood, took stock of what I had, and tried to brainstorm ideas.
What followed was hours and hours of searching the web for inspiration. I’m extremely indecisive and Pinterest has so many amazing ideas. I knew I wanted a shelf to store our laptops and miscellaneous knickknacks so that the top could be clean and my woodworking could be appreciated. I found myself drawn to chevron patterned tables, because why not choose a difficult design when you’ve never made a table before? I’m completely rational like that! I pinned some ideas that I liked and got out graph paper, a ruler, a calculator, and LOTS of scratch paper. I roughly sketched my idea, which saw several iterations over the course of the project. Our old coffee table was a little too long and narrow, so with that in mind I decided on my new table size.
I measured all my wood and then quickly remeasured it when I realized that working in inches is a nightmare. How do people in construction and carpentry use it? Why doesn’t America use the metric system? Just thinking about converting decimals to fractions gave me headache. So with all my metric measurements written down, I started to scratch out some ideas. I decided on a v shaped pattern with wood meeting in the middle at a 45 degree angle. My wood was pretty wide so I decided I would rip (cut in half lengthwise) all the boards so the pattern would be more fun. With the help of excel and the Pythagorean theorem I figured out what boards I would need. I needed to make sure that I would have enough that were the right length. I think I had to rip apart another pallet – cue excessive complaining.
The next step was to rip all of the boards I needed for the top. Once that was done I cut all the boards in half at a 45 degree angle. I don’t own a miter saw so I used a triangle, clamps, and a circular saw. It worked pretty well, I just needed to go slow and be precise. I realized I would need plywood to glue all the boards down. I can’t remember what thickness I bought, but I wish I had used the thinnest possible to save on weight. The coffee table is stupidly heavy. Once I had all the top boards cut I started to arrange them, it took me a few tries, but I finally got an arrangement I liked. To finalize it I numbered all the boards and designated left or right.
The next step was to cut boards for the base. Pallets are made with 2x4s, but I wanted 2x2s because I liked the look better. I ended up ripping the 2x4s with my circular saw, but this is dumb. Just don’t do it. I was only able to because my circular saw has a small lip on the left. Speaking of my saw, we have a Dewalt cordless circular saw. I really like it, it’s light, portable, and has enough power for my needs. I should have just bought 2x2s, it would have been much easier. You can see my ripping setup below; I used a piece of plywood as my straight edge and lots of clamps.
Next up, sanding, sanding, and MORE sanding! Sanding is both my most and least favorite step. It’s terrible because it takes forever, but I love how the wood transforms before your eyes. I first sanded with 60 grit, then 120, and finally 220. I love the feel of the wood after 220, so smooth! This is my sander, it’s a SKIL random orbit sander with a bag to collect the dust. Note, you should always use a mask and safety glasses when sanding anything, I am bad. I was at least wearing earplugs – 1 out of 3!
At this point I had another decision to make, what color stain to use? I previously made a headboard (post on this coming soon) and used a fairly dark stain. I wanted the table to be lighter, but I didn’t know how light. Picture me standing in the stain aisle at the hardware store comparing colors for what seemed like an hour. Employees kept offering help, but I informed them that only the only thing that could help would be the ability to make a decision. I ended up going with Mixwax Golden Oak 210B which I think turned out pretty great. The legs were lighter than I liked, so I mixed in some darker stain and retreated the legs.
Now it was time to assemble the table. We have a DeWalt battery powered drill and it’s great. It came with two batteries, a charger, and a nice case. I do tend to chew through the batteries quickly when I’m using them with the circular saw, but they charge very quickly. I used 3″ screws to assemble the base. I added crossbars to the frame for stability. I should have waited to attach the top crossbars, screwing in the shelf boards was difficult because the bars were in the way. I then screwed on the plywood to the base and glued on and nailed down the top boards. At this point I had a very funny looking table with all different length boards sticking out.
I turned the table over and placed it on top of a couple of 2x4s to give me some distance from the ground. Using my circular saw and a guide I cut off all the ends and squared it up. I hadn’t stained the top boards yet because I wanted to give them a final sanding once they were all glued down. After the final sanding, I stained the top to match the rest of the table.
I wanted to give the table a finished look so I added some trim. I even gave it mitered corners – those were a challenge, but it was fun to change the angle of my saw. An even bigger challenge was attaching the trim. Using clamps to hold the trim on was difficult, and hammering in the nails was nearly impossible. I ended up bending several nails and had to cut them off and hammer in the sharp point. At one point I messed up 3 or 4 in a row and I was so angry I threw the hammer across the yard. Don’t throw your hammer! This is dangerous and childish. A nail gun would have been very useful, maybe I’ll get one soon.
At this point everything was assembled, I just needed to put on a protective finish. I used polycrylic because it’s water based and I was able to use it indoors – it was the beginning of October it was too cold to use outside and I don’t have a garage.
The finishing touches were to glue on some pads so I don’t scratch my floor when I move it around and add some brackets for stability. I realized that I didn’t use enough screws on the base and it was a little wobbly.
I love how it turned out and most days I look at it and beam with pride. I love the shelf because it allows me to hide away the junk and only see the pretty surface. The top is lumpy and uneven, but that’s what I love about it. The only downside is that board games and puzzles don’t work well on it.
I had a lot of fun making this table. It took me a lot longer than it would have taken a lot of people, but I’m new to this. I was also doing it in the fall and the days kept getting shorter and shorter. I have a few parting thoughts/tips/words of wisdom. I always clamped down my guide to make my cuts. I’m not skilled enough to just follow the line I marked out. This was very important when I was ripping the long boards. I even clamped my guide when cutting with the triangle, I needed to make sure the boards met perfectly in the middle. My life would have been a lot easier if I had a reciprocating saw to disassemble the pallets. It was on my list of tools to buy, but someone surprised me with amazing Sawzall for Christmas – thanks Zach! Pallet wood is very dense and hard to nail, a nail gun is probably a necessary investment if I want to use nails in a future project.
There’s definitely room for improvement, but considering this was my first ever table I’m pretty proud of myself.