Sometimes we do what we can to push the boundaries of our imagination and our materials, sometimes we just want to create a quick and easy project. This was the latter! (please be aware this post contains affiliate links)
You can see the YouTube tutorial here – YouTube tutorial – Pallet Wood Box
I wondered what I could make from a single piece of pallet wood and also what would be easy, quick and solid. Figuring that everyone needs boxes at some time in their lives I opted to make a little box, with a little lid.
It all started with a single piece of pallet wood, which scrubbed up nicely after planing
So I found a nice piece of pallet wood with as few knots in as possible, I planed it down to get all the grime and roughness off. You could almost mistake some pieces of pallet wood for shop bought lumber when they’re cleaned up. I then marked up the lengths I wanted for the sides and cut them, 2 long sides at 15 cm (5 15/16″), the top and bottom of the box at 15cm and the 2 small sides at 5.5cm (2 3/16″). You can of course make the box as big or as small as you like.
The 2 long sides, 2 short sides, the bottom and lid cut and ready
After these were all cut I clamped the 4 sides together without gluing them. I got the pieces in the right position and drilled the holes for the dowels. Having the sides all clamped together helped me to get the accuracy I needed for when the dowels go in.
I used a hand powered drill but an electric drill would work just as well, I just enjoy the quiet
4 holes were drilled on each of the long sides into the short sides and 4 holes from the bottom into the long sides. Creating the dowels is fairly simple, I just took a small piece of the pallet wood and split down it with a chisel to make smaller pieces. Using a carving knife I whittled them down and finally tapped them through a dowel plate to make them exactly the right size. If you don’t have a dowel plate you can just carve them down with a knife and keep testing the thickness until they’re the right size.
Dowel plate – Dowel Plate
Before and after being cut down to size
I always make more dowels than I need in case they break, especially at this size because they’re only 3mm (1/8″) in diameter and so are prone to breaking when being tapped in. Set all your pieces out on your work surface and start to glue them together.
All sides drilled and ready to be glued
I started by gluing the two short sides and making sure to really rub the glue in as I was gluing onto end grain. End grain soaks up a lot more glue and so its good practice to give it a helping hand. After that I put a tiny bit of glue on a dowel at a time and slowly tap them in. It’s important to be careful at this stage, start with very light taps to get the dowel started, going at the dowel gung-ho is likely to result in breakage.
Glued and doweled
After you’ve glued and doweled the sides and bottom its a good idea to leave it for 24 hours before doing anything else to it. When the time passed I trimmed off the tops of all the dowels.
The lid was the next thing to turn my attention to. I wanted it to lock in place when I put it on and so decided to cut a recessed area around the edge. Starting by making a cross going through the centre of the lid, I then marked out the inside lengths of the top of the box using the lines to centre those measurements.
The lid marked out and ready for cutting
I found using a small tenon saw is ideal to cut out the recessed area, a Japanese ryoba saw would be just as good though. Coming in with a chisel afterwards helps to really clean up the edges and make it nice and crisp.
Tenon Saw – Tenon Saw
Japanese Ryoba – Japanese Ryoba
Paring material away with a chisel can be incredibly satisfying
A file can then be used to smooth down all the corners and edges of the box. This step once again isn’t necessary but I like to be able to run my hands over the wood without feeling any sharp edges. After this is done you can smooth it even further with 120 grit sandpaper.
Filing down the edges and corners
The next step, whilst also not essential, is to make a simple handle for the lid. Now this handle could be square, cylindrical, triangular, cone shaped whatever you like. I opted for a simple semi circle cut out from the pallet wood with a coping saw.
You can use something round to make the semi circle shape, like a small tin
I smoothed the edges of the handle down and glued it onto the box. Later I gave it a good sanding all over with 240 grit sandpaper. I made sure to get around all the edges and into the box as well. I figured my hands would be entering the box at some point and so didn’t want the risk of splinters.
The box sanded down all over and ready for finish
At this point you could leave the box as is, I prefer to have a light coating of Danish oil on mine. It provides a low lustre, smooth finish.
After a couple of coats of Danish oil
The great thing about a finish is that it shows the real beauty of the wood. Even humble pallet wood can be brought to life with a finish.
All in all it was a very simple build but also quite satisfying to see a nice little box at the end of it. It certainly isn’t complicated joinery and I can’t imagine it looking like it belongs on any fine furniture but it serves a purpose, it’s sturdy, it’s recycled and it made me smile to see it completed. I think once you get all the other stuff out of the way, it’s the fulfilment that counts.
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