Pallet planks

Doing it on the cheap – pallets

When I moved to Kent, I – somewhat foolishly some might say – took a rather large pay cut (c. 33%).

Little did I know that this would indirectly lead to me spending evenings swearing at nails that are refusing to come out of pallets…

Whilst living in a shoe-box in the Surrey-London borders might sound fun, the reality of trying to live with four people (well, two adults and two small mess monsters) in a one-and-a-half bedroom bungalow was somewhat fraught.

The move saw us triple our square footage, whilst paying less than we sold for, which I still maintain is a bargain. Commuting to the old job wasn’t really an option if I ever wanted to see the kids, but the jobs market is less dynamic/well paying than London, so when I found something I had to suck up the drop in pay and almost 80-mile daily round trip.

Coat hooks, with flowersWhilst we’re pretty much muddling along, I – like a lot of people – am just getting by. Paying the bills, clothing and feeding the kids, and that’s about it.

This makes trying to get on with some of the projects I’ve got in mind for the house a bit annoying as tradesmen and retailers have this mildly annoying habit of wanting to be paid for their labour or wares.

We’ve been creative, patient, and frugal to get bits and bobs done, but now I’m eyeing up bigger things, I’m going to have to redouble my efforts.

One perk of working where I do is that the building generates the occasional pallet – aka ‘free wood’ – which I’ve used in the past to make compost bins, a mud kitchen and wall mounted plant shelf thing in the garden.

Now, I must insert the caveat that I’m always wary of how pallets have been treated (in the processing way, not if they’ve been mentally abused of anything) and only use ones with HT mark etc, and if I can’t see a stamp, I leave it.

Pallet mud kitchenWalking back to the car after work the other week I noticed a the storage area had a few in there. Sadly, I don’t get a pass for parking close to the building, so I couldn’t just throw them in the car straight away. But, after making some enquiries with the house supers, I swerved round to the visitors parking spaces at the end of a day last week and was soon driving home with four in the back of the slightly woody-smelling car.

I’ve now taken these apart, having refined my earlier dismantling technique – best described as “hit it with a hammer” – to now involve a combination of leverage with other boards, gentle persuasion with a pry-bar I got in a bargain £3.08 eBay tool collection, and “hitting it with a hammer”.

Different pallets have different quality wood, and even a decent pallet seems to have the odd wanky plank that it’s not worth trying to get off in one piece. That becomes free kindling.

Whilst it’s not pristine oak, maple or cherry (how cool would that be??), I’ve managed to get some ok planks out of it. I should be able to get these into decent shape for some projects I have in mind, with a fair bit of sanding, planing and patience.

Pallet planksI want to up the quality of workmanship for what I have in mind, so I’m probably gonna have to get the table saw out to square them up for jointing (bit of a clue to my thinking?).

This should be fun as I’ve probably only used it a handful of times since it chewed the top of my finger off seven years ago. Bits of it (original fence and mitre guide) got lost in either the flooding we had or the house move, but I’m pretty confident/more aware of how to use it now.

If only I’d found woodworking YouTube videos eight  years ago!!!

I’ve put together a crosscut sled to keep fingers away and am on the lookout for vertical clamps to make a jointing jig type thing to get everything nice and square.

I still want to get a load more wood for what I have in mind, and there’s no doubt I’ll need extra for when I mess something up.

I’m keeping my eyes peeled for pallets, and whatever else I can scrounge from house renovations/skips. Sadly, my much-used salvaged floorboards are down to only one decent length and a few scraps, and I would love to get some more like that if I could.

So, if you see the legs of a scruffy-looking Yorkshireman hanging out of a skip in Kent (and ruining his suit trousers, again) there’s a decent chance it’s me looking for something to saw, hammer or screw!


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