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By January 20, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

Make a Chair out of a Pallet

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Don’t chuck it or burn it…Sit on it. Chris Gleason, author of the fabulous Wood Pallet Projects, shows how to make a chair out of a pallet. Of course there are loads of other ideas for using up pallets include turning them into a pallet garden and they make great raised beds. We’ve put some other ideas on our Pinterest site to inspire.

Most people who see this chair immediately recognise that the slats on the back and seat come from a pallet, but they assume I used ‘nicer’ wood for the frame. Ha! This is just the response I had hoped for. I painted the frame blue, partly because I liked the look, but also because I wanted to emphasise the character of the seat and back slats, and the blue paint helped the frame to visually fade into the background, so to speak.

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The reality, of course, is that all of the wood used in this chair came from a single pallet, and when I tell people that, it usually takes a minute to sink in. Am I trying to play mind-games with people? Absolutely not! I’m just showing that while pallet wood can be used in ways that celebrate its rough and rustic nature, it can also be cleaned up and used as conventional lumber often is. (The actual construction techniques used here are basically the same as those used in fine furniture construction, so there is a nice tutorial to be had here for those interested in the logistics of chair making.)

Wood Pallet Diagram

CHAIR MATERIALS LIST *
ITEM QUANTITY MATERIAL DIMENSIONS
A Rear legs 2 1in (25mm)-thick stock 4in x 38in (102mm x 965mm)
B Front legs 2 1in (25mm)-thick stock 4in x 17⅜in (102mm x 442mm)
C Side stretchers 2 1in (25mm)-thick stock 4in x 13in (102mm x 330mm)
D Front and rear stretchers 2 1in (25mm)-thick stock 4in x 17in (102mm x 432mm)
E Seat slats 4 ⅝in (16mm)-thick stock 3in x 19in (76mm x 483mm)
F Back slats 3 ⅝in (16mm)-thick stock 3in x 19in (76mm x 483mm)
* The overall project dimensions are approximate.

Full instructions to accompany this slide show are below.

  • 1a. From this...
  • 1b. To this
  • 2. Cut the boards to length.
  • 3. See how the frame pieces fit together.
  • 4. Determine the angle of the front leg.
  • 5. Take your time working out the curves.
  • 6. Think about he tapering of the legs.
  • 7. Cut the pieces.
  • 8. Drill holes for dowels.
  • 9. Test the fit of the joints.
  • 10. Glue the sides together and clamp to dry.
  • 11. Check the sides for accuracy.
  • 12. Angle the ends of the front stretcher.
  • 13. Glue and clamp the first stretcher in place.
  • 14. Secure with screw and cover with plugs.
  • 15. Cut and attach the rear stretcher
  • 16. Attach the chair slats.

 

METHOD

1           Find a suitable pallet and disassemble it. This was a good pallet; I was able to build the entire chair from it and have some slats left over. I kept the centre slats as wide as possible because I knew I’d need them later for the back and seat.

2           Cut the boards to length and set aside any extras. Here are the centre slats that I got from this pallet. It turned out to be way more than I needed, frankly, and some of them were nice and wide. I set them aside for other projects, because wide boards are always coveted around the shop.

3           See how the frame pieces fit together. During my fifteen-year career as a full-time furniture-maker, I’ve built dozens of chairs, and the process usually begins with laying out some of the parts to see how they’ll relate to each other. Start with a rear leg (A), front leg (B) and side and front stretchers (C and D). The seat needs to be about 18in (457mm) from the floor, and 16in (406mm) of depth is common, but the rest is up to you. Mark just one of each of the frame pieces; you will cut them in Step 6 and then use the cut pieces as patterns in Step 7.

4           Determine the angle of the front leg (B). I wanted the front leg (B) to flare out a bit, and I decided to accomplish this by trimming the front end of the side stretcher (C) at an angle. I used an angle finder to determine the precise angle and mark it on the side stretcher. In my case, the angle was 5 degrees.

5           Determine the angle of the top of the rear leg (A). I wanted a graceful curve on the seat-back part of the rear leg (A). Take your time with this phase, and be flexible on the various transitions that are involved. You may lay out a particular shape and then need to adjust it later – this is all part of the game.

6           Determine the taper of the legs, and then cut all pieces as marked. I chose to taper the lower parts of the front and rear legs (B and A), which created a more refined look.

7           Use the cut pieces as patterns to mark the other half of the frame pieces, then cut. Once I had the tapers established on the legs (A and B), I used them as patterns for the other half of the chair, thus ensuring that the sides of the chair would be mirror images. Repeat the process on the other frame pieces.

8           Drill holes for dowels to join the front legs, side stretchers, and rear legs (B, C, and A). I decided to join the parts using dowels because they make strong joints that don’t show. A dowel jig will set you back between £10 for a basic model, and £30 for something quite professional, and it is essential equipment. It can help you drill centred holes on just about all stock that is less than 2in (5cm) thick.

9           Test the fit of the joints. This photo shows how a dowel joint goes together. You’ll want to test the fit of each joint to make sure the holes you drilled fit the dowels properly before you glue everything in place.

10         Glue the chair sides together and clamp to dry. Glue one rear leg (A) and one front leg (B) to each end of a side stretcher (C).

11         Check the sides for accuracy and adjust as needed. Chairs need two identical sides. I double-check my chair sides by placing them on top of each other and looking for inconsistencies.

12         Angle the ends of the front stretcher (D). The ends of the front stretcher (D) need to be cut at 5-degree angles so the chair’s width will taper from front to back.

13         Glue and clamp the front stretcher (D) in place. Glue the sides of the chair to the front stretcher (D) and clamp them in place to dry. With the stretcher glued and clamped in place, the whole thing starts to really look like a chair.

14         Secure the front stretcher (D) with screws and cover the ends with wooden plugs. To really lock the front stretcher (D) into place, I ran 3in (76mm)-long screws into it. First, I predrilled 3/32in (2.5mm)-diameter holes for the screws through the tops of the front legs (B) into the front stretcher (D) so that I didn’t split the wood. Then I counter-bored small recesses to hide the screw heads. Once the screws were in, I covered their heads with small wooden plugs that I cut flush to the sides of the front legs of the chair.

15         Cut and attach the rear stretcher (D). I installed a rear stretcher (D) in the same way I installed the front stretcher, which completed the big structural work on the chair. This included cutting the ends of the rear stretcher at a 5-degree angle like I did with the front stretcher. After a light sanding, it was ready for paint, and then for the slats to be attached.

Finish or paint the chair frame and the seat and back slats (E and F), and then attach the slats. To simplify the finishing process, I painted the frame of the chair prior to attaching the slats. I used spray paint because I had some on hand, and used two coats. Once the paint was dry (which took less than fifteen minutes in my dry climate), I then applied an even coat of polyurethane to the seat and back slats (E and F). Then I attached the slats to the chair using two-part epoxy and 1½in (38mm) brad nails.

WOOD PALLET PROJECTS FCWOOD PALLET PROJECTS

Chris Gleason’s book, Wood Pallet Projects: Cool and Easy-To-Make Projects for the Home and Garden, is published by Fox Chapel. In paperback and with 128 pages. It provides lots of pallet know-how, including 15 in-depth projects, from fine to rustic furniture, and even a ukulele.

 

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