Saturday Morning Workshop: How To Build A Pallet Side Table

This stylish, modern pallet side table is a great introduction to milling lumber and cutting joinery on a table saw.

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Pallet wood is incredibly trendy in the woodworking and DIY worlds right now. The lumber is cheap (or even free!), and you can find it in a variety of wood species. I've found pallets made from maple, pine, oak and poplar. This side table made from pallet lumber is not only attractive, it's also a lesson in lumber preparation and simple joinery. And it'll only set you back about five bucks in materials! Round up or buy a couple of pallets just in case you discover an unusable section or make a mistake.

Tools Required

  • Jointer
  • Miter gauge
  • Miter saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Planer
  • Table saw

Materials Required

  • Pallet
  • Wood glue

What It Takes to Build This Pallet Side Table

  • Time: 1 day
  • Cost: About $5 a pallet, or possibly free (search online for “free pallets near me”)
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Cutting List

Pallet Side Table Cutting ListFamily Handyman

Pallet Side Table Project Plans

Pallet Side Table PlansFamily Handyman

Project step-by-step (8)

Step 1

Prepare the pallet wood

pallet side table prepare the pallet wood

To begin this pallet side table project, first pry apart the pallet with a flat bar and mallet. Plus: Check out this other use for a pallet in your home workshop.

Step 2

Remove nails and make rough cuts

pallet side table remove nails and make rough cuts

Pull out all the nails with a hammer so they don’t ruin a saw blade. Clean the boards with a wire brush so you don’t bog down your jointer or planer. Rough-cut the pallet stringers to 25 in. for the legs (B).

Step 3

Flatten and straighten

pallet side table flatten and straighten

Draw pencil lines across the concave face of the boards and flatten that face on the jointer. When the lines are gone, you’re done. With the flattened face against the jointer’s fence, straighten the concave edge (if there is one).

Step 4

Mill the parts to size

pallet side table mill the parts to size

Plane the boards to finished thickness. Remember to plane some of the boards to 1/2 in. for the slats (C) and stretchers (D). Rip and crosscut all the parts to the dimensions stated in the Cutting List. Don’t cut the slats (C) and stretchers (D) to length yet. You’ll scribe them to fit later. Get the Tech Art for this project here.

Step 5

Glue up the top

pallet side table glue up the top

Spread glue to the edges of the top boards and clamp them together in two 8-in. sections. Clean any squeeze-out with a chisel or paint scraper. When the glue is dry, plane and sand the two halves smooth. Glue and clamp the two halves. Sand the newly created tabletop flat after the glue dries. Crosscut the top to 16 in. using a miter gauge on the table saw.

Step 6

Cut the notches

pallet side table cut the notches

Attach a long fence to the miter gauge and clamp stops to the fence, placed to cut kerfs at 2 in. and 3 in. from one edge of the tabletop (A). Set the blade height to 3 in. and make multiple passes to cut out the waste between the kerfs, creating a 1-in. x 3-in. slot. Rotate the tabletop 90 degrees to cut the remaining notches. Follow the same process to make a 1/2-in.-wide x 1-in.-deep notch, 6 in. from the end of each leg (B).

Step 7

Glue the legs to the assembly

pallet side table glue the legs to the assembly

Spread glue into the notches in the top. Clamp the legs into the slots so that the ends are flush with the tabletop and wipe away any excess glue with a damp rag.

Step 8

Attach the shelf

pallet side table attach the shelf

Dry-fit the stretchers (D), scribe their ends and cut them to finished length. Spread glue into the leg notches and clamp the stretchers into place. Scribe and cut the slats to finished length. Glue and clamp the slats to the stretchers with 1/8-in. spacers between the slats.

Family Handyman