Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Shaker hanging cabinet, North Sea edition, pallet sides.

Ralph commented on how all the pallets he encountered were made out of fairly narrow boards.
European standard pallets (Euro pallet) are made using something like 1x5" boards for the top and also the lower part.
The things to get hold of are not the pallets themselves, but rather the pallet sides if they are fitted.
These are hinged sides that are made out of some 7.5" wide boards of 3/4" thickness. Mind you that these sides are not intended as furniture wood, so there is sometimes a lot of cupping or twisting in them. It can be a bit hard to see beforehand, as the hinges are really stout and hold the relatively short boards flat.
We often receive spare parts on pallets with sides on them, and since we are not part of the return system, we don't deliver them back or reclaim money for them.
The general idea is that like a Euro pallet, you can trade them in, but it is not worth the trouble given our small throughput of these.

Today I got about an hours work in the workshop trying to dimension tome stock.
The bottom and the top will be almost the full thickness, since I plan on dovetailing the carcase together. There will be a rabbet to allow me to do some half blind dovetailing, or perhaps I will try to make blind dovetailing of some sort.

The sides and the front I planed to around 3/8" thickness. The plan is to rip the full width boards, and that way make one side and one front from the same board.

Both these two boards were fairly flat, so there wasn't much work in getting them to the desired thickness.

The back panel on the other hand has got a pretty significant cupping.
across a width of 15.5" there is almost 3/8" in the middle. I even tried to correct it a bit when I glued up the panel, but it will still take some work to get it flat. The goal for the back is something like 1/4", so I should be able to get it out of the glued up piece despite the far from flat condition.

One thing that is bugging me a bit about the use of pallet sides is that I have never been able to think up at a fine solution for using all those heavy hinges.
I just saw the off and throw them away.
They have stamped reinforcement in them, and they are wide and coarse, not exactly the classic qualities you want for small woodworking projects - but maybe one day I'll be able to think of something and I'll regret throwing out a great number of them along the way.

Pallet with sides mounted, + one loose side on top.

A hinge for a pallet side. 

My cupping back panel.


  1. Here the US the pallet 'flats' average about 3-4" wide. Anything like your pallet sides of wood are plywood here. I haven't seen a solid wood pallet/crate ever. And now they use staples and twisted nails coated with something that make it impossible to separate the boards without breaking them.

    1. Hi Ralph

      I would guess that plywood is more expensive than these sides.
      They are flat sawn spruce, so not an expensive species at all.

      A fine thing about the sides is that they have been through a planer, and the sides are rounded over, so for workshop furniture you could use them as they come.
      The pallets themselves are not planed, but these sides are sometimes used whiole a whole pallet is taken inside a shop, so they would probably get a lot of complaints if customers tore themselves on them.

      If a lid is added, it is made out of very coarse particleboard.

      I doubt that you could make the sides as sturdy and lightweight using plywood as you can using spruce, but I am just guessing here.

      I haven't broken up any pallets lately, but I think that they use twisted nails here as well. But with sides like these there is little need for using the actual pallet itself.

      Still there is a long way to the exotic wood used on the pallets in Nigeria, but on the other hand there are no pirate attacks in the North Sea, so I think I'm better off here after all :-)


  2. Our navy spend a lot of time fighting off pirates off Somalia coast, but we cannot pretend that you would be safe all the time ... :-(

    I like your approach with these pallets wood, the ultimate recycling project at sea! Great idea and keeps one busy, busy is always good... :-)


    1. Hi Bob

      There is an awful lot of water to patrol, but being present surely have a positive impact on the problem. Denmark used to have a naval vessel down there some years ago, but I don't think it is there any more.
      Once they caught pirates they gave them free dental care, and released them. since it couldn't be proven that they were indeed pirates. being in a small boat and being armed to the teeth were not sufficient evidence..
      Oh and since they had been detained by the Danish government without being guilty of a crime they were paid the standard compensation for being detained which amounted to a couple of years wages for the locals...

      The pallet sides are just too good not to use. Maybe one day I'll glue up some big panels and make a large chest.
      As it is now I always try to work around glueing up panels. But that is also a challenge in itself.


  3. Hinges for building raised garden beds that pack flat in the winter, or otherwise stay together in the corners?

    1. Hi Jeremy.

      A lot of people actually use the sides for just that.
      Except for putting them away for the winter.

      They need to be treated in some way if they have to last longer than maybe 5 years, but it is a very easy way to make some raised beds in the garden. You can make them 3 feet high without worrying about the stability.

      I think that I'll ask my wife if she wants me to take some home and maybe make some new sides out of larch for a raised bed, but I doubt it. We are downsizing the gardening a bit to get more time for the horses.

      Brgds Jonas

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  5. I'm looking forward to this-Shaker furniture is one of my favorites.
    The company I work for gets a lot of pallets, but very rarely is the wood usable. It is often narrow and wet. It appears to me to be mostly Pine, Spruce, or Fir of some kind. However, every so often you can find some very nice quartersawn boards that are worth saving.
    Good luck!

    1. Hi Bill.

      We once got a shipment on a single use pallet that was made out of oak. I salvaged it, but the quality was so bad that I couldn't really use it.

      All those weird holes after nails and staples is just something I have got to live with. I think I'll stick to the explanation that they add character to the piece.
      If the wood is soaked when we get it, it is really fast to dry it. A nice hot engine room with a healthy air flow works wonders that way.
      I normally place it on the grating on the lowest deck of the funnel. There it gets all the hot air that is being forced out of the engine room by our ventilation fans.