DIY: Repurpose Wooden Pallets into a Rustic Garden Bench

One of the resolutions in my garden décor this summer was to have new garden furniture. After trips to stores and online searching, I decided to make my own and calm my hysterical wallet down. (It tried to run screaming down the street at the price tags. I don’t blame it.)

After staring at a pile of old wooden pallets, given to me free, inspiration hit like Newton’s apple. I could make a wooden bench with a rustic flair. “Rustic chic” is in style now.

With some effort, note taking and designing, I came up with a pattern easily re-sized to make a chair or expanded into a longer bench.

Lucky for me that I have a good friend who is working at Makita, a reputed manufacturer who has some of the best patterns for sizeable chairs alongwith the best tools. For readers, I would like you to research Makita Impact Driver at Impact Driver Guide for more info.

  • Three or four plain wood pallets, in decent shape. Do not use pallets stained with motor oil or other chemicals.
  • Drill with bits and screw driving heads
  • Hammer and crowbar to take pallets apart
  • Pliers, catspaw or locking pliers to remove nails
  • Reciprocating saw with appropriate blade to cut through nails if necessary.
  • Marking pencils
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or wood preserving stain or finish
  • nail punch
  • 3″ corner brackets
  • 2″ and 3″ deck screws
  • Appropriate safety gear for ears, hands and eyes

Take each pallet apart using care not to split the wood. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds and it’s possible to destroy the first few pallets you try to take apart.

If nothing else works, take the reciprocating saw and carefully cut between the wood slats and the middle board right through the nails. Remove nails from the slats with pliers. If the nails can’t be removed from the middle pieces, that’s ok. Take the nail punch and the hammer and drive irremovable nails into the wood beneath the surface.

Use a marker to mark the nails and the wood so that you don’t ruin a table or power saw blade cutting a nail. Sometimes it isn’t possible to remove all the nails in a pallet because “glue nails” are used, or some of the nails have rusted too badly. You’ll wind up with 1-by-4 boards approximately 38″ long, with an average of 3 boards in the middle, usually 2-by-4’s. The lengths will vary depending on the type of pallet used. If working with this wood isn’t desirable, purchased lumber from a lumberyard or DIY store is acceptable. Sand each piece as it is cut to make finishing faster.

Take two of the 2-by-4’s, and mark each 18″ in length. Make sure the marks don’t go through any nails so cutting is easier. Another two boards will be left full length for the back; just make sure they are the same length. Twice the length of the legs, 36,” is a good measurement for the back.

Mark the two backboards at 18″ from the bottom. Make another mark at the top of the board, 2″ in from the back. Draw a line from the inside of the 18″ mark to the 2″ mark at the top, creating a slanted back. If any nails remain, use the reciprocating saw to cut through the nails and drive the remaining metal beneath the surface with the nail punch and hammer. Mark the position of the submerged nail.

Take another two 2-by-4 boards (use more pallets as needed to obtain the necessary amount of wood), and cut to 33″. Measure and cut another two 2-by-4’s to 17″. Attach these boards to form a rectangle with the long boards to the outside. Make sure the boards are attached with the 4″ sides together. Reinforce the inside corners with the corner brackets and the shorter deck screws.

Attach the 18″ pieces and the back pieces to the outside of the frame, making sure the bench seat frame is level with the legs and the 18″ marks. Use the 3″ deck screws into both the short and long boards. When attaching the back, make sure the slant faces backward.

You’re almost there! Take the 1-by-4’s saved from the pallets and place across the seat and back. Do a dry fit first to see how it looks. If the 1-by-4’s aren’t all the same width, you can cut them to size or vary them on the seat and back in a pattern. Once you’re satisfied with the placement, screw in place suing the deck screws. Stain and seal, or cover with sealant like it is or paint to your taste and desire.

  • Sanding as each piece is cut helps make finishing faster and saves on splinters.
  • If working with pallets is difficult, use purchased lumber from DIY stores or lumberyards.
  • If a slanted seat is desired, mark 1″ down from the back of the 17″ board and cut diagonally so the seat slopes downward. Make sure the slanted cut is mounted to the backboard and not the front legs. There is no need to cut the 33″ board.
  • If a chair instead of a bench is desired, make the 33″ board 18″ instead, then follow the rest of the directions.
  • Always use the appropriate safety gear with woodworking. Your skin, eyes, ears, and lungs are worth protecting.
  • Obtain pallets at furniture stores, warehouses and lumberyards as well as other businesses. Always ask before taking pallets.

Enjoy your new rustic garden bench. My cats enjoy lounging on the benches, too.

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