A few weeks back, I shared a some tips on how to break down wood pallets with nothing but hand tools–see it here. I also promised full instructions on how to transform wood from three pallets into a potting bench for Monday’s post–well, today is Monday! After two weeks of family visiting (yay!) and a week of more illness at my house, I’m finally back and sharing my steps.
But first, look! Isn’t she pretty?
My inspiration was this potting bench from World Market, and I built mine using only wood from three free pallets, a piece of lattice I had left over from another project, and one piece of scrap 2×2 lumber I also had on hand. If you’ve ever read my blog, you know how I love cheap or free projects!
As a reminder, after I ripped my pallets apart, I had six 2x4s, nine 1x4s, and three 2x3s. The size of my finished potting bench was somewhat dictated by the size and dimensions of the lumber I ended up with after ripping down the pallets, so I didn’t go into this project with any hard and fast plans, but more of an idea of what I wanted.
To build the basic frame, I started with my six 2x4s–three of them were six feet long and the other three were four feet long. I wanted the top surface of my potting bench to be at a natural height for standing and working, so I decided to go with the standard countertop height of 36″. I cut two of my 6′ 2x4s in half and those formed the legs of my piece. Then I decided to build my bench top with two of the 4′ 2x4s and trim down the third 4′ piece to make my cross pieces. Make sense? Hopefully this photo will help.
To assemble my potting bench I used outdoor, rust resistant screws with a star head. I predrilled all the holes for the screws, since I was assembling this on my own and didn’t have an extra set of hands to hold the pieces together. Predrilling also kept the wood from splitting, for the most part–the end result is not perfect, but this is an outdoor, garden worktable, so for me it doesn’t have to be as perfect as something I’d have in my home. It was also much simpler for me to put the screws partially into the wood before turning the pieces on their side to attach together.
Once I had top support for the potting bench assembled, I screwed the four legs into the corners and turned it upright. Ta-dah!
You can see from this image that I used two screws at each corner to secure the base of the worktable top, then four screws at the top of each leg to make this nice and sturdy. Anything that goes in my back yard is fair game for my kids to climb on, so I wanted this piece to be very secure.
At this point I also attached two cross pieces to reinforce the legs–this is where I used my scrap lumber, since I didn’t have any pallet pieces left that were long enough. So the cross pieces are 2x2s cut to fit between the legs–if you’re building something similar, just measure your piece before you make your cuts. Mine ended up being 46.5″ long.
Once the cross pieces were attached to the legs, I attached my 2x3s (from my smallest pallet) to the back of the potting bench as upright supports for the lattice.
Once you get to this point, all the most difficult parts are over. From here, it’s simply a matter of cutting down your 1x4s to use as planking on the tabletop and across the shelf on the bottom. I wanted my potting bench to sit flush against the wall outside, so my top boards don’t have any overhang along the back, but they hang over the front about three inches. I plan to use this piece primarily as a place to wash vegetables and transfer seedlings to larger pots, so I laid my planks out with a bit of space in between. This part will take a bit of time–lay out your planks and then adjust them until you have about the same spacing between each. There’s not math involved–just eyeball it!
A quick note–the planks on my pallets all had a decided good and bad side–be sure you use the smooth side up to save yourself from a lot of extra work down the road sanding your work surface smooth.
Then predrill your holes, line up your screws, and go to town!
The planks that I used for the tabletop also provided the planks for the lower shelf–the ends I trimmed off were just the right size. I’d like to claim I planned it that way, but at that point in the project I was a little tired of doing the math and hadn’t thought the bottom shelf through all the way. Hooray for happy DIY accidents! (which are definitely much better than the scary kind of DIY accidents)
Once all the planks were attached to the bottom shelf, I went to town sanding the whole piece smooth. Again, my backyard=fair game for kids, and I didn’t want small hands getting lots of slivers as they helped me work in the garden. So I used a very heavy grit sandpaper on my orbital sander and smoothed and smoothed.
As a final step, I stapled the back trellis into place and breathed a huge sigh of relief–this was a big project for me!
As a timeline for this project, I’d say either a week of afternoons and kid naptimes (my Macie was riding her bike and playing in the yard most of the time while I was working) or a solid weekend to get this done. Ripping down the pallets was actually the most time-consuming part of the project–I’d say 8-10 hours. Building the potting bench took less time, probably five total. So if you wanted to build this out of real lumber (it would be beautiful out of redwood! and would probably last a lot longer, as well), you can definitely get it done in one day.
This potting table has already gotten a lot of use–we are storing all our drip system supplies, plant food, extra soil, and other gardening items out there, freeing up some space in our garage. It is slightly protected from weather by the overhang of our roof, but I’m sure we’ll add a cover for winter to keep everything nice and cozy. I’m just thrilled to have an extra work space in my backyard.
Have you built anything from a pallet? Were you
demented ambitious like me and rip your pallets completely apart first, or did you build something using the structure of the pallets? I’d love to see your projects linked in the comments section!
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