Life’s a bench, and then you dye

So what had happened was, maybe 16 months ago, when we bought permeable pavers for our new driveway/deck project, I couldn’t bear to throw out two of the oak pallets the blocks came on. Part of this was thriftiness. Mostly it was laziness, having tried to rip apart a third oak pallet with a pry-bar to salvage the wood and ending up with a pile of short, pointy bits of oak kindling and a couple of shoulders ready to disown me.

For the other two pallets, we initially thought to build a couple of vertical planters for a friend who loved to garden but had no land with her condo. (This only involved stapling landscape fabric, not prying apart hardwood.) Then she put the condo up for sale.

There they stood, leaning against a post in the back drive for months. Until the Internets showed me this dude in France who turned a couple of HIS pallets into a kick-ass workbench. With my shed well underway at this point, I knew how I’d put those pallets to use. Assuming I could break them apart.

If you Google it, people will tell you all kinds of “solutions” — using blocks of wood to knock slats loose, using pry bars and elbow grease, using an angle grinder, etc. I don’t know what kind of pallets they get in their parts of the world, so I hesitate to call them out-and-out liars.

These are tools that sucked! Sucked!

(The angle grinder actually worked pretty well, but could only reach nails on the perimeter. It would come in much handier later for cutting off bits of nail that were too tight to pull out.) What worked for me is a Sawzall DeWalt brand reciprocating saw. This gouged a few of the pieces, but since I was building a worktable, I chose to call these marks character.

sparky-smDude who’s plan inspired me ran all his oak through a planer to get boards of consistent thickness, but his boards were thicker than mine. Assuming I even had a planer, or paid someone to plane mine, I was afraid I’d wind up with wafer-thin stock. So I ran the gauntlet without planing, knowing the finished product might be uneven. This would mean living with some bumps, and that’s a skill I’ve long since acquired.

I made the table frame from the pallet’s thicker skids. Inside that frame, I screwed in a base of thin plywood left from the shed siding a few weeks ago. And then I started laying out two courses of oak slats for the tabletop. Some of the pieces Every damn one of the pieces was a bit warped, so there was a lot of gluing, clamping and screwing down boards in phases. Finishing the top was a two day process with all the wasted glue-drying time.

labeled parts-smNow I had only to build the leg assembly. Dude used more of his oak slats. Mine were too flimsy. (Stop me if I’m repeating myself.) But I had lots of pieces of 2×4 that were long enough, left from various other projects.

In the end, it looks great, and I didn’t have to buy a single thing to build my finished table. Well, except a used angle grinder and a new bottle of Gorilla Glue. Next up before I close the book on this project: Exploring tea, coffee and motor oil as potential stains for the wood.

 Sadly, now that I have a real-live workbench, I have no excuse for not putting a new blade on the chainsaw.
finished table-sm
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