Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is That Entertainment Center Hazelnut or French Roast?

Matt decided he wanted to do the write up of the progress to date on our free entertainment center so without further ado, here is his experience with the first steps in locating, acquiring and prepping the lumber in his very own words. Welcome to Green Leaf Reviewer Matt!

March of the Pallets: Part I

A few days ago, Jenn introduced me to the idea of using recycled pallets to create our desperately needed entertainment center. Since then, my mind has been abuzz with ideas on how I can execute on this plan to create a free, yet functional piece. There seems to be some mis-conception that because the material is recycled pallets, the piece will be flimsy, unattractive, or full of splinters. In my vision, the pallets are simply a source of free raw material. In this series, I plan to document the process of building the entertainment center all the way from acquisition of the pallets to the final reveal with all electronics and storage utilized.

Finding free pallets could not have been easier! A five minute search on free stuff pointed me to a number of locations around Boston that had anywhere from a dozen up to hundreds of pallets for the taking. I was particularly interested in a listing for 12 hardwood pallets at a local coffee distributor. So, while Jenn was at the FUMC Craft Fair, I went to get some free lumber.

Right at the loading dock of the distributor sat 12 pieces of brown gold. As we drive a small car, and not a truck, I knew I would have to take the pallets apart on-site before loading them. This is no easy task! Pallets are designed NOT to come apart. Fortunately, I brought a pry bar and a sledgehammer anticipating this. The pallets put up some pretty heavy resistance, but persistence, patience and a little elbow grease goes a long way. After about 2 hours of prying, I was able to load approximately 5 pallets into the trunk of the car. I then cleaned up the site of any nails or shards of lumber, as I want to be invited back in the future for more pallet-diving. Upon arriving home, I took another 3 hours or so to remove all of the nails, and stack the lumber on the balcony to dry.

My yield from this trip was about 50-60 pieces of 1"x4"x 40" lumber. (mostly oak....some pine) The wood is not all consistent in thickness or quality at all, but overall the oak is of very good quality and the pine is not nearly as good. In my next article, I will turn the raw lumber into factory fresh wood with few if any splinters and start creating "pallet-plywood."

A hint based on my experiences this week:

-Bring a battery-powered circular saw to the location of the pallets. It will allow you to strip the pallets much faster. If I had done this, I would have cut my 5 hours of work in half and saved a few bloody knuckles and 4 letter words. The saw combines 3 steps in one:

1)Lets you remove the two outside skids leaving only the middle one to pry off manually.
2)Eliminates the need to pull the nails from the two ends of the wood, cutting nail pulling time by 2/3.
3)Cuts off the last 2" on each side of the wood, giving you a fresh edge with fewer nail holes.

For those keeping track:

Time Spent to Date: 5 Hours
$$ Spent to Date: $0.82 in gas for pallet acquisition (12 mi R/T @ 30 MPG, Gas currently at $2.05/gal)


Bridgete said...


Now I'm really loving my bed idea. But, of course, I'm limited by a major lack of skills, space and tools. Hmm....

Karen said...

You are going at this with gusto! I can't wait to see the finished product. In 1963, my Dad (who owned a sawmill) cut slabs from pine logs and made them into coffee tables. Some still had bark on them. He made several and each of his 3 daughters now has one in our homes. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture I own. I'll bee keeping watch on the progress!

Ginger said...

well, it's nice to finally meet you matt! i like the updates on the project, i can't wait to see the finished product.

good luck!!

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Nice review of what sounds like a rewarding day all-in-all.
Hugs, Judi/MIL