Building with Old Pallets (AKA: A Hippie Mama With Power Tools)


I have never owned a power tool of any sort.  Not ever… not growing up (I’m sure my father must have owned some but I lived with my mom and 2 older sisters.  We were rock stars with a hammer and duct tape but that’s pretty much where our skills ended) or in the young and single post-college days or… ever.

A few weeks ago I went to the ReStore in search of something fabulous to upcycle into shelves for Sweet Hippie Daughter’s hoarder’s warehouse of junk room full of cherished belongings.

First, I must say that if you’ve never been to The ReStore you really must go at least once.  It’s this amazing trove of anything that has ever been/could ever be used to build/decorate/furnish a home.  It’s kind of like the Hope Depot version of the Salvation Army Thrift Store and the proceeds go toward helping Habitat for Humanity so you get to feel good about coming home with that super-cute screen door vintage 1962 that you just KNOW you are going to find the perfect place for.

Anyway, the shelves were a bust.  Nothing was calling my name…. until….

I heard it from across the room.

“Elizabeth!  I’m over here!”  I wandered toward the televisions.  I didn’t need a TV.  We already have 2 extras stashed in the attic.  “No! Behind the TVs. Don’t leave me here! I want to go home with you!”

And there it was!

A tad rusty (no worries.  I’m up to date on my tetanus shots.) and blanketed under a layer of dust.  It was beautiful!

With this I could build an entire shelter for my family!  Well... you know... if someone else cut all the wood up for me first.

With this I could build an entire shelter for my family! Well… you know… if someone else cut all the wood up for me first and I didn’t have to work too far away from the electrical outlet.

I convinced Handsome Hippie Hubby that he really wanted to spend $5 on this Craftsman beauty and we brought it home.

Then, because God knew that I was now equipped to be a true craftsman (Hey! It says so right there on the side of my new drill!) He gave me a veritable treasure trove of wood pallets.

Do you know how many things you can build with wood pallets?

Me either.  But you can make a whole play structure!  And this person built a garden gate! And here are instructions for making a potting bench!  And here is a super cute porch swing!  This website gives FIFTY other projects you can make with old pallets!

For now, what I really needed was a compost bin.

We composted with such incredible efficiency that our box itself became compost and rotted down to nothing.  So, not having a proper bin, we have been chucking all of our kitchen scraps and yard clippings into a hidden corner of the yard.  That’s  all well and good but… you know… it’s garbage.  And it’s rotting.  And the squirrels occasionally spread pieces of it around.  And… it’s garbage.

So I drove the Hippie Van to my friend’s house and loaded up with 5 lovely wooden pallets.

I came home and carefully read the meticulous instructions on this website to build a very sturdy, level compost bin with a hinged accessibility panel.  It was beautiful!

Then I pretty much forgot all of the instructions and, with great enthusiasm, grabbed up my 90 pound drill (why are they so heavy?!  If hair dryers weighed that much women everywhere would have arms like Madonna) and box of shiny screws and headed outside to build something with my power tool.

I stood my pallets on end and screwed them together, skipping the “L” brackets from the instructions but adding 478 extra screws just because I could.


Then, standing there in the one spot in my yard that is ALWAYS mucky and muddy and dank, I was inspired!

I knew that one of my pallets was slightly smaller than the other 4 so I lay the last big one down like a bridge over the muck, supporting it with a few old bricks and I set my smaller pallet on top.  This way, the hinged gate would be kept up out of the muddy earth and so would my shoes.  Genius!

Know what’s not genius?

Starting a project without making sure you have everything you need.

So I loaded my children into the Hippie Mobile and we went to the local Hardware store.

This place is great!  It is everything good that people remember from the old days of “ma and pa” stores.  It’s locally owned and the staff truly knows their customers and they are genuinely helpful and knowledgeable.

That’s why I’m quite certain, when they see me coming, they quickly have an argument over who is going to have to deal with me…. the over enthusiastic Hippie Mama with 2 kids in tow who knows the name or intended purpose of NOTHING that is sold in the hardware store.

So, today, the sweet older lady drew the short straw and approached me with a cautious smile.  “Can I help you find something today?” She asked, with a slight fearful quivering in her voice.

“Yes, thank you.”  I said, removing the screw from Chubby Hippie Baby’s fist before he actually got it all the way to his mouth and snatching Sweet Hippie Daughters hand back from the display bins of decorative rocks.  “I need some… uhm…. you know the fasteners that move… like on doors….”


“Yes! Hinges!”  (One would think that a person who writes for several hours each week would have such a word right on the tip of her tongue but  one would be wrong.  I’m telling you I get stupid in the hardware store.  Perhaps it’s the paint fumes.)

She nodded, sagely.  “They are on the back wall. Do you need help finding a specific size?”

Oh crap! They come in different sizes?!  

I smiled.  “No, thank you.  I think I’ll just take a look and see what will work best for me.”

I think I heard a happy little sigh from her as I made my way back to the shiny brass odds and ends aisle.  She’d gotten off much easier than they guy that was there the day I first tried to figure out how to glue plastic water bottles together.

I found some hinges that seemed pretty reasonably priced and said that they could support a door that weighed up to 100 pounds.  I don’t have a clue how much my pallet weighed but, as I could lift it, I was pretty sure it weighed less than 100 pounds.

After taking a moment  to pretend to be a pirate with a giant iron hook for a hand in the chain aisle and spending a few minutes with Sweet Hippie Daughter cataloging “Things in a Hardware Store That Should Not be Touched by Babies”  (there are several, to be certain) we paid and came back home where I attached the door in the wrong spot.

That didn’t matter, though!  With my beautiful new/old drill it was a simple matter to reverse the screws back out and do it over.  The second time was just right.  (If you know anything about carpentry and it’s not right, please don’t tell me.  I really don’t want to know.)


I finished up by adding a hook and eye latch to hold the door closed and a cinder-block step for short helpers.

Voila!  My beautiful new compost bin!


Isn’t it lovely? A little crooked, perhaps, but quite sturdy and a big improvement over a pile of garbage in the yard.

Being vertically challenged is no excuse for not taking the compost out now.

Being vertically challenged is no excuse for not taking the compost out now.

The face says it all.

The face says it all.

I'm just like Steve and Blue.  I can do anything I wanna do!

I’m just like Steve and Blue. I can do anything I wanna do!

I was promised full support on project #2 as soon as I got project #1 finished.  Now I just have to decide… the swing?  The lawn chair?

Maybe I should swing by The ReStore tomorrow and see if they have a saw.  Just think what I could do then!

* Photo credit goes to awesomehippiegirl.  Thanks, Sweet Pea!  🙂

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15 responses »

  1. oh my gosh I loved this post!I never wanted it to end! I love love love the restore! they used to have so much more stuff in there, then they decided to organize and they got rid of a lot. I guess it did make it easier to get around in there with little people in tow though, and made room for even more cool stuff to come in. if you feel like a field trip to Toledo, you really ought to check out the one(s) down there. easy bigger than adrian, sui a lot more stuff to look through! they used to have two locations in Toledo, but I don’t know if the one on Central is still there. We went there a few years ago and they had pre built wooden steps ( think basement stairs) and I kick myself for not buying a set of them since our basement steps are rotting and being propped up by cement blocks. I’ve been noticing all the pallet projects you’ve been pinning, and I was wondering where you planned to get that many pallets. I really love the play structures! your compost bin turned out really good! Ack, when I go in that hardware I can never browse. I love to browse in the hardware but they always want to escort me to the proper aisle and help pick out what I need. I feel bad asking them to let me look, so my trip is always quick and disappointing. 😦 I should stop talking now since I am breaking my rules about the proper length of a post….

    • LOL. Well, thank you! I’m so glad you liked it! Your enthusiasm makes me smile! 🙂 I saw a ReStore in Toledo near Savers on Reynolds but then I thought they were gone next time I was there. Maybe they moved? Or maybe not and the sign just wasn’t lit up or something. Either way, you’re right. It would be worth the drive!
      I love the play structure too. Actually, when I saw it I thought of you putting yours together in the freezing cold and I thought… yeah… and that one was all planned out and they actually knew what they were doing. How long would THIS one take me?!

      • Well the good thing about the pallet play structure, is that is half put together already!

    • Thanks! I’m only just beginning to get brave about these sorts of things. In my younger days I was terrified of trying and messing it up. Somewhere after 30 I realized that, as long as I don’t cut off any vital body parts pretty much everything else can be fixed or replaced. It’s very freeing to the creative spirit! Thankfully the hubs is supportive of my random adventures. (Mostly) 🙂

  2. Love it! You made me laugh and I am so proud of you. I don’t do projects with power tools. I can’t even use a sewing machine! You know, we have pallets and scrap wood in our backyard you can pilfer if you want to–since my husband’s fire containing device rusted out before he ever used it. Wait…maybe downed limbs don’t count as “scrap” wood:P

    • You really do. They are GREAT fun. And since you live in a real city and not the middle of a corn field your ReStore is probably bigger than 82 square feet. Who knows what treasures await you????

  3. Pingback: The Awesome Pallet Chair (or My Recycled Garden, Part 2) | lazyhippiemama

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