On a hot day in late July, Angie and I were sitting in the pharmacy drive-thru when we spotted the tiniest wooden pallet we’d ever seen. It was leaned next to the building and, for a moment, we were tempted just to grab it. Instead, we talked about all the cool things we could do with such a find – a platform for the outdoor shower we really need to build, new shelves in the garden shed, and on and on we went. Our restraint was rewarded. The very next morning, we found not one, but two, small wooden pallets by our dumpster.
With pallets in hand, the idea of making a picnic table was born. Over the past four Saturdays, we’ve worked on our project. The hardest part was breaking the pallets into usable wood; but even this was made easier with a pry bar we purchased at Dollar Tree. Yes, Dollar Tree. For a dollar.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, we had to get a few more pallets to make our picnic table. Until this point, I never knew how easy free pallets were to come by. We scored 2 through an ad on Facebook Marketplace and 3 more by simply asking for them when we went to place an order for flooring (for my mom’s bathroom).
Aside from a compost bin, Angie and I had never built anything together and aside from a hammer we found on the side of the road and a hand saw, we had no woodworking tools either. So we went to Harbor Freight (they have coupons!) and bought a small sander ($13), a reciprocating saw ($19), saw blades ($5), and 2 paint brushes (49 cents each) to assist in our project. We picked up the paint from the clearance rack at Lowe’s (thus the color choices) for $5/quart. Both quarts were exterior paints with WeatherShield, which usually cost $20 or more.
We designed the table as we went along, meaning we made a few mistakes in the process. The 2nd piece of wood at the top edge was one of them. It was pretty but not practical. You can’t put your legs under the table with it there.
So far, we’ve completed just one bench.
As we were working, I couldn’t help but think how pleased my grandpa would have been to see our project. During his lifetime, he rescued more than 1,000 pallets and turned them into porch swings (and a few picnic tables too). In 2008, I wrote a story for the Denver Post about how my grandpa’s love of woodworking has inspired me throughout my life to do only those things that bring me joy. I don’t think there was a day in that man’s life that he was not happy.
Making a picnic table has been more than just a fun project for us. It has been a lesson in resourcefulness and skill building as well. Do I think we could build a tiny house now? Maybe not (yet), but I do think we can do more than we often think we can.
We all can.