Upcycle Art

Save some scraps and get creative.

Repurposing old materials for new projects, or upcycling, is becoming increasingly popular. Not only will you save on the cost of materials, you’re helping the environment by keeping waste out of landfills. And upcycling is fun, especially when it involves spending time outdoors.

These winter lawn decorations and indoor shelves were born of shipping pallets otherwise destined for the trash heap. Whether your creation be a patio table or a top-hat snowman, upcycling is a constructive way to engage both sides of your brain!

This is a family-friendly project, but be sure to leave the heavier chores to the adults and supervise kids during safer tasks, like planning and painting. There are age- and experience-appropriate activities throughout.

Lisa B

CAUTION: Read and follow all operating instructions and take an excess of precaution when using power tools. Seek professional assistance when advisable. Ecopsyched! and Lisa B are not responsible for accidental injury and/or injury due to equipment misuse or failure. 

BUILD THIS PALLET ART

MATERIALS

  • 3 shipping pallets (look for the “HT” label to be sure the wood has not been chemically treated). Grab a 4th pallet if you want to make shelves too.
  • A hand- or power-saw (or a professional with one)
  • Course sandpaper blocks or power sander
  • Pen/pencil (to sketch your art/lines)
  • Ruler (if you need straight lines)
  • Hammer
  • Nails (various sizes)
  • Woodworking gloves
  • Steel toe work boots
  • Protective goggles
  • Paint
  • 5 metal U fence posts (4ft., with screw holes)

INSTRUCTIONS

My process of creating pallet art was one of trial and error. These instructions may set your planning in motion, but you’ll find your own methods that work best for you and your unique materials. Above all, be sure to wear protective gear and move forward with an abundance of caution when working with cutting tools.

I found free, used pallets at a home improvement store, where the staff was more than willing to help me find those with the “HT” (heat treated) label in order to avoid working with wood that had been chemically treated. This is especially important when creating items for indoor use, where you live and breathe.

I first power-washed the pallets to remove dirt and grime from their life on the road.

Once dry, I sketched the outlines of my designs – the angles of my trees and the rounds of my snowman. The cutting began.

For the trees, I was sure to leave the middle vertical beam of the pallet whole and attached, as this would ultimately hold my tree ‘limbs’ together. I sawed the horizontal slats from the top middle, diagonally down to the bottom, outside corners of the pallet. Then, I flipped the pallet to mirror these cuts on the back side. When this was complete, my tree was formed, I was left with two additional (tree) halves that I would nail together to form another tree. No part of the pallet is unused! I repeated this with the second pallet so that I had four trees.

For the snowman, I had to manipulate the saw to cut somewhat imperfect circular edges on the third pallet. It was my first time with a power saw! But it happened – the shape of my snowman emerged. Once again, I mirrored my work on the flip side. I used scraps from the rest of the pallet to piece together a hat and part of a scarf, and employed even more scraps to nail the hat and scarf to the body. Finally, I was left with pillars from the outside of this pallet that became candy cane posts.

After cutting, you may notice you have some rough, sharp edges. This is where the course sandpaper comes in. If you have sandpaper sheets, you can wrap them around a rock or brick for easier use. Otherwise, use sandpaper blocks. If you’re luckier yet, you have a power sander. Sand down the rough edges, and use a damp cloth to remove dust after sanding. Now you can paint.

You can follow my designs or you can paint your own on your newly cut pallets. I gave my snowman a top-hat and scarf, coal eyes and buttons, a carrot nose, and a little rouge for his chilly cheeks. No arms for this poor chap. I chose to keep my trees all white with expectations of adorning them with holiday lights. You might paint ornaments, garland, or pine cones on yours.

Finally, my winter pallets were ready for display. My front yard has a steep incline, so I knew I would need something to anchor them to the ground. I purchased five 4ft. U fence posts from my local home improvement store (about $4 ea. or online via link below). These were perfect! I hammered them into the ground until they were sturdy (try to do before the first freeze!), and then I screwed the posts to the side of the middle beam inside each pallet, sandwiched between the front and back slats. There they stood. “Neither snow, nor rain, nor sleet … ,” the U.S. postal service has nothing on my yard art!

And then, if you opted for that fourth pallet, find the best corners and cut and paint book shelves to hang indoors. Pallets come in different compositions, so you’ll just need your keen eye to envision the shelf in the pallet before you cut.

Next time you plan to trash it, upcycle instead!

Resources:
122 Pallet Projects and Instructions
Pinterest Pallets
The Pallet Book
*
DIY Wood Pallet Projects
*
U Fence Posts*

*(paid link) You will not be charged additional fees for purchasing products through affiliate links. 

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2 comments on “Upcycle Art

  1. Rose says:

    You are so creative! We’ve had 3 pallets in the backyard since June when we had the roof done, earmarked for making a patio bar. They’re still sitting there because I don’t know where to begin. Now that I see this adorable snowperson, however, I want one of those too!

    1. Lisa B says:

      Rose, thanks so much! My pallets sat for awhile too before I had the time (and courage) to move forward. I’m happy with how the pieces turned out. I really want to make pallet furniture, particularly a grill-side table. I hope you’ll share pics when your bar is complete!

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