How to make a free standing pallet fence
And just in time for the weekend.. the long awaited pallet headboard!
I’m excited to (finally) share this project! It’s the biggest project I’ve shared to date. Turning pallets into furniture or decor is nothing new, this I know. Last January, my wish of having a headboard became a reality, using, you guessed it, a pallet (or two…and a couple other supplies)! Thanks to my father in law who occasionally has spare pallets in his warehouse, we were able to make a unique headboard for around $20. The project spanned about 2 days, working an hour or so here and there. I was able to do some of it by myself, but needed Tristan’s help for other parts. I hope to give you enough tips and information so you can make your own headboard. If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to try to answer the best I can. Leave a message at the bottom of this post, or send me an email at
Pallets (we used two pallets, because some of the boards split as I was taking them apart and some were in bad condition).
2x4s for the frame (Two pieces at 66 inches each. Two at 48 inches)
Hardware- 4 nuts/bolts/washers (these attach the headboard to the metal bed frame) and a box of screws (to attach the pallet boards to the frame and make the frame. We used black screws so they’d blend in on the front).
A drill and a hammer.
A crowbar would have been super helpful for pulling the pallets apart. Hindsight.
Sand paper, stain and polyeurethane (and a foam brush/rag for the stain, a brush for the poly).
As an afterthought- white paint to paint the frame. This is totally unnecessary, though, because you don’t really see the frame.
A level. We didn’t use one, it was just pure luck (and good eye-balling) that the thing turned out straight, even and square.
1. I started by pulling the boards off the pallets. This was actually really hard! Whoever makes pallets isn’t playing around. I used a hammer to pound each board loose and then pry them up. A crowbar would’ve been nice. Or something to wedge and get some leverage. I was able to get a bunch off, but needed Tristan’s muscles to loosen others.
2. Tristan went to Home Depot to get the supplies. They cut the 2x4s to size. Two at 66 inches. Two at 48 inches. The 2x4s make the frame for the headboard.
This is where things get a little weird. Talk about winging it. If we made another headboard, I’d do it differently.
3. We laid one of 66 inch long 2×4 on the ground, horizontally. Then we started laying the pallet boards on top of the 2×4, going vertically. The pallet boards need to be perpendicular to the 2×4. This is where a level would come in handy. We alternated different widths and made the top intentionally uneven. Some were higher/lower than others. But as a general rule of thumb, the 2×4 was 7 inches from the top of the pallet boards. Once we had them laid out, Tristan went down the line and screwed them all into place. (I would definitely recommend pre-drilling holes for the screws!) The screws were driven through the front of the pallet boards, so the black made them blend in a little, but I still like that you can kind of see them.
So at this point, all the pallet boards are attached to a 2×4 about 7 inches from the top of the pallet boards.
4. Then we needed to attach them to the other 2×4. So we slid the other 66″ 2×4 under all the pallets. It is 24 inches from the top (2×4). Tristan went down the line, screwing all the pallet boards to this 2×4. This, again, is where a level would have come in handy. I’m so grateful the thing came out even and square and not completely wonky!
5. Our metal hollywood frame has 2 plates to attach a headboard. The plates are 53 inches apart, so the vertical (2x4s) of the frame needed to be 53 inches apart, so we could bolt it to the headboard.
6. So Tristan measured and screwed each 48 inch 2×4, going vertically, 3 inches in from each side. This made them 53 inches apart. He used 4 screws to attach each to the top horizontal (2×4) and 4 screws to attach to the bottom. (The vertical 2x4s were screwed directly into the horizontal 2x4s. The picture below will, hopefully, make more sense).
I hope this picture helps explain some of the measurements. And makes those instructions somewhat understandable.
Let’s all pretend my handwriting on that picture doesn’t look like a 5 year old, OK?! I’m new to this ‘write on a picture’ thing!
7. Then we took the whole thing outside and I sanded it down really well and put one coat of poly on. (Hindsight- it’d probably be easier to sand down the pallet boards before they were screwed to the frame.) I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stain the wood or not. In hindsight, I should have sanded, stained and poly-ed the headboard and then attached it to the bed. Oh, hindsight.
8. We brought the headboard inside and Tristan bolted it to the metal bed frame, using nuts, bolts and washers. He put 4 bolts on one side and then decided two bolts was more than enough, so he only used 2 on the other side.
This photo shows how the headboard bolts to the metal frame. And also that I quit painting the frame white at the bottom. I don’t really know why. The other side is painted. Must have gotten distracted. When using 2 bolts, use 1 above and 1 below.
So at this point, the headboard is sanded and has one coat of poly. And it’s attached to the bed. And I’m thrilled!
This is an instagram shot taken right after the headboard was attached. Back when our room was still light blue. And the bed was on a different wall. What’s hard to see in this photo in how some of the boards have a pink-ish hue to them… which leads me too…
A couple months down the road, I decided that I did, in fact, want to stain it. I’m very glad that I only put on one coat of poly. I pulled the mattress off the bed, opened all the windows, and stained it (still attached to the bed). There wasn’t enough poly on it so the stain went on just fine.
A couple months later I stained it a bit darker, and finished it with wax. It has such a lovely matte, soft finish. The dark stain also helped cancel out some of the pink-ish tones in the wood.
And then I painted the frame white. You barely ever see the frame, unless you’re standing beside the head of the bed. It looks more finished being white and not bare 2×4.
I kinda want to take a saw to the top of it and make it straight, but Tristan likes it as is, so uneven it’ll stay… for now!
We use crates as our nightstands. I stacked two apples crates and painted them white. I love crates. Since they don’t have a lot of surface area, I saved space by using clamp lamps as our bedside lights, and clamping them to the headboard. They’re just office lamps, but I actually really like them! They’re simple and clean and give a sort of industrial-ish look. I found them at Home Depot, I think.
And there it is! The
(originally posted 2/1/13. updated on 3/22/13)
Update 3/26/2013- A commenter shared this link about the safety concerns of using pallets. My apologies for not including this in the original post. When we got our pallets, my husband looked into it and felt safe that the pallets we were using were OK. You may want to look into the safety concerns of pallets and make sure the ones you want to use are safe! Happy crafting!
How I Disassemble a Pallet
This post contains sponsored or affiliate links which help support Lemon Thistle. As always, I’ll only recommend things I love, love. Full disclosure here.
Today I’m sharing a Video DIY tutorial- how to disassemble a pallet for free project wood (without killing yourself). I know, I know- it’s not the most fun DIY, but it’s gotta get done to get to the fun part! I’ve been asked how I disassemble a pallet more than anything else- by friends (if you walk by the side of my house, I’ve got a few waiting for the treatment) or by readers after I shared my Canadian Flag and Giant Party Chalkboard. And while it’s not rocket science… it can be hard work! In this post, I’m showing the easiest way that I have found to disassemble a pallet without power tools. Why? Not everyone has power tools- the space to store them or the cash to buy them. And let’s be honest- one of the most appealing parts of pallet projects are not the beautiful clean wood… but the FREE WOOD! And if you want to do a cheap/free project, you probably don’t want to be buying fancy power tools.
So have you ever tried to dismantle one of these beasts? You’ve found the perfect inspiration for a pallet project on Pinterest, so you drive until you see a stack and stuff it in your backseat only to get it home and realize that they are SUCH a pain! But that’s the price of free. So why are they such a pain? Those nails can be rusty, spiral, or ring shank (they have barbs). And since they’re made out of scrap wood- some of the pieces could have old nails that have just been bent over at the back. And the wood? It’s scrap wood, so it can have bark, hard knots, and most frustrating of all- it’s dry so it cracks so easily!
But it’s worth it! Free project wood, guys! Not only do you get the rustic looking wood from the front and back of pallets (what we see in most projects) but we get the supporting pieces which are basically 2 by 4s that are notched out for a lift. These are awesome if you’re building a piece of furniture for the supporting bits that you won’t see. Now that we know why we have a love/ hate relationship with these guys… I’m going to show you what I do to get those suckers apart. And if you were wondering… this pallet was turned into a rustic towel rack (even in my finished bathroom renovation, this thing gets most of the compliments!)
*UPDATE* If you’re doing a large amount of projects, use a saw. If you’re not- or if you’re using pallets because you’re looking for a cost effective project (and a sawsall isn’t in your budget) then use this method. We lived in an apartment with limited storage for five years and only had a power drill, hammer, and pry bar- so this is what was best for me! And as for pallets not being the cleanest type of wood… we know, but it’s free and sometimes that’s the winning consideration*
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So now you’ve had a peek at my backyard (it needs some love, that’s on our list for next summer). Just so we’re realistic about this- it doesn’t take two minutes for pallet disassembly, it takes about 45 minutes. I’m sure you realize that, but I thought I’d just make sure. I don’t want anyone coming back upset that it took them more than a few minutes to take apart a pallet without a saw.
Tools used for pallet disassembly without a saw:
Okay, so in the video, you’ll see two different types of pry bars. One is a small pry bar (shown above)- I love this thing. This one is great for getting between the pieces of wood. You’ll notice I tap it in with a hammer, then use one hand to hold it in place, and the other to hit it with my palm to rock it loose. It might seem a bit slower than just muscling it- but I won’t be cursing by the end if I do it this way. The other pry bar is a nail puller or claw bar much like this one . This one gets hammered in right under the nail to pull it up. This is great for looser nails or if you can’t get any leverage with your pry bar. I use the same technique to rock the nail loose. The other plus to tapping it loose instead of just pulling on the pry bar is you’re less likely to have cracks in the wood when you take apart a pallet. *UPDATE* Since writing this, I’ve gotten my hands on a Mini FatMax Wrecking Bar and it’s my new best friend. If you need to go out and pick a pry bar… this will be your guy to help in pallet disassembly!*
Something to keep in mind- I always prep my wood before I use it in a project. That means I sand it and clean it, so don’t worry too much if you get some splinters around your pry marks- you can sand those out. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to disassemble a pallet without a saw!
More DIY Pallet Projects:
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