A simple and beautiful upcycling project using pallet wood to create simple wooden planters. Full DIY video at the end.
While I was in the States recently I came across an old strawberry trug in an antique shop. As much as I’d have loved to buy it and bring it back to the Isle of Man, it was just too large for my luggage. I kept coming back to it though and in the end came to the conclusion that I could make it myself. And I could probably make it out of pallet wood.
I love making projects out of pallets because A. the material is free, and B. I love transforming simple materials into beautiful pieces. So instead of bringing back the original trug, I brought back a photo of it and an idea. Then this week I broke down a single pallet and was able to make two complete trugs from it – one that I’m now using as a rustic indoor decor piece, and the other I have planted up with Lobelias and lettuces.
Now on to the tutorial! I also have a YouTube tutorial video for this project so please check it out if anything is unclear. The materials and tools I used are:
- 1 Wooden Pallet – with seven planks across the front
- Additional piece of wood for the handles – width of 13/16″/2cm and a height of 1.5″/3.8cm
- Electric screwdriver & stainless steel screws
- Ruler / Measuring tape
- T Square – this is a tool that helps create square (90 degree) edges
- To line the trug to use as a planter: plastic lining or landscaping fabric
If you’d like to make two trugs, like I’ve done, find a pallet that has seven or more planks across the front side. Using a jigsaw, cut the planks off as you see in the photo below. At the end you’ll have fourteen smaller planks from the front side.
Pallet Wood Safety
Before I continue on with how I made them, I’d like to first make sure that you’re aware of the dangers of using the wrong pallet wood for your projects. Pallets are essentially wooden platforms that are used for transporting goods all across the world. To ensure that foreign pests are not spread from region to region, pallets are either sprayed with insecticides/fungicides or they are heat treated.
You definitely don’t want to use wood that’s been chemically treated if you’re going to bring it into the house or use it for outdoor furniture or planters. You can avoid them by keeping an eye out for a stamp that you will find on every pallet. If you see the initials ‘DB MB’ it means it’s been chemically treated and if you see ‘DB HT’ it’s just been sterilized with heat.
The basic structure
My pallet had planks of two different widths of the seven original planks, the top, bottom and middle ones were slightly taller than the other four. These taller pieces I’ve used for the sides of my trugs and the eight other planks make up the bottoms.
You’ll see in the below photo that the planks that were cut off only account for part of the project and that the second trug is missing two of its sides. No worries because you can flip the pallet over and take more wood off the back.
Cut the planks on the back side and you’ll have an additional six planks – with my pallet, these were the same height planks as the taller ones from the front side. That worked out perfectly because then I could use two of the best ones to complete the sides on the second trug. The other four pieces are used to create the verticals that hold the handle on.
Plank sizes and numbers
Once cut I then measured each piece out and cut it to the specs listed below. The width of my A pieces was 16″/41cm if that helps you to make your own. Your wood might be differently sized so I’ve just left general measurements rather than exact.
I also need to point out that the handle for my trugs is the only piece of wood that did not come from the pallet. It has a thickness of 13/16″/2cm and a height of 1.5″/3.8cm.
Creating an angled ‘Picket’ edge
Screws or Glue?
Putting it together
The first parts I screwed together were the C and D pieces which together form the trug’s handle. Align the ends of D into the cut out ‘Picket’ parts of C and screw it in place. Use two screws/nails on either side if you don’t want the handle to turn at all when you pick it up. This entire piece will slip over the edges of the box part when you’re finished building that.Next, screw the box together. Pallet wood isn’t perfectly square and can often be warped and bent so don’t be too concerned if it doesn’t fit together precisely. We’re aiming for trendy rustic here right?
Fitting the handle over the box
Slip the handle component over the box, center it, and screw it into place with two screws on either side. Can you believe that your trug is now complete? Easy as pie and it really doesn’t take very much time at all.I’m choosing to leave my trugs unpainted for now but am considering staining the one I’m going to have in the house.
My second trug I’m using as a planter so I’m leaving the wood as is so reduce any paint contamination when growing my edibles. Now, if you’re planning on planting your trug up with decorative plants, feel free to glue the trug together and paint it up as you see fit. I’ll bet it would look lovely in a bright color and it will also reduce the chance of getting any splinters in your hands from handling it.
Lining the Planter
There’s just one final step you’ll need to complete if you do end up using the trug as a planter. Line the sides and bottom with an impermeable material such as plastic and secure with pins or a staple gun. This lining will help protect some of the wood but also keep moisture in. Because the trug is relatively shallow, it has a high likelihood of drying out, especially in hot weather.
For drainage, poke holes or cut slits along the bottom of the plastic where you can feel the seams between the planks. To plant up, remove any cats from the trug and fill in with compost. Plant the trug up how you’d like, water it well, and then make sure to place it in a prominent place so you can show off your handy work to all your visitors!
As far as projects go, this one is relatively simple and I feel that most people will be able to complete it within a couple of hours. Have fun and if you do end up making the trugs I’d love to hear how you got on! Leave me a message below or email me with a photo. I can’t wait to see how you decorate and plant up your own rustic pallet wood trugs.