Help for the easily lost.

As I recently discussed in my pallet table article, inspiration for furniture can strike at any time and the most obscure things can be the source. This week however its the elemental combined with the prosaic that has founded a project, that is, the changing of the seasons and the extra children’s clothing and accessories that colder weather brings.


“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks


This item just so happens to be for sale in our etsy shop.

Thats right, autumn brings many heartening and invigorating changes, but as the fruit ripens, the leaves change and the wind hardens there is but one issue on any parents mind. Where to put (and retain) all those extra things…

It will start with the addition of just a jumper, then perhaps maybe a hat on especially windy days, as the season progresses boots will be added until the grim totality of winter dress arrives. Hats, scarves, gloves, boots, jumpers and coats. To allow kids to go without a single item is a crime and for some reason it is intolerable for them to be more than 5 foot into the house without taking them off and throwing or stuffing them somewhere.

Smells like an opportunity for a reclaimed storage solution.

Help is at the door.

Over the years I’ve toyed with a few different methods for storing all the bits & bobs that a family requires. Boxes, cupboards, drawers, bags and the trouble is that they all either require too much disciple to maintain or are too far away from the epicenter of the chaos, the back door.

Knowing this and having long believed that the humble coat rack is a much under developed piece of household real estate, with this project I’ve tried to keep all the benefits of hanging space for things like coats and scarves, add some shelf space for stuff like boots but also sneak in some space for all those little bits that don’t hang well but must be kept secure and are needed alongside the coats.

Pallets, pegs and paints.

Whilst most of the reclaimed timber we have laying around could do the job for this project, a nice long plasterboard carrying pallet came through the door the other day and these usually include some nice 150mm slats on them, perfect for the shelf and back. Whilst the rest of the slats had taken a beating we only needed small lengths for the hanging boxes so the whole project is built from a single recycled pallet.

For pegs I wanted something robust and workmanlike, I like using nails for pegs but this piece has quite a chunky feel to it and sometimes nail hangers can appear a little thin. So inspired having just been to look over some 800! year old pews, I thought I’d take a leaf out the medieval carpenters handbook and make some wooden nails.

Quickly buzzed to shape on the bandsaw these square pegs are then bashed into….ahem….round holes, this pun filled method has the pleasing effect of seating each peg at a slightly different angle to the last which, I hope, adds to the cheerful feel of the piece.

The hanging boxes are nailed together using the original pallet nails and fitted with a back baton to push them flush with the shelf, into this baton one more oak peg is driven allowing for still yet more hanging.

The back and shelf are finished with a hand rubbed whitewash & varnish to protect but still allow the tarnished glory of the wood to shine through. This same concoction is then mixed with artists paints to achieve a totally original colour for each hanging box. In spite of the autumnal inspiration for this I opted for muted versions of sky, flora & soil I do intend to try out a few other colours as I play around with different versions of the hanging boxes.

All in all from five feet of hanging and shelving space we got 22 pegs, 6 cubby holes and 3 extra mini hangers. Will this bring an abrupt halt to all the additional clutter that the season brings? No, to do that you need the quintessential autumnal experience, a bon fire.

sotto voce…..

If you live in St neots, Hail Weston, Huntingdon or anywhere in PE19 click here to get a discount on any carpentry, joinery, building or custom woodwork project we complete for you.

If you’d like one of these shelving units they are for sale on our etsy shop visit it here, or for a modified version to fit your specific needs contact us via phone, email or social media and we’ll happily accommodate. NATIONWIDE!


Blog: Making a pallet table.

Brain work.

One of the great joys of doing both commission work and making my own pieces is the variation. I enjoy long, complicated jobs, packed full of decisions and problems to overcome, they’re great for honing your design and problem solving skills and its obviously satisfying to stand back after weeks or months of work and breath it all in.



This piece is currently for sale on the Sons of Soil etsy shop.

When it comes to my own projects though, I like to take a totally different approach especially when it comes to furniture, I have started to embrace a far more instinctive and atmospheric design process.

This inspiration comes from all sorts of strange places, music and writing especially and

Wood 'n' Shed
Even strange scenes like this previous workshop can inspire all sorts of designs & ideas.

in the case of this little pallet coffee table it was whilst listening to the somewhat known Texan songwriter Townes Van Zandt, his dark and dishevelled sound are bound to appeal to me, but don’t ask how a human brain translates songs about Mexican bandits and death into coffee tables, mine just does.

The recent hot & humid weather here in St Neots means that I’ve been stripping down

furniture outside and perhaps it this combined with the music that put me in a ‘sittin on the front porch’ kind of mood, in my mind I’m transported from rural  south west Cambridgeshire to muggy south Carolina, and what do you need when you’re sitting on that porch? – besides a banjo or 12 gauge – somewhere to put your ice tea.

A little cubic side table won’t do the job, I see something with a bit more scale to it low but wide and with a bit of colour, but not too much, combined with some semi sanded reclaimed timber, sat on a robust and sturdy base.

Real Work.

Something must be made of them.

A kind customer of mine has recently given me some spare pallets – as my reputation warrants – but also a few old jack rafters left over from a building project. These are nice old slow growth pine rafters and just from the tight end grain I can tell they’ll plane up very well. Amongst the five or six pallets stacked nearest to the workshop a pleasant looking untreated pine one with pleasingly regular slats catches my eye. These will be ideal.

So the rafter gets chopped up into rough leg blanks which are hand planed smoothish and square, I draw on them until I find the right shape, something robust but not to blockish, definitely no curves! I trial one on the bandsaw and after fiddling a little copy that onto the other three and tidy up again with the plane.

Next comes pallet stripping, something of a lottery, but fortunately this particular pallet is bone dry so after a few wiggles to loosen everything the nails come out easily. After that I again hand plane the slats square and true. The reason for hand planing is not only to add extra authenticity but because that way you’re able to find the exact point of rustic-ness and this is much better done one pass at a time than with a machine.

Glueing up.

With that done its simple enough to set the angle for the legs ( 5° out & back ) and chop up all the parts for the apron, struts, ties. After jointing, test fitting and a light sand they get glued.

I’ve reserve a pallet runner with ‘British Gypsum’ written on it for the lower middle tie because this will perfectly tell the story of where the table comes from, to properly honour this I glue and fix it using the nails I pulled out of the pallet a few hours ago.

Whilst thats glueing up I need to think about the top, I decide to do a flag-esque geometric design on the top and feel the best method is to effectively parquet floor the chopped up pallet slats onto a plywood top, reclaimed plywood mind you, salvaged from an old spray-paint booth. This means I can thoroughly fix the pallet wood pieces down and don’t have to worry about their relatively diminutive dimensions being too flimsy.

After a few dozen mitres are cut and arranged for maximum impact the parts are glued and tacked in place from underneath. I then whizz up some slats for a trim, round the edge and fix them on using glue and those lovely original nails again.

After the sand, before the rout.

The following day I sand down the glued up table base and start testing finishes, I want this table to be something that can be used inside & out and also stand up to alot of abuse from hot cups, spilt beer and the occasional heavy scrubbing so I’m opting for an oil based external varnish. After playing around with few pigmented varnishes I decide a clear matt does the most justice to the beautiful timber and apply a thinner coat which brings out enough of the grain and texture but doesn’t make it look too new.

Whilst thats drying outside I start sanding the top, I want the top to be 90% flat and its going to be a little cleaner feeling than the table base, with less rustic-ness so I start off with a belt sander which brings things down nice and quickly before finishing off with a random orbit to soften things and bring back the grain. Now smooth, I rout out the diagonal pattern on the top so when I paint the designated slats they are distinct from the others and really pop out. Once the routing is done and the grooves cleaned it’s a quick once over again with some sandpaper and then onto painting.

The first coat of paint & varnish, a nervous time for the DIY paint maker.

I have a very specific idea for the tone of the colours I want to use, a brunt red and a scruffy blue, I also want the grain to still come through after they’ve been applied. In this case the only answer I’ve found is to mix acrylic artists paints with the varnish, that way you can get the colour you really want and mixing your own is ideal for small quantities.

I’m feeling risky so I apply the two colours and the rest of the clear varnish all in one pass, carefully coming up to the point where the still wet neighbouring colour is, challenging myself not to accidentally mix them together.  Once this is done the project is 90% done, do some varnish, rub down, do some varnish etc. Two coats is good, three is always better.

The End of Work.

So there it is, from a Townes Van Zandt youtube playlist, out of my brain, into the workshop and the onto the Sons of Soil etsy shop. Inspiration is everywhere and I’m damned lucky to be able to do something with it.

DSC 0486


sotto voce…..

If you live in St neots, Hail Weston, Huntingdon or anywhere in PE19 click here to get a discount on any carpentry, joinery, building or custom woodwork project we complete for you.