Each morning on my way to work, I tool down a two-lane farm-to-market that separates an endless collection of hillside cedars from a finger of Lake Travis near the Cypress Creek Marina.
On the Friday before Christmas, I spotted in the right-of-way at the base of the hills a wooden pallet that might have slipped off a flatbed or jettisoned by someone who wasn’t in the mood to go to the landfill. I thought to myself, “If it’s still there tomorrow morning, it’s mine.”
It was. So I pulled over and pulled the pallet from the weeds and tied it to the roof-rack on my Ford Escape.
Sometime before that I saw something on my Twitter feed about someone turning old pallets into artsy furniture. I figured I could probably do something like that, too, but I had no specific project in mind.
Just before the holiday season ended, I found myself in a junk store, I saw for sale a wine rack made from pallet wood. It had a couple of empty wine bottles already in it to help it sell. The bottles were standing straight up.
“Clever idea,” I thought. “But aren’t wine supposed to be stored on edge to keep the corks moist?”
I was pretty sure they are. But whiskey bottles aren’t. Neither are tequila bottles, for that matter. I decided I’d feel a lot better about stealing the junk store guy’s idea if I could add an element of originality.
So I’d build something like it, but call it a whiskey rack.
Actually, it turns out the pallet wine rack idea is hardly original. A Google search turned up dozens of examples from simple to over-the-top gaudy.
I came up with two designs that are not total ripoffs from the examples online. Both designs feature shot-glass compartments. One below the whiskey and one above.
I also added small iron Texas stars to the fronts that had been gathering dust and rust in my damp garage for few years. I cleaned them up with a wire brush, kept some of the rust for character.
The hardest part of the project was prying loose the brittle oak slats from the three 2x4s that make up the super-structure of the pallet. The 2×4 all have notches cut from them to allow a forklift to hoist them up to trucks or shelves when the pallets are stacked with merchandise.
Step 2 was yanking out a the rusty nails from the slats. That took some time because oakwood is hard and industrial are spiraled to keep the wood connections from breaking.
Once I cut all the wood to the proper dimensions, I used a palm sander to buff down splinters and make the rough wood a little smoother. Old pallets are generally heavily weathered, which gives them grayish-brown patina, and light sanding helps accentuate the colors.
I used several coats of clear gloss polyurethane to protect the wood and to help it shed dust. The effect was to bring out the brown shades in the patina and darken the gray without detracting from the rustic look of either project.
They might be a good fit in a rec room bar decorated with a rural Texas vibe. If you want one, let me know. I’ll give you a fair price, and you’ll give me an excuse to reclaim another pallet and embark on another version.