PALLET PROJECT: THE BABY BOX

It’s been a long time coming but now I’m happy to say it’s  finally here. What we keep referring to as… The baby changing station.
I was chatting with my brother on Skype the other day and he says, “you know this baby changing thing you’re building, is it going to be like some sort of crazy, elaborate, mechanical contraption like on Inspector Gadget where you just have to place the baby inside, push a button and a bunch of robot arms do everything for you, or is it more like somewhere to keep a changing mat, nappies and bum cream?”. I imagine it would be very cool if such a machine existed, but for now let’s just say we are content with the latter. And perhaps my most ambitious woodworking project to date. 

I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a designer - as you can see nothing has changed from the original drawing – so when a project comes up I head straight to Pinterest for a hit of inspiration. Some time ago I came across a picture of a beautiful bedside table made from what looked like pallet wood. Up until then all the pallet furniture I’d seen just looked uncomfortable, unimaginative, bulky and well…like a pallet. But I liked this little table and later I discovered it’s part of a bedroom suite made by an established company that I won’t say the name of, and not by a woodworking hobbyist like myself. After browsing their website and more to the point, the prices, I began dismantling my own pallets. 



 To make the panels that form the basic structure I first had to straighten all the long edges on either side of the slats. Once glued and clamped these panels came out relatively flat. Essentially that’s what this project is: a series of horizontal and vertical panels arranged in a visually interesting and functional way to form an extremely strong carcass that will hopefully last us for years. I forgot to mention that when we no longer need it for the baby it will be used for extra storage downstairs in the living room. 
So I was making good progress and then you know how it is? Things come up which involve doing adult stuff like work, paying bills and generally prioritizing. In other words it was put on the back burner for a short while.
The first chance I got though I was back in the workshop cutting out the grooves that would house the two shelves. 

Over in the States woodworkers call these grooves “Dados”, in England they are known as “Rebates”. As opposed to just gluing and screwing a shelf in place this extra recessed channel makes a whole world of difference in the stability of the final piece. I also cut rebates to house the vertical dividers but looking back I kind of regret it. It was a pain to get so many joints to all come together at the same time. And I believe  the cabinet would have been no weaker if I’d opted for simple butt joints with glue and screws. Next time I will go this route.  






I wanted to incorporate some elements from mid-century design because I really like the look of those big boxes that rest on splayed feet. Our cabinet sits on a separate stand but unlike the feet of the bedside table I described earlier which went perpendicular to the floor, ours follow a 60 degree angle, similar to that mid-century look.


 To finish previous projects I’d only ever experimented with various wood stains and water-based varnishes so this time I wanted to try out something different. So instead I bought some boiled linseed oil and a tin of transparent wax polish and got to work. I really like how you can still feel the wood when you run a hand across but that it’s still protected. I will be using this combination in the future for sure. 

The pallets themselves didn’t cost us a penny. The only spending was on a sheet of 10mm thick OSB that floats in a rebate at the back and keeps the cabinet square and rigid. I would like to have salvaged some drawer runners but we needed a specific size so it was easier just to buy them. We also paid for the oil and wax finishes.




Working with pallets gives so much freedom. Freedom to learn traditional techniques. Freedom to create. And freedom to fail without financial stress and being judged by a third party.

Happy sawing! 

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