Vintage, thrifting and upcycling have been super fashionable for ages now. Maybe this is a sign that as a society we’re becoming less obsessed with new things and appreciating history instead? Maybe it’s out of economic necessity to make the most of second hand bargains? Or maybe it is just another trend that will arrive, thrive and pass just like everything else.
Whatever the reason behind it, I’m certainly a fan of reusing things and finding treasures second hand, particularly when the word ‘bargain‘ is attached. So what could be better than an easy to implement, completely customisable, home DIY trend that transforms second hand materials into useful and functional furniture? Especially when those materials are available at little or no cost? Sounds perfect, right?
Turning unwanted pallets into furniture sounds perfect. Wooden pallets are not only (usually) free, but they also create that vintage functional/industrial chic effect similar to a street sign dresser or suitcase shelves. There are some brilliant examples for pallet furniture out there, from shelving units and room dividers to gates and vertical gardens – I have an entire pinboard dedicated to reusing pallets, with some lovely examples above – click through to find the sources/creators. But I’ve also seen dining tables, kitchen surfaces and children’s cribs made out of old wooden pallets. And those projects are the ones that get me a little worried about this pallet upcycling trend in particular.
I took the above photo of these pallets on a gorgeous sunny day at the beginning of September. Stacked up where I work, they looked very inviting to a would-be DIY furniture maker. The sun shone on the dry, clean and orderly pile of pallets. But being Edinburgh and all, half an hour later it rained. In the three or four months since those pallets were stacked outside, it’s rained an awful lot. I won’t be surprised if they’re still sitting outside when it snows too. That’s fine for the pallets – their durability is part of what makes them so functional for their purpose. But that’s not ideal for any wood that will end up being in contact with food, drink or the mouths of little ones.
There are a few warnings out there with guidelines of best use, reminding people about the harsh chemicals that pallets are likely to have been treated with and the plethora of different bacteria and creepy crawlies likely living inside. Pallets are usually reused for multiple shipments, meaning that unless you know for sure that it’s only been used one single time (and what it was for), it could have carried all kinds of things not safe for human consumption. And you can wash and bleach a pallet all you like, but wood is wood – porous and full of germs.
SO I’m most definitely not saying don’t use pallets for DIY. I’m just urging a little caution when it comes to considering the source and the treatment and the eventual usage of those pallets. Like the post title says, these pallets will never be my kitchen table. But I may one day own a pallet shelf unit or a vintage sign or even a gardening table. Until I have a little more space to display these things, however, I’m just going to have to make do with my Ikea bookcases and a pot plant.
>>> This is post 11 of the 31 I’ll be writing for Blogtoberfest 2012 <<<