Hiya! This post is for total newbie builders – tools you’ll need if you want to give pallet projects a crack!
- Tape measure
- long metal 1 metre ruler
- Set square, or L-shaped ruler:
There are so many different types of cutting tools, ranging from a $20 hand saw to fancy power tools worth thousands of dollars. There is definitely a place for some power tools (although I’ve never needed to spend thousands…. $300 is probably the most I have spent) but I recommend starting with the basics and then spending more on the power tools once you’re sure you enjoy building and want to keep going with it.
Once you’ve made a few cuts with a hand saw, you’ll be looking for something faster! For straight cuts, start with a circular saw. You can buy a cheapie for about 50 bucks, and they go up from there.
A jig saw can also be used for straight cuts, but it can be harder to keep it straight. A jig saw has a thin blade that moves up and down, creating a relatively smooth cut while allowing you to move the tool in most directions. Jig saws are great for curvy lines, for example for cutting letters out of wood.
After working with a circular saw and/or jig saw for a while, you’ll probably see that it’s possible to make cuts even faster with other tools. The next tools on the list would be a drop saw/mitre saw and a table saw. Both of these items can be bought for around $200 – $300 each, but of course, the more you spend, the better quality you get in terms of accuracy with the cuts.
A drop saw, or mitre saw, is used for making cross-cuts, i.e. cutting a long thin piece of wood down to size. The more expensive mitre saws can also make cuts on angles by moving the arm to the left or right.
A table saw is used for “ripping” timber. Ripping is where you cut the wood along the grain, i.e. to make it narrower. For example, I use my table saw to cut a stringer (the thick support piece in a pallet) in half lengthways.
There are loads of different techniques you can use to join wood together; for example, dovetail and mortise & tenon joinery. To be honest, I haven’t really tried many of these techniques! Because building with recycled timber can be time consuming in terms of preparing the wood for building, I don’t like to spend hours on each joint. I’m happy to use screws to fasten one piece of wood to the other. Usually I leave the screws visible, but if I really don’t like the look of it, I countersink the screw (drive it in further than the surface of the wood) and then fill with putty so you can’t see it.
To join wood together using screws, you’ll need a cordless impact driver. A normal drill would also work, but I find the impact driver to be more versatile as it has more power (this is because it uses a hammer action while spinning to push the screw in with more force).
I bought the cheap Ozito brand impact driver in a set with a cordless drill, radio and torch, plus 2 batteries and the charger for about $150. But I’m sure you can get the driver on it’s own for even cheaper. An impact driver is useful for both predrilling holes using a drill bit, and fastening with screws. Predrilling is a good habit to get into because it prevents the wood from splitting.
Screws – millions of different types! The ones I use most for pallet projects are the standard pine (softwood) phillips head screws:
Make sure the label says “self tapping” – these drive into the wood easier and in some projects, you won’t need to predrill at all.
Screws provide a strong join because the ribs in the screw “grip” the timber. For some projects though, nails would suffice. Of course, a hammer is the cheapest option. I personally don’t think I could live without my nail gun anymore though because it is so fast!
I have one that you have to hook up to an air compressor which makes the set up pretty pricey… but I have seen a builder using a Paslode from Bunnings which is cordless and doesn’t need a compressor. It retails for about $700.
There are heaps of different types of sanders out there, including circular, belt and hand sanders. Each are good for different types of jobs, but I have found you can make do with whatever one you have for most things. We already had a circular sander at home when I started building, so I’m not sure how much it cost; I have found it good because it’s heavy and takes the rough off quickly. I bought a cheap little hand sander to help me get in to tight angles:
I think it cost about $40. You could probably make do with just this sander when you’re starting out; just use a really course-grit paper to make up for the fact that it’s lighter and not as powerful as bigger sanders.
Hopefully this post has given you some good baseline information to get you started. Shoot me a line if you have any questions 🙂