I am designing a toy box for my grandson. This sounds easy, but not so when you are a complex man like myself. Instead of building said box out of plywood and painting it, I want beautiful wood. Now, I could head out and buy some maple – hard and nice. I could use cedar – soft, but beautiful, bugproof, and it has that wonderful, woody smell. If this box is repurposed as a blanket box, or if he gave it as a hope chest to his future bride, that would be great. But no, I thought “Recycled pallet boards. That will be cool.”
And cool it will be, if I ever get it done. First problem is the very nature of the nails in pallets. They have a twist in them to prevent them from ever coming out. This really works! So far, I have broken down three or four pallets, and I have very few boards. I have lots of splinters that once were boards. After failing to pry boards free, I went for sawing through the nails. This is much easier, but as the ends are mostly split anyway, I will be using a circular saw to cut the ends off and will live with shorter boards.
My second problem has to do with the nature of pallets. Made from very hard wood and heavily used. These pallets were free, and as such, they are broken or split in many places. I don’t know if I will have enough wood for this project once I break down my ten or so pallets.
A third problem, it is not enough for me to just make a wood box. I want this to be like an old treasure chest. I am welding up angle iron around the entire thing. Yep, an iron bound treasure chest for toys. I went out and bought steel. Now, this angle iron is really quite thick – perhaps too thick. It is the kind of thing I would use for building a welding table. Oh, that was the last project. Also, this box will be 33 x 20 x 20 inches or so. This is so we can have the Golden Ratio between the sides. Of course, I can also do 33 x 20 x 12.5, which gives me the Golden Ratio again, and I would write another blog on the beauty of the Golden Ratio, but I won’t. What I need are precise cuts and clean welds. Not something I get with the cheap Harbor Freight tools and my skills. Now you can see that this requires some cool cuts. If I cut both sides of the angle iron on a 45 degree angle, three of those will make a corner. Very cool, if symmetry is your thing.
If you don’t understand how this works, look at the next photo, you can see how nice this will look once they are covering the edges.
Now you can see one of the many problems. I miss-cut this corner. I will need to fill the gap in with weld, and I want that weld to be smooth and properly layered, not all splatters and holes like I usually get. Now, this sample picture is based on the only two pieces I have cut. I am going to have to carefully cut this steel as it is the foundation. “Careful” is not a word I am terribly familiar with when it comes to cutting steel and welding. One big project was my grape arbor. It is about 10 x 11 feet and has 6 steel runners for the grapes. I had to cut each one to fit as I did not make the frame really square.
I was planning to use rivets to attach the wood to the steel. I wanted to “pan hammer” them. I tried, today, with a test piece of steel and wood. For a rivet, I used a 16 penny sinker nail. As you can see, it doesn’t look very good. It did hold, but just does not look the way I want it too. If I am spending all this time doing research, breaking up pallets and learning to weld, I want it to really look good!
So this is where a sex bolt comes in. A sex bolt is a threaded screw with a tapped sleeve on. Look how nice this will be:
I can just drill holes and put in the sex bolts to hold the wood to the steel and – voila! We have a cool looking, not riveted connection. Now I did look into a riveter, but the rivets were surprisingly hard to find that had the look I wanted, so I decided to go this way.
Now comes the last part. Pallet boards vary greatly in thickness. For example, a small piece varies from 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch. Since my sex bolts (often called sex screws, but you don’t want to put that into your browser …) have to be close to the right size, I am buying three sets of 100 in 12, 15 and 18 mm, all shipped from Ali Express for only $46.17. Now you can see below that the pallet wood has lots of character and holes. I would have spent less on new wood.
Yep, for the price of the sex bolts, I could have bought my grandson a toy box. By the time I am done, this gift will cost $200 and will take five years.